Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Book Review: Mac Hacks: Tips & Tools for unlocking the power of OS X

A great example about “never judge a book by it’s cover” I expected this book to be a book about how to get the most out of OS X. Tips and tricks to extend the OS beyond what Steve Jobs envisioned. While a few gems were included, most of the tips had nothing to do with the power of OS X and more about hardware and many of the tips were only marginally Mac related such as securing a Linksys router or using a Wii Remote with your Mac.

These tips and projects were either extremely basic such as installing and backing up Mountain Lion (sigh) or completely unproductive and complex projects such as a dye job for your Macbook. I was particularly annoyed with the chapter on torrents which didn’t cover the risks of malware (rare, but not impossible on the Mac) and the legal and copyright implications of doing so. That was completely unacceptable in my opinion.

Read the table of contents and see if these projects interest you and if so, the book may be for you but for most people this won’t increase their productivity or “unlock the power of OS X”. I found the book had some amusing ideas and a series of tricks that were cool but nothing to write home (or a book about).

Pros: Interesting projects and a few helpful tips
Cons: Little in productivity or value enhancement for your Mac

Two out of Five Dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Book Review: Master your Mac

Too often computer books are written for either beginners or programmers. Very few intermediate books truly exists but this is the “just right” level for an experienced Mac user who wants to take his or her experience to the next level without learning programming or spending hours at a command prompt. This is the book for the rest of us who want just a little more from their daily experiences.
Instead of reading like a manual this book is in a “cookbook” style with various recipes you can try divided up into sections such as automation, productivity and security. Each recipe includes a justification for the project and tells you the very basics of how to do it primarily to help the reader reach that intermediate level. After establishing the basics, Cone suggests configurations and software to take it to the next level. The built-in functions of Spotlight are great, but programs such as Alfred build on that skill set and make your Mac usage experience extraordinary.

I was initially skeptical, but pleasantly surprised by this book. I expected a series of simple tips and tricks I already knew or topics so advanced and complex that it simply wasn’t worth my time “trying” these ideas. The book has a perfect balance of suggestions and project that can really enhance your Mac. Sure, I could research programs in the App store or online but this book curates all those thousands of programs into a series of basic ideas and solving of problems. Use your Mac with an external monitor? An entire chapter covers little things you can do to prevent annoyances such as knowing where your menu bar is or the annoying resizing of windows when you disconnect your monitor.

Experienced Mac users will benefit most from this book, but even beginners who simply want more will find a great series of ideas in this book. These chapters solve problems intermediate users experience and beginners haven’t quite hit the wall yet.

One of the best books on the Mac I’ve read in recent years and makes a great gift for any Mac user that wants to be more productive and efficient without investing too much time or energy.

Pros: Outstanding series of ways to use your Mac better with detailed instruction
Cons: The book quickly needs a version 2 because I finished the book wanting more of the same.

Five out of Five Dogcows

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Book Review: Mac Kung Fu

While the Mac is generally perfect as is with its intuitive interface and easy to understand menus and help screens, a group of Mac users simply want more out of their systems. They know the Mac can do more, but can’t quite figure out what they need. Similarly, the Mac has annoyances and quirks a user has learned to live with, but might like the Mac even more if they could only change some aspect of how it works. This book is for that group!

The ideal audience of this book is an intermediate Mac user who isn’t afraid of making changes to program settings or going into terminal and typing a command or two. Knowledge of UNIX or programming isn’t required, just an adventuresome attitude and a willingness to learn.

Most of the tips were commands and functions I never knew existed and wasn’t looking for them but now that I’ve found them I couldn’t imagine life without them. For example, a simple terminal command will turn off that annoying question about using TIme Machine on a new hard drive when it’s plugged in. Another amazing tip is being able to show the full path names of file locations in the title bar. Saves me the confusion of knowing which disk is the original and which is the copy.
Probably all of these commands, tips, and tricks can be found online somewhere but Kung Fu puts it all together from a reliable source so you can take your Mac skills to the next level.

Pros: Amazing tips and tricks
Cons: No blackbelt issued at the end

Five out of Five Dogcows