The Mac OS X Command Line
by Kirk McElhearn
Unix under the hood? Well, you might already know this but Mac OS X is based on Unix, an operating system created in the 1960's. Why should you care? While you can go for years not being concerned about Unix, in time you will want or need to get a little familiar with Unix to truly understand or to fix a problem with it. Our users group mail list has frequent questions about Unix commands or the help offered to fix that ugly problem requires the user to go to the terminal and use the "command line".
Why is it that you cannot save a file with a forward slash ("/") in Mac OS X? It's part of the Unix directory path and is a reserved character for the OS. Seem a little familiar? Like part of the URL for a Web page? Hmm! That's why all of those slashes are there! Having printer problems and print jobs are piling up in your print queue like a stack of bricks and they won't delete because the OS says they are in use, locked or owned by some other user? Start the terminal and issue a "cancel -a" command and presto! They're all gone. Get the idea? Pretty powerful stuff.
There are many Unix books out and now there are quite a few books on OS X that discuss the terminal and the Unix commands. Not many books put it all together in an easy to understand tutorial. In fact, I had been working on a tutorial for Unix commands in OS X for a while. "The Mac OS X Command Line" is the perfect book for teaching the OS X command line. If I were to teach a class in Mac OS X Unix, I would choose this book as the class textbook. There are a handful of commands in OS X that are not part of the standard Unix implementation and there is a real lack of documentation regarding these commands. This book introduces some more useful ones such as the open "open" command, or how about the MvMac " command, (a Mac only command which moves files with metadata and forks intact), for being truly unique.
The author, Kirk McElhearn who is a contributor to Macworld Magazine and TidBITS, presents the material in logical steps providing short, easy to understand explanations of the commands. Each command addressed has examples to follow and try on your own as well as the command syntax and options. Much like a mini version of the Unix manual pages without drowning you in techno speak.
It can take years to learn Unix and you may never know all there is to know about it. This book is an ideal text to learn not only the basics but also some very powerful commands that will keep you busy a year or so. Well, not that long- so don't go running for your GUI just yet. Check this book out.
Reviewed by NCMUG member Stephen Henry