Mac OS X Hacks: 100 Industrial Strength Tips and Tricks


Mac OS X is a marvelous confluence of the user-friendly and highly customizable Macintosh of yesteryear and the power and flexibility of Unix under the hood. Those coming to Mac OS X from previous incarnations of the operating system recognize much of the friendly face of the Macintosh but they are also plunged into a whole new world. Unix converts to Mac OS X find a familiar FreeBSD-like operating system at the core and many of the command-line applications that they're familiar with.This presents a unique ...

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Mac OS X is a marvelous confluence of the user-friendly and highly customizable Macintosh of yesteryear and the power and flexibility of Unix under the hood. Those coming to Mac OS X from previous incarnations of the operating system recognize much of the friendly face of the Macintosh but they are also plunged into a whole new world. Unix converts to Mac OS X find a familiar FreeBSD-like operating system at the core and many of the command-line applications that they're familiar with.This presents a unique opportunity for combining traditional Unix hacking and Mac OS know-how. Mac OS X Hacks goes beyond the peculiar mix of man pages and not-particularly-helpful Help Center, pulling the best tips, tricks, and tools from the Mac power users and Unix hackers themselves.The collection reflects the real-world know how and experience of those well steeped in Unix history and expertise, sharing their no-nonsense, sometimes quick-and-dirty solutions to administering and taking full advantage of everything a Unix desktop has to offer: Web, Mail, and FTP serving, security services, SSH, Perl and shell scripting, compiling, configuring, scheduling, networking, and hacking. Add to that the experience of die-hard Macintosh users, customizing and modifying their hardware and software to meet their needs: System Preferences, GUI mods and tweaks, hardware tips, vital shareware and freeware, AppleScript, AppleTalk and equivalents, keyboard modifiers, and general Macintosh-style tomfoolery.Each Hack can be read easily in a few minutes, saving countless hours of searching for the right answer. Mac OS X Hacks provides direct, hands-on solutions that can be applied to the challenges facing both those meeting the Mac for the first time and long-time users delving into Mac OS X and its Unix underpinnings.Mac OS X Hacks is the third in O'Reilly's new Hacks Serier which aims to begin reclaiming the term "hacking" for the good guys. In recent years, the term has come to be associated with those nefarious black hats who break into computers to snoop, steal information or disrupt Internet traffic. But the term originally had a more benign meaning, and you'll still hear it used this way whenever developers get together. Our new Hacks books are written in the spirit of the true hackers — the people who drive innovation.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
With its Unix underpinnings, Mac OS X makes the Macintosh splendidly hackable. There’s an amazing amount of stuff you can do if you’re of a mind to explore. Of course, for every goodie Unix brings to the Mac, the Mac also brings one to Unix. Thousands of longtime Unix and Linux users are finding that OS X is the Unix they’ve been searching for all their lives.

Whether you’re a Unix user coming to the Mac, or a Mac user discovering Unix, Mac OS X Hacks is the perfect companion. Here are scores of great tips, ideas, and scripts for making OS X jump through hoops.

Some of this is about being more productive; some of it’s about solving problems; some of it’s about doing things you never imagined possible. And the range is truly remarkable: from Web to email, scheduling to GUI mods, shell scripts to hardware tweaking.

The backup tips on page 4 give you a sense of this book’s approach. Everyone hates backups: let’s automate it. If you’ve sprung for a $99 annual .Mac subscription, you’ve got 100 megs online and simple personal backup software. But if not? Well, you could use the hack the authors point you to online… or spring for Retrospect Express… or you could use psync, the free, Perl-based open source backup solution. (There’s even an Aqua front end.)

You’ll learn how to cope with scrambled linebreaks (one place where Unix and Macs don’t meld happily); how to fiddle with type/creator codes and file extensions; and how to inspect .app packages (the closest thing to the classic Mac Resource Fork).

Ever get a CD or DVD stuck in your drive? Forget finding a paperclip: eject that disk from Terminal. Need to open a Word document without Word? Here’s a freeware filter that lets any Cocoa application retrieve just the text from any Word document.

The goodies go on and on. How to mount one Mac’s drive onto another Mac, via FireWire. How to add a firmware-based password. How to keep your Stickies organized. How to print not only to PDF but also to TIFF. Software for downloading streamed audio. Scripting Apple’s speech recognition. Prying the “chrome” off an application. Resurrecting the handwriting technology once used in Apple’s long-lost Newton.

You’ll discover a $10 software package that lets you do video “pans and scans” of still photos -- great for making Ken Burns–style documentaries. How to stream your own private playlists 24/7 to any Web device in your house, using Apple’s free QuickTime server.

And here’s a hack for the ages: a nifty Perl CGI script that controls iTunes remotely across a wireless AirPort network, through the Apache web server running on your Mac. Believe it!

There’s a full chapter on Terminal. Another, on networking, covers everything from VPN connections to running a remote Windows program from your Mac. You’ll learn how to protect against Entourage database disasters; search Google without opening a browser; send a file to your iChat buddy; read syndicated blog content; even install the MySQL and PostgreSQL databases. If you appreciate a good Mac hack, here are 100 of the best. Bill Camarda

Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks for Dummies, Second Edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780596004606
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/31/2003
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.02 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Rael Dornfest is a Researcher at the O'Reilly & Associates focusing on technologies just beyond the pale. He assesses, experiments, programs, and writes for the O'Reilly network and O'Reilly publications. Dornfest is Program Chair of the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, Chair of the RSS-DEV Working Group, and developer of Meerkat: An Open Wire Service. In his copious free time, he develops bits and bobs of Open Source software and maintains his raelity bytes Weblog.

Kevin Hemenway, coauthor of Mac OS X Hacks, is better known as Morbus Iff, the creator of, which bills itself as "content for the discontented." Publisher and developer of more home cooking than you could ever imagine, he'd love to give you a Fry Pan of Intellect upside the head. Politely, of course. And with love.

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Table of Contents




Chapter 1: Files

Chapter 2: Startup

Chapter 3: Multimedia and the iApps

Chapter 4: The User Interface

Chapter 5: Unix and the Terminal

Chapter 6: Networking

Chapter 7: Email

Chapter 8: The Web

Chapter 9: Databases


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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2003

    Excellent Book!

    This book is a very interesting read. For folks that like their solutions quick and clean this the book for you. The book is designed to be used by reading 'chunks' to accomplish your desired hack, in the vein of 'How to' articles popularized by the now defunct MacUser magazine. Dornfest and Hemenway put together a slick, easy to read guide with some very useful tips and tricks for Mac OS X. The authors have impressive credentials in the Mac community and several equally qualified professionals are credited with contributions to the tome. The book is divided into nine chapters, each with about 10 tips. The subjects include Files, Startup, Multimedia and iApps, The User Interface, UNIX and the Terminal, Networking, Email, The Web, and Databases. Each tip is one to three pages long and well laid out in easy to follow step-wise instructions. A simple 'thermometer' icon is given with each tip to alert the user to the level of difficulty. Additionally, throughout the book the authors alert users to areas where they should be careful. Being new to the Unix environment, I found the tips on use of the Terminal application and several utilities that are unique to Unix to be a valuable introduction for me. After the thorough introduction to the Terminal application, Dornfest and Hemenway proceed to build on the basics by demonstrating the usefulness of the application with more advanced commands such as chmod and sudo. Tricks covered include: Stubborn trash, stuck images and Jammed CDs; Turning your Mac into a Hard Drive; Hijacking Audio from Mac Apps; Top Screenshots Tips; Interacting with the UNIX Shell from AppleScript; Sharing an Internet Connection; Creating Mail Aliases; and Serving up a Website with the Built-in Apache Server. Each chapter includes tips and tricks for beginners and advanced users alike. Several of the hacks make reference to other areas covered in the book, but each tip is useful on its own. Several of the tips are hacks to the system using the Terminal application and serve to show the user the underpinnings of the OS. All in all, a fascinating look at OS X from two masters of the realm.

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