Mac OS X certainly has been and still is one of the slickest looking and easiest-to-use operating systems currently on the market. But behind the dock, the icons, the background, and the finder resides one of the oldest operating system cores around: Unix. The power and versatility of Unix can be explored by any savvy Mac user who wants to see behind the curtains and learn how to complete everyday tasks using the keyboard rather than the mouse; especially tasks that would take quite a considerable amount of time in the graphical interface.
Dave Taylor's book sets out to provide the interested reader with an introduction to the Unix environment in Mac OS X Mountain Lion without overwhelming them with all of the thousands of commands and applications available in the Unix world.
The book starts with a general outline of why any sane person would go back in time and use the type-in-command approach rather than the point-and-click approach of modern graphical interfaces. Certainly a good question but as the author quickly points out, the former approach offers quite a lot more visibility into the system and allows getting certain tasks, such as renaming a bunch of files, easily done with one command where the graphical equivalent would take numerous steps.
The Terminal application is the gate to the underlying Unix core and is hence introduced in the second chapter. The reader learns how to access the Terminal, changing its preferences, customizing individual sessions as well as getting to know how to work with it by executing basic commands.
Over the course of the following chapters, the book then dives right into different topics such the file system, file management, finding information, I/O, multitasking, remote access and FTP as well as the X11 interface. Each chapter deals with exactly one topic and introduces the most common Unix commands for that particular topic. A high-level overview helps the reader to get a basic understanding before specific commands are executed. The format as well as the resulting output is broken down into its individual pieces so that it can easily be understood and comprehended.
Finally, the last chapter points the reader to further literature - built-in help, Internet, books etc. - to continue learning about the Unix environment available in Mac OS X Mountain Lion. It finishes with a quick tour on how the environment can be customized further to exactly suit everyone's needs.
While being an introduction, the book is by no means aimed at the novice Mac OS X user who just started using it. The world as seen through the Terminal application is a powerful environment that can easily lead to disaster if not fully understood. A mistake as harmless as misspelling the arguments of a command can have dramatic consequences such as an unusable Mac OS X Mountain Lion installation.
In conclusion, the book provides a solid introduction to the Unix underpinnings of Mac OS X Mountain Lion. Due to the technical aspect, the content certainly can be a bit dry but the author manages to convey the information in an easy-to-read style, and thus, the book can easily be read over a day or two. Anyone interested in getting Mac OS X Mountain Lion to know from a different, more technical (or "nerdy") perspective definitely cannot go wrong with this book.