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Mac OS X Disaster Relief: Troubleshooting techniques to help fix it yourself"

Review by John Barnes

Washington Apple Pi Journal, reprint information

Virtually ever since the appearance of Mac OS X I have been looking for a book that carries on in the tradition of Sad Macs, Bombs, and Other Disasters [and what to do about them] by Ted Landau. Well, the redoubtable Ted Landau and Peachpit Press have joined forces to produce the volume in the title of this review. Ted is well known as the creator of the MacFixit web site, so he has plenty of exposure to the foolish things that users do to create problems for themselves.

While Mac OS X is much more stable than its predecessors, there will come a day when the ordinary procedures fail. It is not a question of if, but when.

This book prepares the user for that day. In fact the author recommends that the user start preparing when the machine comes out of the box. He recommends partitioning the disk space to provide separate clean environments for Mac OS 9 (including Classic) and Mac OS X. His rationale for this is well laid out.

Disaster Relief, in spite of its title, does not focus entirely on recipes for troubleshooting. Large parts of the book, perhaps even most of it, focus on providing the context for problem solving. In-depth discussions of the operating system architecture, the structure of the file system, and proper procedures for using utility programs provide useful and important information in a straightforward, logical manner. This is one of the few books in my library that has an entry for "kernel panic" in the index.

There is a very good discussion of backups and why they are a special problem in Mac OS X. Every Pi Journal reader should know by now that good backups are a vital to providing peace of mind.

This is a book that geeks will enjoy browsing. Non-geeks ought to give the chapters a quick run-through because they will want to refer to it just to sort out puzzling issues like working with the Print Center. The book also prescribes a lot of preventive medicine, such a how to make a bootable CD-ROM.

On that day when the inevitable happens (usually just before a project is due) reach for this book and take a good look at the table of contents. It is very detailed and well organized and your problem may pop right off the page. Failing that, go to the index and see what you find.

When following a recipe be sure to check the cross-references. They take a lot of the mystery out of the procedures.

This book is a mighty sharp tool. It describes procedures that may require more judgment than the workaday Mac user has been able to cultivate. The book is very good about issuing warnings in these circumstances. Every Mac geek should have this, and those who cannot handle their own troubleshooting should make sure that their favorite technician knows about it.

Mac OS X Disaster Relief: Troubleshooting techniques to help fix it yourself, by Ted Landau
Peachpit Press, 2002.
$34.99, 620 pp.