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November 3, 2004

"Modding Mac OS X": Unleash Your Inner Mac Geek

Sebastopol, CA--Computer users have been known to take hacksaws to their machines from time to time: hacksaws, chainsaws, even sledge hammers. Indeed, some have been known to attempt to effect radical changes by launching their machines from second-story windows. But these are generally not Mac users.

Among Mac users, you can find wonderfully original modifications that run the gamut from intriguing case "mods" to cool interior lighting effects, but there are also amazing adaptations users can make without touching the case at all. In Modding Mac OS X: Extreme Makeovers for Your Mac (O'Reilly, US $24.95), author Erica Sadun shows you how to take control of your Mac's user interface, unlocking its secrets and bending its will to your own.

According to Sadun, Modding Mac OS X teaches readers how to take advantage of the undocumented power that lies beneath the surface of their operating system. "With Panther and the upcoming Tiger, Mac OS X really has come into its own," Sadun notes. "Almost everything that you take for granted as immutable--how an application looks, how it responds to your requests--is fully customizable in OS X."

Modding Mac OS X starts out with the very basics of configuring your Mac, beginning with simple tasks like changing Finder views, using an image from iPhoto's library on your Desktop, and finding and using screensavers. From there, the book shows you how to:

  • Find hidden features in your favorite applications
  • Give your Dock a makeover
  • Dive inside application bundles to find secret resources
  • Explore application and system resources
  • Customize application icons
  • Hack property list files
  • Discover undocumented preferences
  • Alter an application's interface
  • Script the unscriptable, and more
  • Each modding example includes detailed step-by-step instructions that even a novice Mac user can follow, while also providing the necessary detail to satisfy the experienced hacker. Projects are rated according to Time, Difficulty, Geekitude, and what Sadun refers to as "Chinese Take-Out Equivalent."

    An advocate for those who want to take control of their Macs, Sadun carefully explains why each modification works and how the pieces all fit together. The knowledge that readers gain from tweaking one application can be easily applied to the next. "There are quite a number of books on the market now that show you all sorts of hacks for Mac OS X, but never explain how the authors devised those hacks," remarks Sadun. "It's as if they, wizard-like, pulled the hacks from thin air. This book teaches people how to be their own wizards and explains the hows and whys of the most useful techniques for customizing Mac OS X applications."

    And, finally, Sadun advises her readers, "At some point in your life, you need to relax and 'be' the geek. Let your inner geek express itself and simply have fun."

    Additional Resources:

    Modding Mac OS X
    Erica Sadun
    ISBN 0-596-00709-4, 276 pages, $24.95 US, $36.95 CA
    1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

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