For two reference books with the same format covering similar subject matter, this duo of titles from Wiley’s “Portable Genius” series, the fourth editions of which have just been released, are remarkably different from each other. Notwithstanding having 100 more pages, Brad Miser’s MacBook Pro Portable Genius actually has less MacBook-specific and hardware-related content than does Paul McFedries’ MacBook Air Portable Genius.
I assume this disparity in focus and prolixity is attributable to the respective authors’ perspectives on personal computing. For example, Brad Miser’s titular MacBook Pro book would actually be better-described as a very good, modestly-priced OS X manual and reference with a bit of a tilt toward its use with the MacBook Pro, but I would estimate more than 90 percent of the content is just as relevant and applicable to any Mac running OS X — portable or desktop. Indeed, the first content section with specific MacBook Pro related material starts on Page 136, and is pretty much limited to brief sections on using the trackpad and battery management.
Paul McFedries’ MacBook Air volume, on the other hand, while also containing an array of reference and instructional material on using OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, is obviously written from the perspective of a user with much greater interest in the hardware aspects of MacBook use.
MacBook Air Portable Genius Fourth Edition
It’s evident right from the McFedries book’s Introduction that the MacBook Air itself will be the primary focus. The author has been a MacBook Air user since the original Air came out in 2008, although he’s not an uncritical cheerleader. He pointedly criticizes some of the decisions and compromises Apple has applied to the Air, including the lack of FireWire and Ethernet ports, making high-speed hardware interfacing too-dependent on Thunderbolt in a real world where many users don’t have T-bolt peripherals. He also chides Apple for making the Air so difficult to open up.
McFedries characterizes his vision for MacBook Air Portable Genius as a mini Apple Genius Bar in no hassle access portable format, noting that he even supplies some guidance on how to get inside the Air, notwithstanding the obstacles Apple has imposed.
He gets down to business directly with Chapter 1 which is entitled “How do I Connect Devices?” covering the eponymous topic and various peripheral device configurations.
Chapter 2 carries on logically with How Do I Make Wireless Connections? Subjects covered include connecting to wireless Wi-Fi networks, setting up remote DVD drives, exchanging files wirelessly with Air Drop, viewing the MacBook Air screen on your TV, transferring settings wirelessly from another Mac, and working with Bluetooth devices.
Chapter 3 is entitled How Do I Synchronize MacBook Air With Other Devices?. Topics addressed include synchronizing with an iPod, iPad, or iPhone, synchronizing music, videos, movies, or TV show episodes. Also podcasts, photos, contacts, calendars, apps, e-books, games, and a discussion of synchronizing with iCloud.
Chapter 4 is How Do I Use MacBook Air To Organize My Life? This one is not hardware oriented, and mainly discusses configuring and using the contact-related applications bundled with OS X.
Chapter 5, How Do I Use MacBook Air To Set Up My Online Accounts? includes sections on configuring Twitter, Flickr, Vimeo, and on how to get more out of iCloud.
Chapter 6, Can Macbook Air Help Me Communicate More Effectively? has tutorials on streamlining your email experience, sending instant messages, and video calling with FaceTime.
Chapter 7, How Do I Locate And Protect A Lost MacBook Air? Tells how to activate Find My Mac methods of employing iCloud and find my iPhone app. to locate your MacBook. It also explains how to send a message to or delete data from your MacBook remotely no matter where you are.
Chapter 8, How Do I Keep MacBook Air Running Smoothly? covers routine MacBook Air maintenance, preparing for trouble, and restoring files using Time Machine.
Chapter 9, How Do I Maintain The Battery? Explains how the MacBook air battery works, tells how to track battery usage, and to save energy when using battery power. You’ll learn how to optimize MacBook Air energy settings, other ways to save energy, cycling the MacBook Air battery, and replacing the battery in any of the five generations of MacBook Air models.
Chapter 10, How Do I Maintain The Hard Drive? looks at monitoring the hard drive’s free space, checking the hard drive status, verifying the hard drive, and replacing the hard drive – which in the MacBook Air is of course in third, fourth, and fifth generation models is not really a hard drive at all but a SSD.
Chapter 11 is How Do I Solve MacBook Air Problems? explains the general software troubleshooting techniques, monitoring performance, checking for software updates, bypassing login items, and deleting program preferences files which can sometimes resolve stability issues and improve application behavior. And if all else fails, how to go about reinstalling OS X. Here is also a tutorial section on restarting the MacBook Air, making a frozen Air restart after shutdown, restarting in safe mode, restarting using the recovery HD, restarting using the OS X install USB flash drive, restarting MacBook Air in Target Disk Mode, repairing the hard drive, and repairing disk permissions,
Chapter 12, How Do I Solve Specific Software Problems? carries on with mostly software related troubleshooting.
Chapter 13 is How Do I Solve Specific Hardware Problems? turns the focus on hardware issues.
There are also four appendices covering MacBook Air Online Resources, MacBook Air shortcut Keys, MacBook Air Multi-Touch Gestures, and Running Windows On MacBook Air.
Paul McFedries is a Mac expert and full-time technical writer who has written more than 75 books that have sold more than four million copies worldwide. His books include The new iPad Portable Genius and Macs Portable Genius, Second Edition. Paul encourages all readers to drop by his website,.
MacBook Pro Portable Genius, 4th Edition
I also like Brad Miser’s MacBook Pro Portable Genius. However, as above-noted the title is somewhat misleading. If you’re expecting technical discussion of MacBook Pro hardware, or even a lot of specific focus on exclusively MacBook Pro oriented software topics, you’re likely to be disappointed.
For example, there is no mention of distinctions and differences among the various MacBook Pro models, including the new(ish) MacBook Pro with Retina display, or as far as I could determine any reference to their being a variety of models at all. I would estimate that more than 90 percent of the book’s content is just as useful with and applicable to any Mac running OS X -portable or desktop.
The tutorial material on configuring and using networks and peripherals and sharing files among machines is especially strong, and perfectly relevant to any Mac running OS X Mountain Lion, updating of the book’s content to address version 10.8 being essentially the changelog distinction of the fourth edition.
The book is full of OS X 10.8 insights and tips on key tools and shortcuts, some of which you’re almost certain to be unaware of. Investing 25 bucks could quickly pay off in helping you increase your productivity and efficiency in making the most of OS X Mountain Lion’s capabilities from desktop sharing and wireless networking to running Windows applications,
The software centric orientation of MacBook Pro Portable Genius is evident in the chapter structure as well. Chapter 1, How Can I Use My Desktop Space? is a general tutorial on setting up and managing OS X Desktop interface.
Chapter 2 is all about How Do Manage User Accounts?
Chapter 3 addresses What Are My Internet Connection Options? with tutorial material on installing an Airport Extreme base station or Time Capsule, building local network, connecting via Wi-Fi, Connecting via Ethernet, connecting via a cellular modem, connecting via iPhone or iPad tethering, managing multiple network connections, configuring network connections, and managing network locations connections with locations. There’s also a section on troubleshooting an Internet connection.
Chapter 4 is What Can I Do On A Local Network? That is explained. Chapter 5, how can I control my back will grow and maintain battery power? Has tips on using the trackpad and effectively, using the keyboard effectively, using keyboard tricks, controlling the keyboard backlight, controlling your MacBook Pro with function keys, keyboard shortcuts, configuring Bluetooth, and powering your MacBook Pro while traveling.
Chapter 5, How Can I Control My MacBook Pro And Maintain Battery Power? explains how to use the trackpad effectively, configuring the trackpad, using gestures to control your MacBook Pro and how to optimize power usage when unplugged.
Chapter 6 is How Do I Take Advantage Of iCloud? While chapter 7 is How Do I
Manage Contacts And E-mail?
Chapter 8 covers How Do I Communicate And Share In Real Time? (mostly on chat and FaceTime), while Chapter 9 is How Can I Manage My Calendars?
Chapter 10 is How Can I Make Better Use Of The MacBook Pro Audio Features? which is really pretty much the same in most respects as using OS X on any Mac. There’s also a new section in this fourth edition on dictating on the MacBook Pro with the new Mountain Lion Dictate feature.
In Chapter 11 is How Do I Manage Storage Space? Topics covered include using external hard drives, maintaining hard drives, managing hard drive free space, and hard drive maintenance and repairs. Chapter 12 is How Can I Run Windows Applications? –– mostly about using Apple’s Boot Camp emulator software. Chapter 13 is called How Can I Protect My MacBook Pro? — a general tutorial on OS X security. Chapter 14 is How Do I Solve MacBook Pro Problems? — a general troubleshooting guide.
Both of these books are very attractively designed and laid out for pleasing readability with the right amount of white space, colorfully contrasting headlines and sub-heads, and lots of full color screenshots and photos on very good quality although not glossy paper stock . They are part of a Portable Genius series, but definitely not written to a rigid formula. They’re both excellent references and manuals, although you’ve likely guessed which is my favorite. No knock against the Miser volume, but it covers (and does so well) pretty much the same ground as many other Mountain Lion references, while the McFedries book is much more unique in its content and approach in delivering on its nominal promise as a MacBook-specific manual. I’ll give MacBook Air Portable Genius a 4 out of 5 rating, and MacBook Pro Portable Genius a 3 out of 5.
MacBook Air Portable Genius, 4th Edition
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MacBook Pro Portable Genius, 4th Edition
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