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Unwired book

book cover

Mac OS X Unwired: A Guide for Home, Office, and the Road

by Tom Negrino and Dori Smith


By James D Davidson:

This book serves as a good primer into all the ways you can use your Mac without wires. WiFi, Bluetooth, GPRS, and even the old infrared standards are covered. If you haven't played with the wireless capabilities of your Mac, this book will help you explore them and get you on the web while sipping coffee at the corner shop. And even if you have played extensively with what your Mac can do without wires, you'll still find a few tidbits that you probably haven't run into before.

By Tom Bridge:

Dori and Tom have created a total guide to handling wireless networking and peripheral work that is just plain outstanding. If you've got a wireless card, or have bluetooth, and you've not played with it, or dabbled in it, or even if you've got a great understanding of WiFi and you're syncing your Bluetooth phone with a headset and your laptop, all the while using the phone's GPRS connection to post a review like this one, then this is a book for you.

They explain the complicated, but don't dumb it down entirely, so you've got an excellent contrast of approaches.

This is not one to miss.

The ACT Apple Users Group, March 2004 Newsletter, by George Carrington:

I'm not a fan of WiFi, or its various manifestations. I prefer to have my computers and printers linked by cable. It's got nothing to do with security, the risk of "additional radiation", the hassle of setting up base stations nor even the cost—though the last would be a deterrent. It's simply that I don't go in for portables, which, in my opinion, are the only good reason for having a wireless network.

When my friends at O'Reilly's sent me Mac OS X Unwired, A Guide for Home, Office and the Road (Tom Negrino & Dori Smith, ISBN 0-596-00508-3), I looked at it and put it aside for Ron (Yer know—Later on!). This was hardly my cup of tea. OK—so I have been wrong before, and I certainly was wrong this time. I'm still no more enamoured of the idea of setting up a wireless network for myself, but, if I had to, it would be a breeze after reading this book.

The book has a Preface, eight Chapters, an Appendix, a Glossary (Loud Cheers!) and an Index. I always read the Preface—it often provides me with a very good insight into the personalities of the author(s). One thing for sure, by the end of the Preface I knew one thing—I was going to enjoy this book.

In fifteen pages in Chapter One, Introduction to Wireless Computing, Tom and Dori give you enough background to make you feel more or less comfortable with the whole idea of using a wireless connection. They explain clearly what the various terms mean, the differences between the various protocols and how these affect both the hardware and the software you're likely to need, and even cover Bluetooth. By the end of that chapter they had me convinced that I really should seriously look at WiFi—consequently I have now relegated the book to the ACTApple Library, where it will find it more difficult to go on tempting me.

Chapter Two, WiFi in Your Mac, covers both the hardware and the software you'll need to have on board, whether supplied by Apple or third parties. Depending on the hardware/software combination you opt for (or are stuck with?), you get clear instructions on how to set it all up. Even I could do it. And best of all, most of the screenshots are taken in Panther—now that's up to date!

Once you've got the necessary hardware and software installed and configured, ready to go, the time has come to make the connection. That's where Chapter Three, Making the Wi-Fi Connection comes in. There are two ways of telling people how to do this—you can simply follow a recipe, and it all comes together (most of the time), or you can explain how the whole thing works, even if it means that you may need to throw some fairly technical concepts at your reader. I'm glad to report that Tom and Dori opted for the second course. I've had, for years now, a fair idea what TCP/IP was all about, but the explanation in this book put it all together in a way such that I can now say I really understand it. In my opinion it's worth getting this book for this chapter alone.

The rest of Chapter Three deals with such mundane matters as setting up and configuring a base station, getting the best results out of the setup, and even talks about wireless communication without a base station, i.e. computer to computer. If, after carefully reading Chapter Three, you are still unable to get your setup going, I would recommend you pack it up, return it to the shop and explain that you're too incompetent to be allowed to have anything like this.

Chapter Four, Wi-Fi on the Road, provides just one more reason to have a Wi-Fi equipped portable. The authors make it sound so easy, but my own observation of what goes on in airport lounges tends to confirm that it must be so, otherwise why would all these business people have their laptops open? Chapter Five, Security, touches on one of the most vulnerable spots of using wireless communications on your computer network. Not surprisingly, most of the solutions offered by the authors are plain common sense. All the same, a valuable chapter to read, preferably before you decide to go Wi-Fi, so that you know what traps to avoid.

Chapter Six covers Bluetooth. I have seen Bluetooth used with wireless keyboards and mice, but when the authors start to talk of connecting to your cellphone and your PDA using Bluetooth, it all starts to sound like science fiction—except that you're given detailed instructions on how to configure your Mac to do it, and which phones work best, and such. I don't know if this sort of thing works here—if a member is using Bluetooth to connect to their PDA or phone, maybe they could tell us about it?

I'm afraid that in Chapter Seven, Cellular Connectivity, the authors lost me—I don't even own or use a cell phone! I'll just have to take their word for it that it is real and not science fiction. But then so much of what we regarded as science fiction twenty years ago our children and grandchildren now consider essential to normal life, that nothing really should surprise me any longer.

In Chapter Eight the authors discuss Rendezvous. Now, even I have heard of Rendezvous, and the promise it carries that one day all my electronic gear will connect itself together, without my having to plough through screen after screen of set-ups. As with the previous chapter, it all sounds simply too good to be true, but at least now I understand some of the chatter that goes on around me when the "geekier" members of ACTApple get together.

Finally, there is an appendix on RF and Infrared, which I suspect may interest a few people (I got the impression that Infrared was yet another of those technological blind alleys that occur from time to time), a very useful Glossary, and finally an Index.

Even though this is really a book for users at a somewhat more advanced (or adventurous?) level than me, I enjoyed reading it, and I know I learnt a lot from it. It's written so that it is intelligible even to the greatest technophobe, for which the authors ought to be congratulated. If you're into using a wireless network with your computers, or are considering the possibility of doing so in the near future, I would suggest that this book is an indispensable resource. If you're simply interested in the topic, I would recommend you get it anyway, read it and and stash it away for the day when you too go Wi-Fi.