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One Way to Become an O'Reilly Author

By Mary Rotman
September 24, 2008 | Comments: 2

As I was pulling together the press release for Mac OS X for Unix Geeks recently, I was intrigued by the thread of emails going between the three authors. I had asked O'Reilly editor and author Brian Jepson for some basic information about the book such as why it was important, what had changed since the previous edition, etc. and he mentioned that there was a new author who was able to add another dimension of information to the book's content:

This is the fourth edition of the book, and we're really happy with it. We've not only had the chance to update it for Mac OS X 10.5, but we've also done some tweaks to it that we think will make it really great. For this edition, Rich Rosen joined us as a co-author on this edition, and really fleshed out some of the later chapters of the book. For example, he added a section on Ruby to Chapter 17, "Other Programming Languages", and really worked over Chapter 15, "Using Mac OS X as a Server." And Ernie and I got to focus on some other areas of the book and we all feel that this edition is what this book's always wanted to be. I think the same could be said of Mac OS X Leopard--it's really grown into its skin, I mean, its fur!

I didn't think much of it until co-author Ernie Rothman responded, saying the same thing:

I could only echo what Brian has already noted: Leopard is quite a significant Mac OS X update from a Unix geek perspective. The latest edition has not only been updated for Leopard, but the amount of time since the last edition together with Rich joining us as co-author has allowed us to tune our focus on what's important for Unix geeks. We're very excited about the result.

Then Rich Rosen, the third author, chimed in, mentioning that he had lobbied for this new edition, saying, "Leopard brought about significant changes to Mac OS X, in particular to the underlying Unix side of things, and as a Unix geek myself I thought coverage of those changes was critical."

I dug a little deeper and discovered that not only had Rich lobbied for this new edition of the book, but he used O'Reilly's Get Satistfaction service to do it.

Here's his story of how he went from requesting a new book to co-authoring it:

I already owned a copy of Mac OS X Panther for Unix Geeks and had found it to be a great resource in my home Mac environment, where I run a headless Mac Mini as a server in addition to two other active Macs in the house. I never bought a copy of the Tiger version of the book (sorry, guys...) but I did borrow a friend's copy when I needed it, and it was equally useful to me.

With the advent of Leopard, given the significant degree to which OS X changed with that release, I figured that it was time to upgrade to the newest version of the book. Wondering whether a new edition was forthcoming, I found the online forum (GetSatisfaction) where one could get that question answered. [see Rich's original post here] It was Brian [Jepson] who actually responded to me that there were no plans for a new edition to cover Leopard. I expressed disappointment, and apparently so did a few other people, and apparently someone somewhere changed their mind and Brian let me know that O'Reilly would be putting out a Leopard edition of the book after all. I asked if he and Ernie needed a tech-reviewer for the book and he said he would put in a good word for me with Isabel, our editor, and so I got the chance (along with Charles Edge) to tech-review the book.

As work moved along and schedules got tight, Isabel mentioned that some help might be needed to rework some of the later chapters in the book, in particular the chapter on using the Mac as a server. I volunteered to take that on, and wound up doing the research on how Leopard changed, especially in the area of "Sharing" preferences--meaning the web server, file sharing (Samba, FTP, and AFP), printer sharing, and remote login (SSH) services, as well as new services such as Screen Sharing and DVD/CD Sharing. There were some major enhancements and new ways of doing things, but I managed (I hope) to cover them all in my reworking of the chapter.

So, in other words, because I wanted so much to read this chapter in the new edition of the book, I wound up writing it. :-)

Subsequently, the book has been released and can be found in our store. You can also find more information about this release in our press room.

If you've been trying to figure out how to use Unix on Mac OS X Leopard and have been running into some problems, leave a comment. A week from today I'll arbitrarily pick a winner to receive a copy of the book!

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The thing that amazes me is that this path, moving from tech review to author, is not that uncommon. As deadlines approach, the tech reviewers tend to be the first in line to be added as authors on a project, provided that they are available to do so. Congratulations, Rich, on being able to make that leap. I'd love to see a copy of the book!

Not only is Mac OS X luring Unix geeks with it's Unix roots, these roots are also luring Apple using creative professionals like me into becoming Unix geeks...

I would say our two geek communities have a lot to offer to each other! I do fear, however, that Apple will abandon their Unix centered approach as soon as they think closed solutions will be more profitable. I’d say it’s up to us to keep reminding them of how much we value the Unix geek perspective!

And, if you can afford to ship it across the ocean, I’d love a copy of this book :-)


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