Monday, 3 January 2011

Almost But Not Quite!

Sams Teach Yourself Networking in 24 Hours
Fourth Edition by Uyless Black
ISBN: 978-0-7686-8576-3

Aimed at the entry-level networking professional, Sams Teach Yourself Networking is unlikely to satisfy the needs of readers interested in an introduction to managing home networks. Much of the discussion centres on network operating systems, dedicated servers and keeping system users happy: hardly high priority topics for non-professionals who tend to be more interested in getting (and keeping) a disparate collection of hardware devices working in harmony! However, this observation should not be construed as criticism and Black's treatise is an excellent aid to developing expertise beyond the typical hybrid desktop routers supplied by most ISPs.

Black uses the OSI network model to introduce the concept of layered protocols and it is a theme used throughout the book to describe how data moves through networks. Not only is this model an excellent vehicle for explaining the fundamentals of networking, but it is also useful for understanding how PCs prepare data for transmission and interpret data on receipt: suddenly, those cryptic error messages will start to make sense and troubleshooting errant PCs becomes a little easier.

However, despite imparting some excellent guidance this book does have some flaws. For instance, Black squanders a couple of his “hours” discussing the role and responsibilities of a network administrator: whilst this might be interesting per se, its inclusion suggests that learning about networks requires less than twenty-four hours! Similarly, Black spends the last chapter speculating on the future of computer networks. It is almost as if he has run out of technical advice and resorts to conjecture to fill some space (and the requisite number of hours).

Overall, this book provides a useful insight into professional network management and offers an excellent description of layered protocols. However, the shortcomings diminish the desired effect and, given the relatively high cover price, the result is an offering of questionable value that fails to deliver the promise of the title.

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