honestpuck writes "It might seem a little strange to associate Cisco Press with a book for newcomers to home networking but Cisco are now the proud owners of Linksys and have a large place in this market. Therefore a book like this may not seem so out of place." Read on for the rest of honestpuck's review.
When reviewing this book, the first argument you might have with the authors is exactly where to start. The authors have decided to start earlier than I feel necessary, with hooking your computer up with a dial-up ISP, something most ISPs already provide with more specific detail than can be given in this volume. There are strong arguments for having it all in one place, though, and I have to allow for that in this review.
That said, there are some simplifications and throwaway lines toward the book's beginning that I did feel were unnecessary. A good example is the discussion of bits, bytes, megabytes and gigabytes. Having defined a kilobyte as 1024 bytes, the authors then define a megabyte as 1000 kilobytes. They also claim not to understand why it is 1024 rather than 1000. Either our authors are lying, attempting a poor joke, or they are betraying an unforgivable ignorance of the binary number system. In any case it is a poor choice of throwaway line.
Once over that, there is a lot to like about this book. While it is entirely Windows-centered, so middle of the road it might well be the white line, and reliant on such routine applications as Outlook Express for its examples, it is incredibly detailed on not just what to do but why you do it.
It also has a huge number of screenshots, mainly showing the various dialog boxes and the options you need to set. Given the overabundance of dialogs in most Windows wizards, the screenshot barrage is probably overkill for many readers. Taken together with the highly approachable language and writing style, though, this makes for a book that is perfect for the absolute beginner to networking.
The drawback of the routine, middle-of-the-road approach is that the average person will quickly outgrow this book. Once you decide to use Firefox instead of Explorer and Eudora instead of Outlook, or perhaps integrate a Linux box or Mac into your home network, then this book is much less helpful.
Within its own limits though, it does cover all the bases in home networking, from connecting via dial-up or through broadband connections to building a wireless home network with shared files and printers. The authors do it in a slow, methodical manner with lots of screen shots and a great deal of explanation.
Part I covers the basics; terminology and connecting to the net. Part II covers a simple home network and file and printer sharing before finishing with broadband connections. Part III takes the network wireless. Part IV covers network security, before the final part covers more esoteric network issues such as IP telephony, media nets and gaming.
The book features frequent interjections from the computer help guys at Geek Squad. While most of these are simplistic, they often contain good advice for the uninitiated. This is a pretty good idea; it allows for some external expertise and works well quite a lot of the time, though some of the interjections came across as a little trite.
If you go to the book page at Cisco Press (which isn't, by the way, at the URL the authors give in the Introduction of the book) you can see a table of contents and an example chapter. The authors have also provided four appendices online; one devoted to binary and hexadecimal numbers, one on MAC address locking for wireless, a shameless plug for the Linksys product line, and a final one devoted to some fairly useless prognostication called "Future Stuff." All in all, I'm not sure they are a totally worthwhile addition to the book; the second on MAC address locking could have been easily added to the book if the editing had been a little tighter.
This is an almost perfect book on home networking for the person who has a Windows computer or two (and nothing else) and knows nothing. It pains me to admit that I have a number of friends who fall into this category and I would have no hesitation in lending them a copy of this book. Given the cost, I'm not sure I'd recommend this book to everyone, but I do feel that it is the perfect volume for the local library; borrowing it for two weeks while setting up the home net would be the ideal solution for people like my mate Tim, who (while a pediatric specialist) has trouble hooking up a router, or the neighbours downstairs who can't properly secure a wireless network.
I give this book a nine out of ten for its target audience, the absolute newcomer, but take off two points for the error in the URL given in the introduction and the middle-of-the-road outlook.
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