FrazzledDad writes "Network geeks and developers working in the TCP/IP domain are most likely familiar with Douglas Comer's Internetworking With TCP/IP Vol.1. Comer's book was central for my understanding of how things really worked in the small corner of a world-wide network I use to manage. Charles Kozierok's The TCP/IP Guide has knocked Comer's book off my shelf. Kozierok's weighty book (1600 pages!) does a terrific job both as a reference and as a learning aid." Read on for Jim's review.
Kozierok spent at least four years working full-time on this book, according to the dedication, and it shows. He covers everything from networking fundamentals to individual application protocols such as Gopher.
Do you need to familiarize yourself with Open Shortest Path First (OSPF) routing protocol basics? It's covered. Do you need to understand the pros and cons of Network Address Translation, and how static and dynamic mappings work? It's covered. Do you want the nitty gritty of how message formats are laid out? It's covered.
Kozierok also presents several chapters specifically on IPv6, laying out changes in the new version before diving into the nuts and bolts of it. He discusses the major additions, and dedicates an entire chapter to the new addressing scheme. The transition from IPv4 to IPv6 is a well-written section talking about the difficult conversion between the two versions.
THE BOOK AS A LEARNING GUIDE
TCP/IP can be a rather dry topic to read about when trying to learn portions of it. Let's face it: reading about BOOTP's messaging over UDP is not something most folks will give up a Friday night on the town for. OK, Kozierok's writing style won't make that happen, but he does keep things interesting and flowing well enough that working one's way through such topics is actually entertaining instead of torture.
For example, Chapter 18's discussion of subnetting concepts lays out the fundamentals in clear order without sliding into unfathomable academic blabberspeak. His use of "Key Concept" boxes throughout the book helps point out important items.
Just as important to the book's clarity and usefulness are the amazing graphics. In the Acknowledgments Kozierok specifically thanks the folks at SmartDraw.com for their illustrating package. He's put the tool to fantastic use for everything from breaking out the control bits from a TCP segment header to showing how iterative DNS name resolution works.
THE BOOK AS A REFERENCE
The level of detail in the book makes it a valuable reference in addition to its role as a learning guide. For example, readers can find specifics on details of SNMP data types, NFS server procedures, or TCP segment format layout. Additionally, Kozierok discusses many of the various TCP/IP utilities, such as using "netstat" for troubleshooting with a detailed discussion of various outputs.
Kozierok must have spent a lot of time figuring out how to best lay out the book, and it pays off with sensible organization. Two tables of content, one brief and one detailed (32 pages!), help one to get to the right spot to look up needed information. The index is nearly 50 pages and seems to be quite exhaustive; another great tool for getting to the right spot. There are also comprehensive lists of Figures and Tables if you're trying to access something via that route.
WHAT IT DOESN'T COVER
Kozierok is upfront about things he's left out of the book. You'll need to look elsewhere (back to Comer's book, perhaps) for details on TCP/IP in ATM networks, security and firewall design, and the lower levels of socket usage.
To me, a significant advantage of this book is No Starch's binding system that they make so much hay about. I can open this massive book to any point and leave it flat on the table. Pretty impressive!
Kozierok also has a companion website (www.TCPIPGuide.com) with errata, a FAQ, and various other areas. You can also purchase an electronic copy of the book.
The TCP/IP Guide is a tremendous work, and it's a significant resource for anyone working with TCP/IP."
You can purchase The TCP/IP Guide: A Comprehensive, Illustrated Internet Protocols Reference from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.