|Computer Networking First-Step|
|summary||A beginner's - no experience needed- guide to computer networking|
When I am sitting in front of a computer in San Francisco and exchanging email with a friend in New Delhi, or we are chatting using MSN or the Yahoo! Messenger program, there is a mind-boggling array of data transformation between the sender and the receiver. All our analog data (speech, type face, etc) is transformed to digital data (binary digits of 0 and 1.) We are analog creatures, but the infrastructure for computer communication on which we are so hopelessly dependent is strictly digital. This infrastructure is responsible for various layers of encapsulation/decapsulations, encoding/decoding, etc to move the data through a 'cloud' of intermediary hubs, switches, and routers (the 'cloud' is a black box to us) and establish communication between the end users. The rules (or protocols) at different layers are complex enough, and to make matters worse, the rules inside a Telco network through which our data travels can be very different from the rules in our LAN data network (the Telco network is usually a black box to the data communication folks). Breaking this highly complex phenomenon into smaller, simpler constituent parts is what this book is about.
This book is 515 pages long and is divided into 18 chapters. Odom starts by defining a network in terms of its constituent elements, and goes on to explain how three blind guys -- the Server Guy, the Cabling Guy, and the Network Guy -- perceive the Network 'Elephant.' The authors and the editors have tried hard to explain abstract concepts with real life examples; for example, they tell us how to how to eat a dinosaur (OSI 7-layer model) versus how to eat an elephant (TCP/IP 4 layer model). The whole narration takes place in terms of the human experience of fictitious characters named Fred, Wilma, Barney, Betty, Keith, Conner, Larry, Archie, Bob, Hannah (etc.), who internalize the electronic data communication protocols into their own behavioral model. This tactic makes for easy reading by helping us understand the unfamiliar in terms of the familiar. Many newcomers to networking get discouraged by the learning curves for OSI and TCP/IP, and quit before getting to LAN and WAN. The author addresses this concern by strictly focusing on the concepts and leaving the details out for another day.
Odom's description of LAN as roadway and sharing of the local roadway through hub to find destinations is easy to follow. The rules to follow on the roadway cover wrecks, and also how to recover from the wrecks. His description of WAN as leasing hundreds of miles of network cable drives home the basic concepts. The hosts file is explained as a phone book, and AAA as a means to allow the right people and keep out the wrong people. Under the veneer of lightheartedness Odom manages to sneak in the concepts ranging from 4-wire WAN circuit to 802.1Q trunking, VLAN to VPN.
This book introduces many contemporary networking concepts, and would have been more complete with a chapter on wireless networking and VOIP. The diagrams are uncluttered and easy to follow for reinforcing the concepts. The index is manageably short but to the point. The best thing going for the book is its relaxed, you-can-do-it tone. However, this is not for everyone, certainly not enough for anyone seeking IT certifications. If you are looking for a conceptual understanding of computer networking to untangle the underlying mystery, read this book. I think this is a great text for high school students, home computer users, and even computer professionals who do not deal with networking in their daily work. If you are looking for details about networking standards (necessary for any certification test), find a more advanced text.
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