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Book Reviews Books Media

A New TCP/IP Classic 97

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.
The TCP/IP Guide: A Comprehensive, Illustrated Internet Protocols Reference
author Charles Kozierok
pages 1616
publisher No Starch Press
rating 9/10
reviewer Jim Holmes
ISBN 159327047X
summary Amazing broad, deep coverage of TCP/IP in an understandable fashion.

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.


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 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 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.


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 ( 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 Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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A New TCP/IP Classic

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  • Been done before (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eneville ( 745111 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @02:54PM (#14257922) Homepage
    Whats wrong with TCP/IP illustrated, 1,2 and 3?

    Theres only so many books you can read on the subject - no matter how hard core you are.
  • you are wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @02:56PM (#14257945)
    > Network geeks and developers working in the TCP/IP domain are most likely > familiar with Douglas Comer's Internetworking With TCP/IP Vol.1

    No, dude. We read "TCP/IP Illustrated, Volume 1" by Richard Stevens. The bible.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:05PM (#14258019)
    Save yourself almost THIRTY ($30) BUCKS by buying the book here: The TCP/IP Guide: A Comprehensive, Illustrated Internet Protocols Reference []. And if you use the "secret" discount [], you can save an extra 1.57%!
    • This is NOT a troll. AC is dead on correct and if /. insists on posting paid links to then we should point out Amazon is considerably cheaper. I'd like to know who modded parent down and why.
      • To paraphrase the slashdot FAQ:
        Q: Do the slashdot mods have infinite mod points?
        A: Yes, and they're not afraid of using them
        • True. It is the "all your karma are belonging to us" aspect of slash based forums that bugs me. So far it has not seemed heavyhanded enough to send me back to sifting through the volumes of crap on Usenet to try to find anything valuable.
          • I'm with you. I am entirely serious when I say the slashdot M1 system, and the fact that some people think it's working are more of a source of amusement to me.

            It's not that the most of the moderators are shit, either - I'm sure that's not the case.

            I believe it's because the whole M1 system is fundamentally fucked up. The most boring of points go from Score 1 to Score 5 immediately due to people looking at pages that are 30 seconds old, and moderating them. Then the "Underrateds" hit and drive things b

  • by whitroth ( 9367 ) <> on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:09PM (#14258055) Homepage
    Now, I always heard that Comer was the last word, and I picked up the three volumes years ago, and on and off have worked at them.

    However, in a phone interview recently, I was told that the tear-down on a TCP/IP session was a four-way handshake. Websites I was pointed also said this. But when I go to the Comer, Vol. 1, it says that it's actually a six-way: a three-way from the originator, and a three-way from the recipient.

    Which, of course, leads me to wonder about his accuracy.

          mark "and the O'Reilly TCP/IP book says three-way...."
  • IPv6 ??? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:10PM (#14258056)
    IPv6??? WTF???
    We just finished upgrading to IPv5, and it cost us nearly $1.2 million
    That's the last time we hire "Dogbert IT Services"
  • RIP Jon Postel (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The best documentation on TCP/IP is the RFCs themselves, especially anything written or edited by Jon Postel [].

    Why wade through someone else's interpretation when the specifications themselves are so good and freely available?
  • Save $20 (Score:5, Informative)

    by splante ( 187185 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:13PM (#14258077)
    It's twenty bucks cheaper on Amazon []
    • Well, that's $30.00 cheaper than what I paid for it at Border's. However, I found the book so captivating I picked it up right then and there. I've been looking for a comprehensive book that explains the nitty-gritty of TCP/IP and this is it! The author uses many illustrations to solidify his book's textual content where mere text will not suffice. I'm not more then 10% into the book, yet, and already it's become one of my most treasured books in my library.

    • by crush ( 19364 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @04:26PM (#14258629)
      He makes the material available gratis on his website and if you buy direct from him [] you pay only $5 more than amazon and you get a CD of the PDFs and he'll autograph it on request.

      Why not kick back a few bucks his way to reward him for his good work?
    • Or Free Online! (Score:2, Informative)

      by gnuber ( 605327 )
      It is worth mentioning (since the reviewer didn't) that the book is available free online in HTML format. Start with the table of contents []. He also sells (erm, "licenses") PDFs for $35, though I'd rather buy the book itself for $50 at Amazon. The HTML version has those annoying fake-link ads that pop up sundry advertisements when you mouse over them, but I still commend him for posting the book. I have bookmarked it for future reference, and I'll likely buy the book if it proves more useful than the RFC
  • 1600 pages? (Score:5, Funny)

    by cianduffy ( 742890 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:14PM (#14258086)
    I didn't knock only one book off my shelf, it knocked all of them off - when it pulled the entire bookcase off the wall...
    • by bladesjester ( 774793 ) <`slashdot' `at' `'> on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:25PM (#14258163) Homepage Journal
      At least it's not as bad as the Unix manual we had in one of the CS labs. It was mounted on rails and bolted to the table (taking up 90% of the length of the table).

      My theory was that it wasn't bolted to the table to keep people from taking it, but rather to keep it from falling off and killing someone when it landed on them. I can just picture the legs of some poor freshman sticking out from under that paper monster, the rest of him having been squished into jelly from the book's sheer weight...
      • by ArsonSmith ( 13997 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @04:05PM (#14258453) Journal
        Nope it was only there to make sure that business majors would be scared of UNIX and pay UNIX admins a lot more money.

        • Business majors would have to be pretty far out of their normal stomping grounds to see it. It was on a floor with almost nothing but unix and matlab labs in a building that most business majors never saw more than the first two floors of if they saw it at all :P

          If it were closer to the business majors, I might have had the theory that the book was bolted to the table to make it more difficult to beat MBA's with =]
      • The VAX/VMS Orange books used to fill an entire bookcase.

        Now *those* were manuals.

        Danged useful, too.

        Still the standard, in my book.

        As much as I love *nix, it still falls way short
        of VMS in a couple of areas, and one is good documentation.
        • We had a VAX donated to us a little while ago. This wasn't a MicroVax, but it was one of the smaller ones - about the size of small fridge. Along with it came a couple of dumb terminals, and the documentation. In spite of the size of the machine, the documentation that came with it took up more space.

          Oh, and saying *nix falls short of VMS in a couple of areas is like saying DOS falls short of *nix in a couple of areas...

          • At 23 I'm just a youngin' so please excuse my ignorance. Aside from seemingly exhaustive documentation, what made VMS so great?
            • Off the top of my head, some nice features were:
              • Automatic versioning in the FS.
              • Support for structured files.
              • A well-defined ABI that allowed code written in any (procedural) language to call libraries written in any other.
              • Great clustering support.
              • The kind of storage pooling that *NIX is only now getting with Sun's ZFS.
              • A real security model (fine grained access control everywhere).
              • Fine-grained control over more-or-less everything (e.g. you can set the maximum real memory usage of an individual process
      • "emacs - volume 2"?
      • RoR (Score:3, Funny)

        It was mounted on rails

        From what I have read around, the Ruby manual is so hefty that lots of people have Ruby on rails.
  • I think I'll wait for the abridged audio book version.

    /The last time I read over a 1,000 pages from one author, it wasn't worth it.

  • by adrenaline_junky ( 243428 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:27PM (#14258175)
    He covers everything from networking fundamentals to individual application protocols such as Gopher.

    And is coverage of Gopher supposed to be a selling point for this book??

    I haven't used Gopher since... well, actually, I never used Gopher for anything other than idle curiousity to see what the hell it was. The Web made Gopher completely obsolescent.

    Talk about a way to pigeonhole your book as "old news".

    Coverage of bittorrent would be far more interesting and relevant.
    • When i was in college, TCP/IP was just starting to get big. we were moving from Novel and BITNET (we were even a major BITNET to TCP/IP gateway). At first, i played with ftp sites, found ARCHIE. Then gopher, followed very quickly by the WWW. I played with gopher a bit, but being exposed to it around the same time as the WWW, it's limitations were very obvious. Eventually, gopher servers went away and the gopher protocol became nothing more than a way to DOS Netscape (gopher has no concept of content-
  • as in beer (Score:3, Informative)

    by lukOh ( 930297 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:40PM (#14258284)
    And the full contents of this book, including BOOTP Client/Server Messaging and Addressing [] are really entirely available on its ADdicting website as it seems to claim!?!
    • Re:as in beer (Score:2, Interesting)

      by lukOh ( 930297 )
      well, as it really is so, it might be too much flashing all around or all those subpages, but the contents doesn't look to me half as complete as a handful of other books I've seen on the matter; very good to have a web reference when needed (I'll remember to follow some ads), but I personally wouldn't buy the book based on a first sight on the website.
  • by Bob_Robertson ( 454888 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:52PM (#14258360) Homepage
    I wrote to him to discuss something I'd noticed in the IPv6 sections, and he wrote back. It was very nice to discuss it with him directly, and I'll gladly echo the fact that his work is both easy to read and informative.

    I've read a LOT of networking crap over the 25 years I've been doing computer networking, this ease of reading is not common to the genre.

    His work is also online: []

  • by wrook ( 134116 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:56PM (#14258395) Homepage
    Just curious... Why does one need a book (especially 1600 pages long)? Does it cover something that's not in the RFCs?

    I guess what I'm thinking is that TCP/IP networking is hardly rocket science. Surely the basics can be described in just a few pages. For everything else, you're going to have to look at specs anyway.

    Am I missing something? Or are network prototcol programmers jealous of the multi-thousand-page-red-softcover-with-the-author' s-face-on the-cover books that the MSofties have on their desks collecting dust?
    • I can think of 3 reasons to make a book this big

      1. 1600 page books look impressive.
      2. Keep the information hidden. bury it in useless data and it is hidden in plane site.
      3. Make TCP/IP look 1000x more complicated than it is. Network Engineers get paid more.

      1600 pages for something that would have to have a lot of fluff to fill half that and could probably be covered really well in 1-200 pages.
      • I love it when dolts who have never done anything criticize folks with actual achievements. Talk is cheap- I challenge you to write a 200-page book that covers the same material thoroughly. Tell ya what- I don't feel like waiting, 'cause even 200 pages takes time. I challenge you to authoritatively teach one thing, like the snm protocol, in 1000 words, or whatever you think you need. Post a link to it here, I'll check back. you won't, and you'll make excuses is my prediction.
        • SNMP is a protocol that allows the communication of various statuses or other arbitrary informations about one machine or network to another.

          SNMP data is organized in a tree-like hierarchy with numbers assigned by company, type, and sub-types as necessary.

          Examples: ...

          Well, that's a good chunk of what you need to know. Examples would deal with the rest practically. PS, like a previous poster said, the excessively detailed stuff belongs to the RFCs.
          • In other words, you have no idea how to write a book either. Nor have either of you read the review book to see if it offers any value beyond re-hashing the RFCs. Yeah I know, this is Slashdot, what do I expect.
    • by CrayzyJ ( 222675 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @05:01PM (#14259002) Homepage Journal
      The basics of anything can be described in a few pages for some level of "basic".

      For my thesis I described the basics of TCP/IP in about 20 pages; however, when onse is making changes to the TCP stack itself, the basics just will NOT do. I have hit several of the in-dept chapters of the Steven's volumes multiple times. Some times I find those books lacking in the detail I need.

      These are not "admin" style books. Most TCP/IP protocol suite implementations are very large and complex.
  • "How long does it take to download The TCP/IP Guide?
    About 2.5 hours using a 28.8kbps dialup modem; about 1.3 hours at 50kbps; about 8 minutes with 500kbps broadband." ( [])

    Has anyone seen a 28.8kbps modem lately? I thought they were extinct.
    • There are a few isolated spots in the world where they're in use; I talked to someone from rural Australia not long ago who was using one.

      I also "see" them a lot on older computers here, technically...But I'm guessing you meant see them being used.
    • A lot of people in the UK who still use modems do so because they live too far away from the exchanges to get a real Internet connection. People in these situations are likely to be using lines that are multiplexed to the hilt. In my parents' last house, it was impossible to connect at more than 28.8, and 26.4 was more usual. For these people, 28.8kbps is a good indication. Mind you, I get a faster connection via my mobile 'phone these days...
    • I use older slower modems during storms all the time. They'll stay online when a 56k craps out from line noise., plus, if they get fried, meh, another thriftstore, another 50 cents.

      Oh ya, if you live rural, it's a real bother to try and find "broadband" in the US. It just ain't happening except for very expensive and very limited satellite "service". Cable is unobtanium and DSL means you have to be two miles or less from a telco box, which barely qualifies as suburban, let alone "rural". I think when/if Wi
    • No, but I have plenty of friends (okay, only a handful, really) who live in rural areas that connect at such a rate. It's pretty typical in BFE.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "Internetworking with TCP/IP" is good, but "TCP/IP Illustrated v.1" is outstanding.

    For many years until a RFC was published, the "official" reference (for example, to quote in an article or book) about TCP's fast retransmit and fast recovery was Stevens' book, unless you wanted to quote the original Usenet post for Van Jacobson.

  • Did this book cover QoS? What about SIP? Any good recommendations on books that cover those two areas?
  • by daveb ( 4522 ) <davebremer@[ ] ['gma' in gap]> on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @04:51PM (#14258879) Homepage
    I used Comer & Stevens to learn about TCP/IP. along with Postal (ie the RFC's). But a hidden gem is the IBM Redbook "TCP/IP Tutorial and Technical Overview" []. From that link you can download the PDF of the 980 page book - all for free. or you can order the hard copy book

    thank you IBM - its a fantastic resource and reference.

  • I haven't seen this book, but I did like the Comer's one, and personally I don't like the Stevens' one -- mostly because it's too thick. With the technical books like these it is very easy to stray away from concepts explanation into dull recital of RFCs/manpages/etc. growing your book's pages count, but making it less useful. From the review, I understand that this new one has a similar tendency. Did it knock the Comer's book of your shelf just because it had a heavier weight then? Or for some other reason
  • A New Classic?

    From the Oxford American Dictionary:
    classic |klasik| adjective judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality and outstanding of its kind.

    Heck, it has been almost 3 months.
  • Darn. As useful as this looks, I was hoping that we'd finally have an update of that famous TCP-IP classic, Ping the Duck [] . (Hint: read the top-rated review)
  • by hkb ( 777908 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @05:33PM (#14259321)
    No, network professionals are (or should be) familiar with W. Richard Stevens' "TCP/IP Illustrated" and "UNIX Network Programming" books and Cisco's "Routing TCP/IP" book.
    • Cisco's "Routing TCP/IP"

      The second edition of Volume 1 has just been released.

      Volume 1, and do more than cover just TCP/IP standards, they also have a practical implementation aspect. Of course, its all Cisco based, but given a huge whack of the networking is as well, that's not as big a disadvantage as you'd expect. For BGP (especially Cisco's implementation of BGP), look to the CiscoPress "Internet Routing Architectures". I prefer it to the coverage in Volume II of Routing TCP/IP.

      However, you will be g

  • Well, I scanned it in depth.

    The gold standard is still "TCP/IP Illustrated", Stevens, even though it is getting somewhat long in the tooth. The Kozierok book is essentially all prose descriptions of how the TCP/IP stack works, no code. There is simply no replacement for Stevens if you need to figure out how the stack is dealing with multicast packets or dozens of other situations.

    There are some questionable organizational choices, such as starting of with SLIP and PPP in the first chapters. And gopher is pr

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