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Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

In a slight departure from my normal reviews, I have ventured into the world of cabling. I also reviewed a compact guide to the Internet, a protocol book, and an encyclopedia. The specific books reviewed are: The Internet & World Wide Web: The Rough Guide 1998, Version 3.0 by Angus J. Kennedy (Rough Guides Ltd., Distributed by The Penguin Group); Mike's Basic Guide To Cabling by Mike Gorman (A Prairie Wind Communications, Inc. Book); PPP Design and Debugging by James Carlson (Addison-Wesley); and Encyclopedia Of Networking, Electronic Edition by Tom Sheldon (Osborne/McGraw-Hill.) Each of the offerings is exceptional in different ways.

The Internet & World Wide Web:
The Rough Guide 1998 Version 3.0
by Angus J. Kennedy
Rough Guides Ltd.
Distributed by The Penguin Group
ISBN 1-85828-288-8

Many new Internet developments present additional choices for the user and detours for the navigator. Once simple procedures assume the complexity of federal income tax directions (see schedule 8764139 for further information.) In this compact little (4" x 5 5/8") guide, Kennedy provides clear and understandable descriptions of Internet and World Wide Web commands and access techniques. He addresses concepts and their practical applications through four sections: Basics, The Guide, Contexts, and an ISP Directory. Part One: Basics discusses Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), Getting Connected, Online Services and Major ISP (Internet Service Providers), Email, Mailing Lists, File Transfer (FTP), Usenet Newsgroups, Surfing the World Wide Web, Finding It, Creating Your Own Web Page, Internet Relay Chat, Online Gaming, and On The Road. In Part Two: The Guide, Kennedy provides World Wide Web Sites, Usenet Newsgroups, and a Software Roundup. Part Three: Contexts describes A Brief History of the Net, Net Language, Glossary, and Further Reading, while Part Four: ISP Directory lists some major Internet Service Providers. The author concludes with a fun article entitled "50 Things To Do With This Book."

Most of the modifications, including additions, deletions, and corrections, reflect changes in the Internet itself. For example, a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) may have moved to a new address or ceased to exist. This also applies to new sites that previously were either nonexistent or "under construction." Kennedy has added more FAQs, expanded Online Gaming to a full chapter, and introduced a new section, On The Road, dedicated to the mobile computer user. The feature "50 Things To Do With This Book" is also a recent and extremely welcome addition. In it, the author lists suggestions ranging from "Hunt for a better job" (#38) or "Become a master chef" (#26) to "Learn to be cool" (#44) and "Fish for a compliment" (#46).

The Internet & World Wide Web: The Rough Guide 1998, Version 3.0, is an essential, compact, and clearly written Internet companion. When I first discovered the original version, I expected a quick reference guide. However, Kennedy provides an amazing range and depth of topics that remains both enlightening and pleasantly surprising. Like Dr. Who's Tardis, it appears bigger on the inside that it is on the outside. This is an exceptional and extremely knowledgeable, practical, and portable reference that every Internet user needs and will also enjoy!

Mike's Basic Guide To Cabling
by Mike Gorman
A Prairie Wind Communications, Inc. Book
ISBN 0-9660638-0-5

The problem with computers (ignoring laptops and notebooks momentarily), telephones, and fax machines is that they require connections. Most users initially put them in an ideal location. However that "ideal" location may not be convenient in a year or two. Relocating most devices requires either another connection or moving the current connections to a new position. Installing networks and new technologies involve the same principles, practices, and the need for a place to hide the cables.

Mike's Basic Guide To Cabling demonstrates cabling procedures for both large and small businesses. Gorman addresses hardware support technicians, systems and network administrators, and cable installation technicians. The author describes cabling implementations through the following chapters: Network Cable Topologies, Planning and Site Inspection for Cabling, Installing Cable through Raised Ceiling Plenum Air Space to Drop Locations, Project Management Guideline for Cabling Projects, Stripping Cable and Attaching Connectors, Unshielded Twisted Pair Identifying and Troubleshooting, Connecting or Punchdown Blocks, Troubleshooting RG-58 (Thinnet) Ethernet Cabling, Cable Troubleshooting Techniques for Older Cable Systems, Patch Panels and Their Setup, The 50-Pin Connector and Its Uses, Two Examples of "Request for Proposal" (RFP), Tools, Firestopping Floors and Walls, Multi-Mode Fiber Optic Cabling, and Learning How to Create a Cabling Bid or Proposal. Gorman also provides a glossary of terms. The instructions presented throughout the book comply with "the specifications set forth by the majority of manufacturers of computer networking systems, The Building Industry Consulting Service International (BICSI), the Telecommunications Industry Association, and to national electrical code." [ page 5 ] Mike's Basic Guide To Cabling is also a Certified Installation Manual and endorsed by the National Association of Communication System Engineers (NACSE).

Gorman both wrote and illustrated the book, with approximately twice as many diagrams, tables, and figures as pages, not including the final chapter. (Chapter Sixteen is essentially a set of worksheets for a bid or a proposal.) Many of the diagrams dissect connectors and show what they look like inside as well as outside, which saves the inquisitive beginner (or persistent reviewer) the trouble of taking the pieces apart. The directions are clearly presented, with any applicable warnings plainly displayed. I enjoyed this book. It occupies a unique niche. Gorman doesn't assume that the reader knows everything about cabling and explains the pragmatic principles clearly. He also describes practices that adhere to the code standards and should be observed, but are often bypassed or overlooked. This is an excellent book for beginners or those who do cabling for computers and telephones infrequently, but wish to do it correctly.

PPP Design and Debugging
by James Carlson
ISBN 0-201-18539-3

Protocol is generally a set of customs and regulations concerning formality and precedence. Computer protocols similarly demonstrate transmission procedures for communications among machines. Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) is the preferred method to transmit data (or datagrams) over serial point-to-point links, primarily due to its capability to work with other protocols. System and network administrators, support technicians, and programmers often use with the essentials of PPP design and implementation to customize features or troubleshoot problems. In PPP Design and Debugging, Carlson addresses the following topics: Introduction; PPP Communication Basics; Negotiation, LCP (Link Control Protocol), and Authentication; The Network Layer Protocols; The Transforming Layers; Bandwidth Management; Interpreting Traces; and Resources. The Appendices contain (A) AHDLC (Asynchronous High-level Data Link Control) Implementation; (B) MP (Multilink PPP) Fragmentation; (C) PPP RFCs; and (D) Decimal, Hexadecimal, Octal, and Standard Characters.

Carlson illustrates specifically how PPP works and where it operates in a general layered diagram. He also details how it interfaces with other protocol algorithms. The author identifies the most efficient methods of PPP design use throughout the text. He also defines some good implementation qualities (The Protocol Rule, Resilience, Renegotiation, Loop Avoidance, Configurability, Event Logging, Legibility, and Peer-to-Peer Design [ pages 30-31 ] ) and discusses them through hints and examples in the rest of the book. Another favorite (and also helpful) segment appears in Chapter Seven, Interpreting Traces. This is the troubleshooting section, which demonstrates where to look when PPP doesn't work correctly and how to analyze the tables and statistics.

PPP Design and Debugging will augment a favored protocol or operating system reference (or both), as well as accompany the official standards documents. It is an extremely well-written book, which specializes in the implementation of PPP and how it interfaces within a layered protocol scheme. Carlson not only illustrates how PPP is designed, but also clarifies which techniques are most advantageous. The author's knowledge and expertise are evident through his discussion of the topic and its related considerations. (I would have appreciated a glossary, for those times when I experience acronym overload, but that is a personal preference and a minor point, since the author does define the terms as they are introduced.) Anyone involved in administrating, programming, or troubleshooting Point-to-Point Protocol will value this superb book.

Encyclopedia of Networking, Electronic Edition by Tom Sheldon
ISBN 0-07-882333-1
CD-ROM Included

In these acronym-dependent and abbreviation-laden technical professions, it is becoming increasingly difficult to remain up-to-date with vocabulary that is similar to a revolving door. Many hardware-related acronyms are also software-related terms that reference entirely different concepts. To add to the confusion, each operating system possesses its own language. In the Encyclopedia of Networking, Electronic Edition, Tom Sheldon has produced a resource that is valuable, remarkably complete, and also hyperlinked. The author provides entries relevant to the major operating systems (UNIX, Windows NT, Novell Netware, and IBM products) and also addresses the fundamental concepts of hardware, networks, telecommunication, protocols, and their related models and processes. The text is arranged alphabetically, and the entries are clearly written, cross-referenced for further information, and accompanied both by figures and Internet resources. The accompanying CD-ROM includes a complete version of the book, hyperlinks to other informative sites, and links to relevant whitepapers. The book's own site ( possesses updates and pertinent news.

Sheldon is an excellent author who presents the definitions in an understandable format without oversimplifying the concepts. He demonstrates his expertise and thorough research throughout the book. This is an extraordinary book and a welcome reference. Every computer professional needs this book. I recommend it for anyone and everyone in this field.

About the Author

Elizabeth Zinkann has been involved in the UNIX and C environment for the past 12 years. She is currently a UNIX and C consultant, and one of her specialties is UNIX education. In addition to her computer science background, she also has a degree in English. Elizabeth can be reached via America Online (