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Reviewed by Major Keary
The sub-title of Network Know-How is, AN ESSENTIAL GUIDE FOR THE ACCIDENTAL ADMIN, which describes the book's purpose: to be every computer user's guide to designing mapping, and maintaining a network that works. No prior knowledge of networking is assumed.
The subject of networking has attracted a plethora of books, from the superficial to the arcane. Two particular reasons for that are: the technology is constantly changing, resulting in multiple options; and the user-base is expanding. Ordinary users are faced by the Goldilocks dilemma: finding a book on networking that is just right. Network Know-How is neither superficial nor overly technical; its focus is strictly practical. Readers are expected to be computer literate, familiar with their hardware, and handy in the DIY department.
There is one caveat for Australian users: some of the information relates to electrical and telephone systems used in North America. That does not detract from the value of the book, but should be kept in mind.
The first part of the book, apart from extolling the virtues of networks, explains the types of network connections—which, like sex, lends itself to an amazing array of variations—and describes hubs, switches, and routers. Further chapters cover how computer networks are organised; network design; installing a network control centre and Ethernets cables; Ethernet interfaces; wi-fi networks; file servers; Internet connections; connecting a computer to a network; file sharing; network security; connecting printers to a network; connecting other devices (audio. video, home entertainment, etc.) to a network; other network applications (remote desktop, multiple monitors, instant messaging); and troubleshooting.
This is not a text for network professionals, although they may find it a useful reference to clients who need some background knowledge to appreciate networking issues at large.
Network Know-How is a valuable resource for those users who have acquired a few computers and want to network them, or for anyone (such as home users, charity workers, not-for-profit organisations, and small business operators) who can't afford a professional service provider. It is comprehensive, provides sufficient technical detail for the intended audience, and is well presented: clear, jargon-free, language, and makes good use of diagrams and images.
At first glance the book may seem Windows-centric, but the main part of the text applies to all operating systems. Linux is dealt with where a particular issue calls for such detail.
If you are a Goldilocks who has stumbled into a we-need-a-network situation, Network Know-How is just right.
John Ross: Network Know-How
Published by No Starch Press, 266 pp., RRP AU$ 55.00
The Australian distributor is Woodslane <www.woodslane.com.au>