Book Review: "The TCP/IP Guide", Charles M. Kozierok


"The TCP/IP Guide", Charles M. Kozierok, 2005, 1-59327-047-X, U$79.95/C$107.95 %A Charles M. Kozierok

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formatting link %C 555 De Haro Street, Suite 250, San Francisco, CA 94107 %D 2005 %G 1-59327-047-X %I No Starch Press %O U$79.95/C$107.95 415-863-9900 fax 415-863-9950 %O
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Audience i+ Tech 3 Writing 3 (see revfaq.htm for explanation) %P 1539 p. %T "The TCP/IP Guide"

In the introduction, the author states that he has tried to write a guide to the TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) protocol suite (the set of networking protocols that are the currently preferred form of networking, and also underlie the Internet) that is complete, readable, logical in structure, and also provides for quick reference overviews with an option for the reader to get full details when necessary. The scope involves the principles behind the protocols (rather than system-specific minutia or even the Internet itself), currently used protocols (instead of proposed), and (where examples are necessary) a bias in favour of small systems. (One aspect that I found understandable, but personally disappointing, was the avoidance of security issues and technologies, other than IPSec).

With eighty-eight chapters, the book is divided not only into parts, but also sections. Section one covers TCP/IP overview and background information. Part I-1 deals with networking fundamentals, starting with a chapter that introduces networks, with types and characteristics. Kozierok has done a good job. In a short space the most fundamental aspects of networking are outlined and clearly explained. The quick reference promise is fulfilled by "key concept" text boxes, that provide a concise but effective summary of central ideas that otherwise may take pages to fully explain. Extraneous detail is at a minimum: additional particulars are dealt with as specific topics are raised later in the work. The individual chapters are short, contained, logical, and readable. Chapters two to four review network performance factors, standards and standards groups, and data representation (with a side foray into some basic boolean operations). The three chapters of part I-2 define the OSI (Open System Interconnection) reference model, while part I-3 takes a single chapter to provide an overview of TCP/IP itself. (Chapter six outlines the seven layers of the OSI model: chapter seven is a determined, and, for educators, very useful attempt to ensure that readers and students remember the layers and what they do.)

Section two looks at the core protocols at the lower layers. Part II-1 examines the network interface (data link) layer, concentrating primarily on the PPP (Point-to-Point Protocol) suite. Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) and its reverse (RARP) are reviewed in part II-2 as the glue between the network interface layer and the network layer. Part II-3 begins a string of five parts dealing with the network layer and IP (Internet Protocol) itself: these cover the basics of IPv4 (addressing, subnetting, datagrams, and the beginning of routing), IPv6 (addressing and datagrams), related protocols (Network Address Translation/NAT, IPSec, and mobile IP), ICMP (for both versions 4 and 6, including the new Neighbour Discovery/ND in 6), as well as routing and gateway protocols. The transport layer protocols, TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and UDP (User Datagram Protocol) are outlined in part II-8.

Various application layer operations and protocols are dealt with in section three. Part III-1 reviews DNS (Domain Name System) in fair detail (and eight chapters). NFS (Network File System) is in the one chapter of part III-2. Host configuration, in part III-3, is mostly concerned with DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol). Part III-4 explains SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) and related protocols. Part III-5 starts to move towards user tools, dealing with addressing and Universal Resource Identifiers, Locators, and Names (URI, URL, URN). It's a bit hard to say why chapter seventy one belongs in this part. On the other hand, while it introduces parts III-6, -7, -8, and -9, it doesn't belong in any of them, either. These pieces cover file transfer, email, the Web, news, and gopher. Part III-10 handles the basic administrative, informational, and troubleshooting utilities.

Kozierok's intention is ambitious: has he achieved his purpose? Well, the work is complete, with all the bases (and basics) covered, and some trivia thrown in besides. I noted the absence of a few items on the way through that made me wonder, but, given the excellent coverage elsewhere I'm starting to think I should research my own understanding before suggesting that he's made an error. (The one shortcoming I definitely did note was the lack of further references in any areas.) The text is readable, and any intermediate computer user should be able to understand it. The book has a logical structure and flows well. As noted, the provision for quick overview reference works well.

This is a valuable reference for anyone charged with managing a TCP/IP network, or even a connection to the Internet. Those who wish, either as students or for personal satisfaction, to understand the protocol suite would be hard pressed to find any better source of information. (And, for my colleagues in security, the lack of specific attention to security issues is no hindrance: the technology is presented in a lucid manner that will make the safety issues clear to anyone with an information assurance background.)

copyright Robert M. Slade, 2006 BKTCPIGD.RVW 20060702

====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer) McDonald's, which does not wait on your table, does not cook your food to order, and does not clear your table, came up with the slogan `We Do It All For You.' - Dave Barry Dictionary of Information Security

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