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Book review by Eric Griffith
December 18, 2001

Author: Michael Wolf
Publisher: SAMS Publishing
Price: $24.99
Pages: 390
ISBN: 0-672-32186-6

Mike Wolf, author of Speed! Understanding and Installing Home Networks, is an analyst for the Cahners In-Stat research group. He specializes in "residential connectivity technologies" and brings a wealth of professional background to covering home network installation. Luckily, he doesn't bring any stodgy, research-report writing with him. He manages to convey the subject of home networking technology and setups in a conversational and easy to follow manner.

This well organized book is jam packed with details about the things that affect any network builder, such as setting up Windows - even XP, which gets extensive coverage - or understanding IP addresses used on a private network. At the same time, he manages to gloss over details that would make a book like this appear dated in a few months. For instance, you'll find few mentions of specific networking products, though he does name a few stand-bys from Netgear, Linksys and the like when covering routers and Network Attached Storage. He gets more specific when talking about home automation, which is an area sewn up by X-10 (the company and the technology).

24 chapters are grouped into sections that cover first network planning -- the part most of us skip - and move on to the actual wiring and hardware options for Ethernet, wireless, phoneline, and powerline. The software setup section is where the book really shines, with thorough coverage of setting up Windows Me and XP (which is easily extrapolated to Windows 98 and 2000, respectively). Macintosh networks are covered in a separate chapter with descriptions of setting up straight peer-to-peer connections, bridging Ethernet with LocalTalk, and more.

Sharing Internet connections rates its own section - covering it is Wolf's day job, after all - and goes from basic "what is broadband" to describing Internet sharing as hard (with a router) or soft (via ICS or proxy software).

The next sections cover the fun stuff like gaming and how the future is leading to specialized devices on the network, whether for storage or connecting your network appliance or PDA. Much of this is opinion and conjecture, as there are no proven killer apps in this area yet.

While those later chapters are fun and interesting, the "understanding and installing home networks," as the subtitle of the book suggests, is the guts of it, and Wolf does a remarkable job making it easy for novices to grasp.

 



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