Book Review: Practical TCP/IP

All the information a beginner could need, but it doesn't take the place of on-the-job experience.

Title: Practical TCP/IP: Designing, Using and Troubleshooting TCP/IP Networks on Linux and WindowsAuthor: Niall MansfieldISBN: 0201750783Publisher: Addison Wesley

Practical TCP/IP: Designing, Using and Troubleshooting TCP/IP Networks on Linux and Windows starts right off with a short introduction to TCP/IP and introduces the user to a tool called tcpdump. As a network administrator, I use this tool frequently for setting up or even maintaining an existing network.

Mansfield goes on to explain hubs and switches, IP addresses and netmasks. Using this information, he then encourages readers to build mock test networks of their own. The next few chapters cover routing and include discussion of many real-world situations.

Chapter 7, 8 and 9 introduce the reader to DNS and explain the function of DNS servers. The discussion of DNS wraps up with some troubleshooting tips.

Five chapters on Microsoft Windows networking offer step-by-step instructions. Network setup in Linux, however, is not explained in as much detail.

The book also includes coverage of firewalls, proxy servers and VPN. E-mail spoofing and a few tools, such as Ethereal, are mentioned, but there is not much interesting detail on any of it.

The appendices are informative, containing man pages for a few Linux commands and some encoding schemes.

The downside of this book is that while it provides a good lesson in TCP/IP, you still would have to learn a lot of applications and installation techniques to set up a real network. The detail level of some components is too high, while other topics that should not have been included in the first place are grossly under served by the author.

True to its name, Practical TCP/IP really is practical, and I believe it would be helpful to anyone who is wondering about the way his network runs. It would be a good book for laymen who want to get started on networking and for students who struggle with the books by Tannenbaum and Keith Ross. Trust me, as a networking student I have read these books; although they gave me a lot of core level knowledge regarding TCP/IP, I still was groping in the dark when it came to my project. Practical TCP/IP, on the other hand, combines three or four separate books into one volume; it simply has everything you need to know about networking and TCP/IP.

Overall I recommend this book with two thumbs up for a beginner and intermediate audience. But, don't expect to get things up and running as soon as you finish reading the book.

Arvind Somya is a freelance professional and technical writer specializing in Linux network setups.