Sunday, December 25, 2011

Book Review: Sams Teach Yourself TCP/IP in 24 Hours (5th Edition)

Author: Joe Casad
Format: Paperback, 544 pages
Publisher: Sams; 5th edition (November 4, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0672335719
ISBN-13: 978-067233571

I've been spending a lot of time with TCP/IP and particularly IPv6 in the past few months (I can't tell you why right now, but soon). When I saw Joe Casad's book Sams Teach Yourself TCP/IP in 24 Hours was in its fifth edition, I wondered how it compared to my experiences in researching various aspects of internetworking. One way to find out for sure is to request a review copy from the publisher, so here I am and here it is.

I'm a big fan of the "Sams Teach Yourself" books. I've had good experiences with them in the past and they usually offer just the right amount of learning, broken up into correctly sized bites. They also usually build one "hour" upon another so that by the end of the book, you really have learned something. There is no "who is this book for" section in the front matter, but this series is typically tailored for the beginner. How much of a beginner do you have to be? The first hour is called "What Is TCP/IP?". The first questions asked are, "What is a protocol?" and "What is a network?". Pretty basic stuff.

This series is designed, as I'm sure you guessed, to be a learning series. After the chapter's main content, there's a Q & A section and a Workshop section which is made up of a brief quiz (4 or 5 questions) and a short series of exercises. Appendix A in the back has all the answers, so you can check your work or have a peek if you really get stuck. Just for giggles, I went through the Workshop section of Chapter 14: TCP/Utilities and it seems like it's pretty standard material, if you know much about networking. Questions have to do with what commands you would use to view a computer's ARP cache or to see which hosts have made TCP connections to your computer (this all assumes a Windows PC) and exercises focused on ipconfig and ping. Not super challenging, but if the goal is to teach a networking newbie, this is at the right level.

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that only one "hour" was dedicated to IPv6 (Hour 13) or that there were Exercises assigned to this chapter, but no answers for them in the Appendix. There are two good reasons for this. One is that a newbie will have their hands full with IPv4 and the other is that most folks still consider IPv6 really new (the "newness" is an illusion as IPv6 standards have been developing for years and many ISPs have accelerating their adoption of the next version of IP recently). The downside to this "neglect" in the book is that newbies are the perfect audience to learn IPv6 from scratch, at least at the level of concept. If you've got a couple of Windows 7 computers, you can ping their IPv6 addresses or ping your own localhost address (ping ::1).

On the up side, this TCP/IP book covers a lot more than TCP/IP at the level of the protocol including DNS, Routing, SOAP, Email, and "the Cloud". That sounds impressive and from the neophyte's perspective it is. However, because the book is addressed to the beginner, that's about as deep as you go into any of these topics. To be fair, that's a deep as this book should go, but that also means if you have any networking experience at all and you don't need a ground-level review, this book will be too light for you.

If you are a person who wants to learn basic networking (not particularly for how to set up two or three computers for wired/wifi in your home) with an eye on something a little more advanced like CompTIA's Network+ and a little later on Cisco's CCNA, then Casad's book will certainly give you a leg up. If that's where you are or where you want to go, I'd recommend Sams Teach Yourself TCP/IP in 24 Hours. If you have some experience and are looking for a book with more "meat" to it, you'll need to look elsewhere.

Addendum, 12-26-2011: Regarding IPv6 deployment, I just found this article at InfoWorld: IPv6 due for wide deployment in 2012, experts say

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