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[techbooks] REVIEW: "The Network Press Encyclopedia of Networking", Werner F

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  • Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Tr
    BKENCNTW.RVW 20000114 The Network Press Encyclopedia of Networking , Werner Feibel, 2000, 0-7821-2255-8, U$84.99/C$127.95/UK#60.99 %A Werner Feibel %C
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 23, 2000
      BKENCNTW.RVW 20000114

      "The Network Press Encyclopedia of Networking", Werner Feibel, 2000,
      0-7821-2255-8, U$84.99/C$127.95/UK#60.99
      %A Werner Feibel
      %C 1151 Marina Village Parkway, Alameda, CA 94501
      %D 2000
      %G 0-7821-2255-8
      %I Sybex Computer Books
      %O U$84.99/C$127.95/UK#60.99 800-227-2346 Fax: 510-523-2373
      %P 1444 p. + CD-ROM
      %T "The Network Press Encyclopedia of Networking, Third Edition"

      Writing an encyclopedia is a difficult job, no question. It must be
      particularly difficult in a technical field. Feibel has obviously put
      a lot of work into the project, but the result remains problematic.

      First off, it is rather difficult to see this as an encyclopedia.
      There are a great many short entries simply defining terms, so the
      book might be closer to a dictionary. There are, though, a number of
      longer articles on major topics.

      The second point to make is that not all of the book is about
      networking. Granted, it is difficult to say where to draw the line
      between technologies, but a great number of listings refer to
      computers, particularly of the Wintel/PC variety, and have little or
      nothing to do with networking or communications. On the other hand,
      "AI" refers only to authentication information, with no mention of the
      rather more well known artificial intelligence.

      The original title was "Novell's Encyclopedia of Networking," and that
      still shows up in entries such as "Access Rights," where the material
      is completely NetWare specific. "//" is defined (Novell owned the
      UNIX trademark for a while) but not the Microsoft equivalent "\\."
      However, there is a rather good piece on the Windows NT Administrator
      account, among others, so Microsoft is by no means ignored.

      Some articles have a depth that is hard to find even in specialized
      books on the topic. For example, I have reviewed texts dedicated to
      firewalls that only describe packet filters, with no mention of proxy
      servers, let alone the two different types. There is an excellent
      essay on application proxy servers (albeit with lousy examples) in
      here, but it is followed by two rather shoddy pieces on circuit level
      proxies and firewalls respectively. And that, unfortunately, seems to
      be a rather big problem. For every good bit, there are several parts
      that are misleading, poorly explained, or flat out wrong.

      Some mistakes can be put down to pure carelessness, such as calling
      Corel "Lerel," or Teledesic "Teledisc." Other times the wording or
      explanation is negligent, such as the assertion that, in 7-bit ASCII,
      the eighth bit is used for parity. (This depends entirely on the
      situation.) Bang path addressing seems to be conceptually understood,
      but poorly illustrated, whereas it is hard to say whether the concept
      of "store and forward" is understood at all. It is difficult to see
      how listings like "DS" (as in the bandwidth levels of DS-1, DS-3, and
      so forth) explain anything. And I'd defy anyone to justify the
      definition of HTML (HyperText Markup Language) as a scripting

      The article on 56K modems has a number of errors, and even a logical
      fallacy. The discussion of agents makes no distinction between
      viruses and mobile code. (On the other hand, Fred Cohen might like
      that.) "Algorithm" contains a rather odd grab bag of examples. Lots
      of words and examples still fail to properly explain either the
      complete function or the usage syntax for anchor tags. The
      description of an antivirus confuses the various types of antiviral
      software with modes of operation. The entry for archie isn't too
      realistic, and is probably dated. The illustration for graded index
      fibre optic cable is completely backwards. "Hit" makes no reference
      to Web sites.

      Part of the problem is that Feibel seems quite willing to include his
      own, or at least very non-standard, terminology. "Cathedral" is used
      to refer to proprietary software, and, while Eric Raymond's piece on
      "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" is very good, I'm sure that even
      Raymond would agree that "open source" is more widely understood than
      "bazaar." "Optimistic security" is fairly easily construed, but it is
      not a term that is used in the security field. Since the entry for
      "typewriter" is obviously a joke, you have to peruse the Jargon File
      to find out that somebody wasn't having Feibel on about "bytesexual."

      Many extremely specialized terms get very brief entries that don't
      explain much. Ordering of the numbers section goes by the size of the
      number, not alphabetic ordering, so that 802.2 comes before 1000 which
      comes before 3780 which comes before 6611 which comes before 41449.
      Cable refers only to twisted pair, except that there are also separate
      listings for "cable, coaxial" and "cable, fiber-optic." Many
      protocols are not listed as themselves but as "protocol, ...," and,
      combined with the format for cross references, this appears to make
      "CHAP" refer to "Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol" which
      refers to "CHAP" without ever telling you what it is. Cross
      references are also spotty: ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line),
      DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), SDSL (Symmetric Digital Subscriber
      Line), and VDSL (Very-high-speed Digital Subscriber Line) don't refer
      to each other, and none refer to HDSL (High-speed Digital Subscriber
      Line)--which refers to them all.

      The article on ActiveX is good, reasonably fair and complete. The
      definition of freeware is much better than in most dictionaries.
      Instant messaging is right up to the minute (as opposed to PGP, which
      hasn't been updated since the second edition, and BITNET which was
      probably out of date when the first edition came out). The listing
      for viruses is much better than I have come to expect.

      Overall, however, the work is simply not as reliable as one needs an
      encyclopedia to be. It might be handy as a reference to trigger a
      reminder, but if you don't already know the technology you cannot be
      sure that what you find here is the straight goods.

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 2000 BKENCNTW.RVW 20000114

      ====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
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      http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade
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