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REVIEW: "Thomas' Concise Telecom and Networking Dictionary", Tho

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  • Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Tr
    BKTCTAND.RVW 20000627 Thomas Concise Telecom and Networking Dictionary , Thomas M. Thomas II, 2000, 0-07-212253-6, U$16.99 %A Thomas M. Thomas II
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 2, 2000
      BKTCTAND.RVW 20000627

      "Thomas' Concise Telecom and Networking Dictionary", Thomas M. Thomas
      II, 2000, 0-07-212253-6, U$16.99
      %A Thomas M. Thomas II telecom@...
      %C 300 Water Street, Whitby, Ontario L1N 9B6
      %D 2000
      %G 0-07-212253-6
      %I McGraw-Hill Ryerson/Osborne
      %O U$16.99 800-565-5758 fax: 905-430-5020
      %P 349 p.
      %T "Thomas' Concise Telecom and Networking Dictionary"

      There are, of course, a great number of computer dictionaries, and
      many of them specialize in telecommunications of one sort or another.
      This is by no means the worst, although it doesn't seem to add much to
      the field.

      In general the choice of terminology included is reasonable, though
      somewhat pedestrian. The same is true of the definitions themselves.
      These entries are usually workable, although seldom different than
      those you would find in any other basic computer dictionary. Overall,
      this appears to build on the common glossaries that used to be handed
      out as promotional pieces, and adds listings for more recent Internet
      jargon and newer protocols. Some of the material is very recent and
      up to date: a few entries have obviously been added well within the
      past year. The material is not limited to telecommunications: the
      definition for "header" mentions page headers in word processing as
      well as the data fields in an IP packet.

      The preface states that the intention is to provide easy-to-read
      definitions, and not entries full of "overwhelming and confusing"
      material. It is, then, hard to understand why "abstract syntax
      notation" (ASN) immediately piles on an alphabet soup of acronyms,
      does not define SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol), and points
      the reader to further information on "MIB Browsers." There is, in
      fact, no entry for "MIB Browsers," and the entry for "MIB" simply
      points to "management information base." And how about the definition
      of "BAF," which, in its entirety, reads "RACE II project R2024."
      "RACE" points you to "Research in Advanced Communications for Europe"
      which doesn't tell you much you couldn't figure out from the name.
      There is no mention of "RACE II" or "R2024."

      The preface also asserts an intention to include "quality" Web sites
      as references for some listings. This is done, but not very often.
      Web references average about one for every six pages of the book, or,
      to put it another way, there is less than one URL (Uniform Resource
      Locator) for every sixty entries. The "quality" is sometimes
      questionable: some URLs are simply Yahoo directory listings.

      Some of the entry choices are odd. ASP directs you to "abstract
      service primitive," an aspect of the AppleTalk networking protocol.
      "Active Server Pages" are included (though not, as noted, cross-
      indexed to the acronym) while "application service provider" is not
      mentioned at all. There is an entry for "AA," which points to
      "accidental administrator," which contains the valuable information
      that this is someone who has become a system administrator by

      Definitions are frequently incomplete at best, and sometimes so vague
      as to be misleading. An example is the entry for "hard," stating that
      hard refers to items that have physical existence. This is on the
      same page as "hard disk," which refers to floppy disks as soft.
      (Heck, I've *seen* a floppy disk!) Then there are listings such as
      the one that, in total, says "bot - program that runs automatically."
      (There is also a slightly illusive retailing of the legendary Hopper
      "bug.") A number of entries refer to information "in [company]
      documentation." These definitions are obviously taking the company's
      word for it, rather than doing real research, and tend to be

      The use of acronyms is inconsistent. Most of the time the reader is
      referred to the expanded term, regardless of how arcane it is. On the
      other hand, looking up "Message Digest5" points you to "MD5." (Which,
      in defining the term, points to "message digest," which doesn't

      Cross-references between items are inconsistent at best. "Bubble
      sort" refers to "merge sort," which doesn't exist, and "heap sort,"
      which does. There are entries for both "WAIS" (Wide Area Information
      Servers) and "Z39.50" (the standard used for WAIS) but neither refers
      to the other. "LENNI" refers the reader to "LNNI" which refers to
      "LAN emulation network node interface" which is defined in terms of
      "LANE" which refers to "LAN emulation."

      The carelessness in references and terms extends to capitalization, as
      well. Acronyms are generally printed with all capital letters. Other
      terms generally use only lower case, even if they are proper names
      (cf. "clipper chip"). However, on occasion you will find mixed case
      entries, seemingly for no reason.

      Figures are no better than in most illustrated technical works, and in
      many cases are worse. There is a table illustrating "big endian" and
      "little endian" representation which only indicates that the author
      has no idea of how to represent numbers in binary. Other
      illustrations are equally odd: one illustration that should obviously
      be related to token ring networks is labelled as a "Cross Section of
      Fiber Optic Types."

      Security is a very weak area. There is, for example, no listing for
      "trojan horse," or anything similar. There are entries for "DDoS
      Daemon" and "denial of service," but none for DDoS or distributed
      denial of service. The definition of virus is very poor, and refers
      to "antiviral programs," which entry does not exist.

      The book does make a distinction between hackers and "crackers," in
      the definition of the latter. Unfortunately, the difference is that
      hackers break into computers for the thrill of it, and crackers do it
      for money. However, if you look up "hacker" (the "hackers" entry to
      which "crackers" refers doesn't exist), you will find that a hacker is
      a professional programmer, whereas a cracker is a programmer with no
      formal training.

      Even with all its flaws, this book could still be a useful, if not
      terribly reliable, reference. A number of other, better options
      exist. Newton (cf. BKNTTLDC.RVW) does a better job of telecom.
      Microsoft's offering (cf. BKMSCMDC.RVW) is just as good. Peterson's
      tome (cf. BKDTTLDC.RVW) is much more readable. Weik (cf.
      BKCMSTDC.RVW), although pompous, is much more reliable. And, of
      course, you can't beat the price of FED-STD 1037C (cf. BKGLTLTM.RVW).

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 2000 BKTCTAND.RVW 20000627

      As usual, the author has seen the draft of this review, and been given
      a chance to comment. He has requested that the following response be
      included, unedited, in its entirety. Mr. Thomas is correct in
      pointing out that I erred in saying that a DDoS entry is not included
      in the book. There is such an entry, although it does not describe
      the distributed nature of the attack.

      The Author Replies to Rob Slade's Review of Thomas' Concise Telecom &
      Networking Dictionary

      Upon first receiving Mr. Slade's review I was stunned and immediately
      decided that I myself would not buy my own dictionary. Once I began to
      look into his opinions and comments I found that Mr. Slade may not
      have understood the whole purpose of the dictionary. His claim that
      the definitions are workable is correct, as the title of the book
      reads this is a "concise dictionary." Mr. Slade was surprised that I
      included material beyond that which related to telecommunications
      however if one glances at the cover the title informs readers that the
      book contains this bonus material and I have never met someone that
      wanted less information for their money. Now I will take a moment to
      look at each of the specific comments made by Mr. Slade in his review.

      Mr. Slade's first comment concerns his belief that the "Abstract
      Syntax Notation (ASN) entry piled on an alphabet soup of acronyms. The
      entry tells readers that ASN is used by X.500, H.323, SNMP, and LDAP,
      which is the case in reality. All other acronyms are spelled out in
      the definition so it seems to me that his comments here are a little
      overly critical as the four acronyms I mentioned are properly
      referenced in the text. X.500 and H.323 are not in fact acronyms but
      SNMP and LDAP are so I shall follow Mr. Slade's advice and spell out
      those two in the ASN definition when I revise the book. He is also
      correct that there is no entry for MIB Browser. I felt since a MIB
      Browser is an application that one was not needed but again I will
      follow his advice and I will add an entry for this application in
      future editions. However, I believe that Mr. Slade is incorrect
      because SNMP is in fact defined under the Simple Network Management
      Protocol (SNMP) entry on pages 258 - 260. In addition, MIB is also
      defined under the Management Information Base (MIB) entry on page 175.
      Since SNMP and MIB are acronyms, those entries point to the full
      definition as appropriate. As for RACE and those assorted comments
      made by Mr. Slade I have not found any other information available on
      those items in English so I included what I knew. Because of the
      comments made, I went and looked at my competition, specifically
      Newton's Dictionary in its 16th edition and his entries are just as
      brief. I invite anyone to help me fill in the implied lack of

      Mr. Slades next comments on URLs is based on his opinion and not on
      fact. I included those sites that I felt were worth additional
      investigation by a reader when referencing a particular topic. I felt
      a listing in yahoo of several places was appropriate because of the
      fluid nature of the Internet. I did not find anymore sites that I felt
      were worthy of inclusion and if anyone would like to point some out to
      me I will be happy to include them as well.

      Next, I will deal with his comments on ASP and AA. First, the AA
      comments -- this is a humorous entry and helps make the reading a bit
      more fun and I will continue to include humor whenever possible. The
      ASP entries were submitted but were deleted somehow; unfortunate
      things like this happen in the publishing field. The entries have now
      been corrected.

      I stand by my definition of "hard disk" and would ask that Mr. Slade
      reread it since floppy disks are addressed within it. I too have not
      only seen a floppy disk but in my youth I dissected one and held it! I
      don't recall trying to sell a "Hopper bug" but this might be humor on
      Mr. Slades part that I don't understand. I hope that he will explain
      it to me sometime since I love a good joke. With over 4,000 entries in
      the book, I felt I could trust a few to those that produced the
      product, for example IBM/SNA. If anyone finds any errors, please let
      me know.

      I believe that many of Mr. Slade's broad statements are subjective in
      nature and therefore I don't think they deserve any retort. However, I
      can comment on specific issues he raises regarding MD5 and Message
      Digest 5. He is correct that the definition should have appeared under
      the Message Digest 5 entry instead of the MD5 entry and that has been
      corrected. Mr. Slades statement regarding message digest is incorrect.
      A message digest is a value returned by a hash function as described
      in the definition and that is the reason why it is not a separate

      I did not cross reference Bubble Sort to the others mentioned by Mr.
      Slade but instead drew a comparison on how much more efficient others

      Mr. Slades comments on Z39.50 are incorrect. Z39.50 is a protocol,
      which is used to communicate to WAIS devices not the standard dealing
      with WAIS. RFC1625 WAIS over Z39.50 is the correct standard that deals
      with how the two work together.

      The capitalization issues expressed by Mr. Slade are his personal
      opinion and in the field of networking I know of no hard and fast
      rules regarding this. Thus, I tried to present the entries as you
      would find them when working in the field to reduce confusion on the
      part of the reader.

      I personally have no control over the "print" quality of the
      illustrations however Mr. Slades comments will be passed along to the
      appropriate people.

      I will not comment on Mr. Slade's personal attack on my ability to
      understand binary. However, I invite him to point out specific
      technical inaccuracies instead of personal insults.

      Mr. Slade does accurately point out that Trojan Horse and Antiviral
      Programs did not make it into print, they will appear in the next
      edition. I would have liked more information on why he feels the virus
      entry is inadequate. He is incorrect when he states that there is no
      DDoS entry, when in fact it is above the DDoS Daemon entry that he
      referenced. There are also other security entries such as worms,
      tacas, radius, etc. so if we are missing something more specific
      please let me know.

      Mr. Slade's comments regarding Hacker and Cracker are incorrect -- the
      definitions are there and correct as written. However, I invite him to
      point out any technical inaccuracies.

      ====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
      rslade@... rslade@... slade@... p1@...
      Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.
      (Anything in Latin sounds profound.)
      http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade
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