REVIEW: "Microsoft Encyclopedia of Networking", Mitch Tulloch
- BKMSENNT.RVW 20010723
"Microsoft Encyclopedia of Networking", Mitch Tulloch, 2000,
%A Mitch Tulloch info@... www.mtit.com
%C 1 Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA 98052-6399
%I Microsoft Press
%O U$79.99/C$115.99/UK#51.99 800-6777377 www.microsoft.com/mspress
%P 1470 p. + CD-ROM
%T "Microsoft Encyclopedia of Networking"
The scope of the encyclopedia is stated to cover networking concepts,
the Internet, and Microsoft products. The primary audience is novices
pursuing the MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) designation.
The Microsoft orientation and bias is evident from the very first
page. The redirection (>) and pipe (|) symbols are defined only in
terms of MS-DOS and Windows, with no mention that they originated in
UNIX, "access control" (a generic security term) is defined in terms
of Windows NT and 2000, and clustering (invented by Digital Equipment
Corporation and used much more extensively in VAX and Linux systems
than it ever has been in Microsoft products) is defined in terms of a
Windows NT product. Impersonation is defined only in terms of
assisting Win NT and 2K client/server communication, which is
startling in view of the importance of impersonation as a security
A number of entries have little apparent function. There are, for
example, fifteen listings for variant flavours of Ethernet, and these
items seem to describe only different vendor products. In addition,
there is a great deal of repetition, fluff, and padding in the
writing. The text often says the same thing over again in a slightly
different way, but this neither develops the topic, nor really assists
the novice user in understanding complex subjects.
Basic networking concepts are covered and, generally, the material is
reasonable, if uninspired. However, a number of the fundamental ideas
are covered in such a way that the newcomer will not gain a full
understanding of the idea. In many cases it is difficult to say that
the explanation is in error, but the abstraction could certainly have
been presented in a better way. "Bursty" traffic, for example, is
described in terms of transferring video files, and any self-
respecting MPEG is going to be big enough to occupy a pipeline with
less capacity than an OC-192 for longer than a mere "burst."
While many entries are longer than the paragraph or two one might
expect from a dictionary, the content doesn't deliver much more
information. Frame relay, for example, is described in terms of
packet switching, but there is nothing to say what differentiates the
Having written books myself, I can sympathize with some errors, like
the statement that a 56-bit key "allows for approximately 7.2 x 1016
possible keys." (The real number would be closer to 10 to the 16th
power.) Then there are the statements that "28 = 256" and "216 =
65,536." Again, the error in typesetting is fairly obvious.
There are also surprisingly few cross-references in the listings.
This contributes to the difficulty novice users might have with the
book. The lack of references is the more unexpected when you note
that entries that would clarify articles do exist, in most cases: they
simply aren't mentioned where they are needed.
As one has come to expect from a Microsoft product, security and
privacy concerns are downplayed at every turn. The best possible
construction is put on issues such as Authenticode and cookies.
Again, while the descriptions are not necessarily erroneous, counter-
examples are easily generated. A cookie, for example, cannot give out
your email address, as the book says. Unless, that is, you have input
your email address to a Website, and the site has stored the
information in a cookie. This is a fairly common occurrence.
The entry for virus is pretty appalling. It averages slightly more
than one error per sentence for a page and a half, starting with the
assertion that a virus is "[a]ny piece of code that is deliberately
written to cause damage or annoyance to computer users on a network."
(Why is a Canadian giving the French sole credit for the development
Would this book help someone study for the MCSE? Probably. One of
the major difficulties in writing the exam is clearing your mind of
how things work in the real world, and sticking to the Microsoft
terminological party line. Would it help anyone else? Possibly, but
there are many other, much better works: more complete, readable, and
reliable. The "Microsoft Press Computer Dictionary" (cf.
BKMSCMDC.RVW) is much better: a fairly solid reference over a wide
range of issues. It is unlikely that anyone with more than a passing
acquaintance with networking will find much of value in this
copyright Robert M. Slade, 2001 BKMSENNT.RVW 20010723
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I finally realized why Windows is truly multitasking. I find
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make good use of the time I spend waiting for Windows.'n -Steve Edelson
http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade