The Internet Protocol Journal - Volume 3, No. 2

Book Review

Book Review

Introduction to Data Communications and Networking

Introduction to Data Communications and Networking , Behrouz Farouzan, ISBN 0-256-23044-7, WCB/McGraw-Hill, 1998.

As personal computers have proliferated the landscape over the years, they have become the domain of an increasing number of nontechnical end users. Two things assisted in this transformation. The realization of their value as a productivity tool became apparent, as well as their ability to become more user friendly to the masses. Networks, and networking, have followed a similar path. The investment in creating a networked environment in the past may have been a burden-in both time and added complexity-to all but the largest corporations. However, as the world becomes more "wired," the presence of networks has become commonplace in nearly every work environment, not to men-tion the movement into private residences. The need to become familiar with concepts and terms as they relate to data communications and networks has become an important part of the technological landscape. Introduction to Data Communications and Networking assists the novice in grasping these concepts, as well as serving as a refresher to the more experienced audience.

Organization

The preface explains the ways this book can be useful. The textbook portion is helpful. Multiple choice as well as discussion questions are provided within each chapter, although all the answers are not. In addition, some of the questions asked do not always seem to be posed in the context of the chapter just covered. However, it does turn out to be a rather small inconvenience. The requisite appendices are included as well-such as ASCII and EBCDIC codes, and various representations of numbers. However, two areas that usually receive only fleeting recognition Fourier analysis and Huffman coding-are covered. Not being an engineer, I'm not sure that I now understand these concepts, but at least now I know why.

Although the areas covered in this book are covered in many introduc-tory network books, this one takes nothing for granted. A good portion of the more experienced readers will know that Layers 2-6 of the OSI model have headers, only Layer 2 will include a trailer. Details such as these are easily forgotten. Introducing concepts in meaningful, practical ways is another positive attribute of this book. One great example is how the author describes the difference between analog and digital. Hands of a traditional, or analog, clock do not jump from minute to minute or hour to hour. The notion of time advancing seems to be a smooth transition, much like an analog signal is a continuous wave form that changes smoothly over time. Digital (as in the case of a digital clock), on the other hand, indicates discrete units of time-usually whole hours and minutes-and can have only limited numbers of defined values. In Chapter 4, analog and digital signals are detailed and explained with clarity and excellent examples are given as well.

In fact, the only subject matter I had difficulty deciphering concerned material presented in Chapter 5. The concepts of polar, unipolar, and bipolar encoding seemed straightforward enough, but digital-to-analog and analog-to-analog encoding will definitely have to be revisited. Amplitude and phase shifting keys may or may not be revisited. In fact, it was at this point that I realized that the material was moving to a different, more difficult, level. Although the preface states that the first eight chapters are essential for readers being introduced to networking concepts, I found that chapters 5-8 went into a level of depth that would be particularly daunting for an introductory discussion.

Summary

I don't remember exactly how I was introduced to this book-whether I read about it in a journal or it was recommended by a friend-but the book got favorable reviews wherever I inquired about it. It is a practical addition to your bookshelf, regardless of your level of comfort with networks and voice/data communications.

The book is relevant and practical for the professional who has been working in the field for a few years. It is also useful as a textbook for use in the classroom. However, I do not believe that all the information can be adequately covered in a semester, as the author suggests. I believe one of the reasons I enjoyed this book was because of the way it explained ideas and concepts that were never used in any class I had ever taken. I recall promises of receiving a good, comprehensive background in these areas, yet years later I continue to struggle with some of the same concepts I've encountered in classes before. I found myself continually searching for a source that would provide me the information in a comprehensive, understandable fashion. I believe I have finally found it.

- Steve Barsamian, Cisco Systems
sbarsam@cisco.com

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