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richhillkc
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« on: January 25, 2005, 03:17:56 PM »

In addition to my regular network engineering job, I am also a networking instructor at a local university branch campus.  As such, I am always on the lookout for good analogies I can use in the networking courses I teach.  When you explain networking to beginners, you really have to step back to the first principles ever so often, in order to make sure you have the basic in your head, as well as the complex.  For this reason, I decided to check out Computer Networking First-Step (ISBN 1-58720-101-1) from Cisco Press.  The first thing I noticed when I picked up the book was the author.  I first discovered Wendell Odom a few years ago when I was recertifying my CCNA certification.  I like how he uses examples and humor to explain concepts and has an easy, conversational style to his writing which makes it easy to read.  With a lot of technical authors, reading their books can seem like a job, but not with Odom.  I recommend everything he's written.

The book itself is substantial, at over 400 pages, and is priced quite reasonably, at just $24.95.  It's broken down into 18 chapters which can each be read in a short sitting.  Since each chapter encapsulates a single topic, you reach a feeling of accomplishment and completion at the end of each one.  This is good for people new to computer networking.  If you make the chapters too long, they can easily feel overwhelmed.  These chapters are just right.  In the intro, the book says that it is divided up into bite sized pieces for easy digestion.  I thoroughly agree with that assessment.  

The chapters are grouped together into sections covering networking basics, LANs, protocols, routing, WANs, and security.  As you can see, the book covers a lot of ground.  The thing that impressed me most was that at no point does it get overly technical.  Odom picks an analogy (networks = roads) and sticks with it throughout the entire book.  In the early chapters, it works perfectly.  In some of the later chapters, it's a stretch, but he makes it work.  I will be using the analogies from this book in teaching my beginning networking courses and would recommend it as a textbook, or at least as suggested reading for a freshman level networking course.  I am also recommending this book to spouses of computer geeks (my wife, in particular).  She's never really tried to understand what I do, saying that it's far too technical.  I think the easy-to-read style and the bite-sized information may make this the book that gets my wife into networking.  My son, who's an exceptional 2nd grader, has begun picking up this book during his reading time at night (the scary part is that he understands the material).  While I don't recommend this book to the average 2nd grader, I do think that it could be used to help teach networking to middle and high school students.  The review questions at the end of each chapter provide a good way for students to check their learning and the answers at the back of the book provide good explanations.

On my 5 ping rating scale, I give this book a rating of 5 pings.
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