Installing, Troubleshooting, and Repairing Wireless Networks
by Berislav Kucan - Friday, 5 September 2003.
Author: Jim Aspinwall
Pages: 400
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional
ISBN: 0071410708



Introduction

As wireless networks are emerging, more and more companies are addressing the need for wireless network communications. Besides all the new hardware and software products, book publishers are releasing a number of new wireless concentrated publications. The book I'm reviewing today, discusses several wireless networking aspects, from installation to troubleshooting.

About the author

Jim Aspinwall has been the Windows Helpdesk columnist and feature editor for cnet.com and author of three books on PC maintenance. A resident of Campbell, California, Jim is also an amateur radio operator, electronics technician, and OSHA certified tower climber, maintaining radio transmission sites in northern California.

Inside the book

The book starts with a couple of chapters introducing the readers with wireless essentials, such as the basics behind the wireless data flow and networking spectrum characteristics. What follows next is a chapter defining the need for wireless technology, where the author answers questions for wireless beginners - all those crucial questions related to wireless network criteria and expectations.

Over the following forty pages, the author follows the wireless basics section, through a hardware point of view. Here, the readers will learn about a number of antenna types and difference in their usage, as well the background behind wireless network components, including adapters, access points and signal amplifiers.

After describing some possible deployment scenarios varying from home network to the Wireless Internet Service Provider, the author presents a chapter on hardware installation and Windows setup, especially suited for new users. This is followed by a chapter for advanced users, dealing with different methods of maintaining and extending the wireless network coverage.

Security topics are spread over two different chapters. In the first one, Aspinwall just pinpoints the possible security issues surrounding wireless networks and in the second chapter he takes a look on several wireless security tools. Commercial tools covered here include Funk Software' Odyssey, the ISS Wireless Scanner and WiMetrics WiSentry. From the perspective of a general wireless installation and troubleshooting publication concentrated towards novice and inter-mediate users, these 35 pages provide a decent wireless security starting point.

From the practical point of view, readers will find interesting the chapter that deals with setting up a Small Office - Home Office (SOHO) wireless network. This process is covered from a normal user's perspective - from installation of DSL modem and network adapters, to sharing the newly deployed SOHO WLAN.

The book contains two valuable appendixes. The first one is connected to the cable connections and we are presented with several diagrams showing pin connections in cross over cables and sample wiring for the needs of Power over Ethernet (POE). The other appendix is suitable for all the do-it-yourself geeks, that would rather build their own connectors (N-Type for instance), than buy this kind of inexpensive piece of equipment. The author discusses the initial steps of buying the equipment, as well as provides detailed schematics of several connectors. Another nice addition is a 50 page glossary, that is not strictly wireless technology oriented, but provides large chunk of information on different computer and networking phrases.

About the CD-ROM

Finally, I came across the first wireless related book that is accompanied with a CD-ROM. As expected, the contents of the CD-ROM are mostly software concentrated. The CD provides the reader a possibility to install a number of software tools that Aspinwall discussed throughout this publication. From the operating system perspective, the software is mostly for Microsoft Window platforms, but as a worthy addition, the author added several Macintosh based products. Linux software is not covered on the CD, but the book provides links to about ten of the most popular Linux Wi-Fi related tools.

Final thoughts

If you are familiar with similar book reviews here on HNS, you know that all of the wireless related books (except one of the Cisco Press titles) were mainly concentrated to Wi-Fi security. This time we wanted to cover a publication that gives a broader point of view on the topics of wireless networking. Aspinwall's book was the perfect choice, as he discusses wireless networks from the perspective of an experienced implementer, but suits the book for different types of readers.

When dealing with computer networks, we can expect a number of possible problems, so troubleshooting and repairing tips and tricks can come really handy in the moment of crisis. The book basically provides a detailed overview of general wireless network installations, with a scope on helping future wireless deployers to get the best out of their wireless networks.

I was particularly interested in the chapter on installing outdoor antennas where the author shares his opinion on how to most securely (from the physical perspective) and efficiently install wireless antennas in "extreme" places, such as a 200 feet tower.

The book is filled with screenshots, site photographs and diagrams, which are a terrific addition to the book's content, as they make the reader visualize things the author had in mind. We are even presented with the author's photo while climbing the mentioned 200 feet tower.

"Installing, Troubleshooting and Repairing Wireless Networks" is a refreshing publication suited for both the wireless hobbyists, as well as network administrators planning a "trip" to the wireless zone.



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