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Larry's Bookshelf
Last updated: 2/19/05

Scott Mueller, Upgrading and Repairing PCs, 16th Edition, Que, Inianapolis, IN, 2005.

This is THE computer shop "Bible." All aspects of PC hardware are covered in great detail. The writing is excellent as are the illustrations. Mueller knows his stuff like few others. The 1,656 pages are worth every penny of the $41.48 that it costs. A must for every tech's bookshelf. Every time I turn around there seems to be new edition of this time-tested book.

Elizabeth A. Nickols, Joseph C. Nichols, Keith R. Musson, Data Communications for Microcomputers, McGraw-Hill, New York, NY, 1982

Keith gave me this book about 20 years ago and it has seen heavy use over the years. It is an excellent reference for any computer shop that works with RS-232-C serial interfaces. It is well-written, gets to the point, and is amply illustrated. I often refer to the diagrams of the various null-MODEM configurations on page 100. I have the first edition. A second edition is available.

James Trulove, LAN Wiring, McGraw-HIll, New York, NY, 1997

This is a well-written book covering most aspects of network cabling. It does, however, lean towards larger networks and has an idealistic, by-the-book bent. A second edition is available and it is on my must-read list. I will elaborate on this review after I have read it.

BICSI, Residential Network Cabling, McGraw-Hill, New York, NY, 2002

This 542 page book is an authoritative reference for installing all sorts of cabling in single and multi-unit residential dwellings. I say reference because it can be tiresome to read. The style is stilted and bureaucratic. The excessive use of acronyms and abbreviations, especially at the beginning of the book, will drive you nuts as you go to the back of the book to look-up abbreviation after abbreviation, much like the frequent trips a person with a good vocabulary would make to a dictionary while reading William Styron's Sophia's Choice. On the other hand, noticeable space in the book could be saved by shortening the term "Residential Cabling Installer," which is repeated over and over again. After the first use, "Installer" would have been a better choice.

Coverage of the various standards, codes, and regulations is extensive. Safety, planning, technique, grounding, checklists, cable pulling, testing, contractor and owner dialogue, retrofit, and more are all covered in detail. The authors of the book are not specifically identified, but it is obvious to me that they have "been there and done that" many times (and probably gotten "burned" a few times doing it--the lessons to be learned from this book are many).

Although coverage of all aspects of cabling a house or apartment building is fairly compehensive, the one place one might look for some real meat in the book, Trim-Out Finish, is a disappointment. This is the part of the book that describes how to install things like jacks and punch-down blocks. For the most part, the actual instructions are mere lists of the steps to be performed. They lack descriptive narrative and, more importantly, illustrations (and/or pictures) to accompany the step-by-step procedures.

On balance this book deserves a place on Larry's Bookshelf, mainly as a reference. For anyone planning a modern new house with many of the electronic, entertainment, and computer network "bells 'n whistles," the investment of both the money to buy this book and the to time to read it (ok, most of it) are very worthwhile.

David Goth et al, Cabling: The Complete Guide to Network Wiring, Second Edition, SYBEX, San Francisco 2001

This book was an immediate disapointment. The main standard for cabling in the United States is the ANSI/TIA/EIA 568-B Commecial Building Telecommunications Standard. It was approved on April 12, 2001. It is a second edition, was copyrighted in 2001 and is still based on the A version of the Standard, which was approved in 1995! With this sour note setting the stage I proceeded to read the 808 page book from cover to cover. For page counters out there, the book ends at page 619 and the rest is Appendices. The 619 pages in the book proper contains excessive repetition. In my opinion, the meat of the book could easily be covered in about half of the 808 pages.

I found it aggravating to read over and over again that a human being is incapable of properly installing RJ-45 plugs on both ends of a cable and end-up with a reliable cable. It simply is not true. I have connected many PCs directly to hubs, switches, and routers with custom-made cables. Also, I use solid core cable, not stranded, for this purpose (another no no). They work just fine and many of them have been in operation in Mom 'n Pop (and staff) office, store, home, etc. environments for quite a few years. In other words, one does not have to use jacks, patch panels, wiring closets, etc. to run horizontal/workspace cables for small networks. One can, but one does not have to. True, if I want a bunch of short patch cords, I simply purchase ready-made, stranded-core cables.

As far as the book being a "complete guide," I'll say it is comprehensive and well illustrated, but it is far from complete. Its emphasis is on large, expensive cable plants and just about ignores SOHO networks. Its coverage of residential cabling amounts to nine pages in an Appendix.

Although one will learn more than a thing or two about cabling by reading this book, written by people who do it for a living, and it does fill-in some holes in other references (and is a good reference), I would have to say that James Trulove's book, above, does it better and with fewer pages.

Chareles E. Spurgeon, Ethernet: The Definitive Guide, O'REilly & Associates, Inc., Sebastopol, CA 2000

This book provides a good introduction to the Ethernet for technicians and IT management personal. It covers the Ethernet from the old 10 Mbps Thicknet to the copper and fiber versions of the Gigabit Ethernet. Rules for cascading hubs and switches and segment lengths are among the book's strong points. It is covered in a well-written and logical manner with ample illustrations. After reading this book there will be no doubt what they are and how to apply them. As such, the book is a good reference. The material on troubleshooting Ethernet is fairly good, but too short and a bit academic. I simply can't see myself sawing a Thicknet in two as suggested to isolate a problem to one half or the other of a network. However, I have not tried to fix a network like the author's that supports 30,000 computers. If you think the word "Definitive" means an authoritative and exhaustive treatment of the subject, this book does not meet those criteria. It is, however, a good guide.

BiCSI, Telecommunications Cabling Installation Manual, Third Edition, BiCSI, Tampa, FL 2001

Niall Mansfield, Practical TCP/IP, Designing, using, and troubleshooting TCP/IP networks on Linux and Windows, Addison-Wesley, London 2003

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