Home Networking Annoyances: How to Fix the Most ANNOYING Things About Your Home Network, by Kathy Ivens ISBN 0-596-00808-2

Reviewed by: Timothy H. VanderWall, October 2005
Published by: O’Reilly Media, Inc.
Requires: Microsoft Windows
MSRP: US$24.95, CAN$36.95

I am not generally one to read a non-fiction book cover-to-cover. I normally scan the table of contents, skim through the content, and then consult the book's index to locate the particular piece of information I'm trying to find. In recent years there have been only two IT books that have made me alter my behavior: VBA Developer's Handbook by Ken Getz & Mike Gilbert, and the book reviewed here. I found Home Networking Annoyances to be an easy, interesting, and very informative read.

I have been in the IT business for more years than I care to mention. (Hint: when I first started in the business, they called it Electronic Data Processing and it involved punched cards and sometimes wiring boards for electro-mechanical machines). For all the time I've spent around computers, I never got very involved with the communications or networking parts of the business. That's one of the reasons that I asked to review this book; I hoped to pick up some useful information to help me set up a home network for my own use. I was not disappointed. In fact, I was thrilled that the book contains not only step-by-step instructions for what I might want to do, but also understandable amplifications to help in deciding which method(s) should be used under what circumstances. It even describes ways to fix various network errors when you mess up.

Home Networking Annoyances appears to be a book aimed at the average PC user with a basic knowledge of how to use Microsoft Windows. It employs a question (Annoyance) and answer (Fix) format to explain home networking (and related topics) under the various flavors of Microsoft's operating system, from Windows 98SE through Windows XP with Service Pack 2. For example, in the section that discusses configuring routers: "The Annoyance: My laptop settings show two LAN connection items with identical properties. However, I own only one adapter. What’s going on?" "The Fix" discusses what is most likely causing the "Annoyance", tells what to do about it, and gives a helpful warning. This book, however, is not just a tome on my favorite gripes about networking. On the contrary, everyday networking tasks, such as how to connect network printers and how the various flavors of security in the various flavors of Windows work, are stated as "Annoyances" and then thoroughly covered. Thus the book becomes a reasonably complete guide to networking and related system functions.

Chapters include Hardware Annoyances—from network adapters to phone lines to power lines; Software Annoyances—from configuring network adapters and routers to sending instant messages; Network Access Annoyances—including finding stuff on the network, housekeeping, and mapping drives; File-Sharing Annoyances—especially manipulating files on the network; Network Printing Annoyances—which does a particularly good job of helping you manage and troubleshoot network printers; Shared Internet Annoyances—dial-up as well as broadband; Security Annoyances—touching on nearly all aspects of network and PC security, and Maintenance Annoyances—including documenting system changes, doing back-ups and upgrading your network. There is also an appendix entitled, Expanding the Network, which discusses modifying and extending your home network. There doesn't seem to be an area of home networking for the lay person that is not covered in this book.

Cons: I can't think of one.

Pros: Home Networking Annoyances provides straightforward explanations, along with plenty of easy-to-understand diagrams and screen shots, tips, and warnings. All of those things combine to make this book an excellent reference for anyone wanting to set up or maintain a home computer network. Highly recommended.

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