Head First Networking

Author: Al Anderson and Ryan Benedetti
Pages: 536
Publisher: O’Reilly
ISBN: 0596521553


This book is really good example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. If you flip through it (and you’re not acquainted with O’Reilly’s “Head First” series), the first thing that comes to mind is: “How can this be a serious book about networking?”. The graphics are atrocious and it looks like a crossover between a scrapbook and a homemade learning aid. The thing is, sometimes first impressions can deceive – and this is one of those times.

About the authors

Al Anderson is the Director of IT Support Services at Salish Kootenai College. He has 10+ years of college teaching experience in programming, networking, and desktop publishing.

Ryan Benedetti teaches in the Liberal Arts Department at Salish Kootenai College. For seven years, Ryan served as Department Head for Information Technology and Computer Engineering at SKC.

Inside the book

This book is, as these kind of books should be, logically structured. It covers the very basics of physical networking, the issues of transfer of information, and finishes with network monitoring and troubleshooting, all presented in a fun and brain-friendly way.

In fact, before the “real work” begins, there is an introductory chapter about WHY this book looks the way it does – and it has to do with the metodology of learning. Growing up, most of us have been instructed to learn, but not shown how. This short intro is the equivalent of speed reading. It teaches you about the inner workings of your brain and how to pay attention to it (thus improving your knowledge retention rate). The authors use humor, visual aids, unexpected connections, multiple approaches, a conversational style and emotions like curiosity and surprise to “trick” your brain into learning.

Every chapter is structured like a story, a real life example of what might happen in a firm, and teaches you how to recognize the problem and fix it. There are exercises, questions that you have to answer (and questions that are already answered in the “There are no dumb questions” section), five minutes mysteries and crossword puzzles, chats between devices and Zen exercises where you’re encouraged to “be the ball”… Learning SHOULD be this fun!

With this book you’ll learn:

  • What kind of network cables exist and how to fix them
  • How to organize your wires and not trip over them
  • How to check if the network signal is getting through
  • What’s in the networks signal, anyways?
  • How to perform packet analysis
  • What are hubs, switches and routers, and how they work
  • How to connect and share resources with some other network
  • About routing protocols and the world of Internet domains
  • How to diagnose and deal with problems in your network
  • How to set up a wireless network
  • How to secure your network
  • How to plan a network from scratch
  • How to install a DNS server.

In addition to all this, there is a chapter in which the authors skim over the higher level stuff like network topologies, VLANs, VPNs, intrusion detection systems, installing Wireshark, and some other stuff they think you should at least be familiar with. Of course, there are also ASCII tables included.

Final thoughts

I really enjoyed reading this book. I would even go so far as to say that this should be the first book about networking for anybody. Although this is a book for beginners, even seasoned professionals can enjoy it – at the very least to learn a different, less technical way of explaining things to novices. It may not look like much at first glance, but it does what it set out to do: it teaches you the ins and outs of networking, and makes that knowledge stick.

Don't miss