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April 28, 2005

"802.11 Wireless Networks: The Definitive Guide, Second Edition": Creating and Administering Practical Networks

Sebastopol, CA--The appeal of wireless networks comes down to two things, according to Matthew Gast: "People move. Networks don't." In a world that's become increasingly mobile, traditional networks are proving inadequate to meet the challenges imposed by their users. "If users must be connected to a network by physical cables, their movement is dramatically reduced," observes Gast. "Wireless connectivity, however, poses no such restrictions and allows a great deal more free movement on the part of the network user." To illustrate, Gast points to the proliferation of mobile phone usage. "Adding mobile connectivity into the mix for telephony has had profound influence on the business of delivering voice calls, because callers could be connected to people, not devices. We're on the cusp of an equally profound change in computer networking."

Indeed, using a wireless network can be a liberating experience. But underneath the experience lies a complex protocol, and even more complex issues arise when data isn't limited to traveling on wires. In his book, 802.11 Wireless Networks: The Definitive Guide, Second Edition (O'Reilly, US $44.95), Gast discusses the many issues facing those who are responsible for deploying and maintaining wireless networks: How do you structure your network so mobile users can move around effectively? How do you extend wireless coverage so it's available everywhere you need it? What kind of security issues do wireless networks raise? Gast answers these questions and many more.

The new edition of 802.11 Wireless Networks: The Definitive Guide brings readers up-to-date on all the latest developments in wireless networking. "802.11 has easily been the most dynamic area of network technology in the past three years," says Gast. "When the first edition of this book came out, the most common physical layer was the 11 Mbps 802.11b. The standard physical layer is now 802.11a or 802.11g, both of which offer a data rate of 54 Mbps." In addition to covering these protocols, this edition looks ahead to the 802.11n protocol, which is currently being standardized. The book also greatly expands the discussion of network planning and architecture, paying special attention to mobility between access points, spectrum management, and power control.

Three years ago, security was the biggest challenge confronting wireless networks. "That's largely been fixed through new standards," Gast notes. "The problems now are related to popularity. Wireless LANs have moved from a neat curiosity into something that is used on a regular basis. Once it has become part of the way that people work, the service needs to be much more reliable."

Written for the serious network or system administrator, 802.11 Wireless Networks: The Definitive Guide, Second Edition aims to be the comprehensive reference on wireless networking. The book serves the dual purpose of explaining the 802.11 standard itself, while offering practical advice on building wireless LANs with 802.11 equipment. It contains an extensive discussion of security issues, including the problems with the WEP standard and a look at the alternatives. Another chapter is devoted to network analysis and troubleshooting, using Ethereal and other tools. Gast also shows how to configure wireless cards and Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X systems.

"Using new network technology always requires a balance between theory and practice," says Gast. "The theory helps you design the network and troubleshoot the equipment when it breaks, but it is not always helpful when you have a piece of equipment that implements one vendor's view of the world. Most books will tell either how the standard works or how to use a specific piece of equipment or software. In this book, I have tried to weave together both the theory and the practical sides of the matter."

Praise for the previous edition:

"The book should be a pre-requisite for anyone wanting to seriously enter the 'wireless waters.' You cannot miss with any of O'Reilly's books on wireless networks and this one surely isn't an exception."
--Berislav Kucan, Net-security.org

"The book is written so that the administrator who needs to get a wireless network up and running can do so quickly...I found the text to be well written, logically laid out, and a good technical read."
--Jim Huddle, kickstartnews.com

"802.11 Wireless Networks: The Definitive Guide lives up to its title and provides virtually everything you could need to know about 802.11 networks. Anyone who has looked at network standards can attest to how boring they are to read. However, Gast does a wonderful job writing about wireless Ethernet in a way that is not only 'not boring,' but actually interesting. This is due to his expertise with the subject matter and the many real-world scenarios that he shares...Overall, 802.11 Wireless Networks: The Definitive Guide is an excellent guide for any network administrator or architect who needs to understand the ins and outs of 802.11 networking. It has all the necessary information for design and deployment of wireless networks in an easy to read and enjoyable style."
--Ben Rothke, unixreview.com

Further reviews of the first edition of 802.11 Wireless Networks: The Definitive Guide can be found here.

Additional Resources:

802.11 Wireless Networks: The Definitive Guide, Second Edition
Matthew S. Gast
ISBN: 0-596-10052-3, 630 pages, $44.95 US, $62.95 CA
order@oreilly.com
1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

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