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December 19, 2005

Zero Configuration Networking: The Definitive Guide: Networking that 'Just Works'

Sebastopol, CA--Just as the legend of the fabled city of El Dorado sent many a gallant knight off searching in sunshine and in shadow, so has the vision of software, networks, and devices that communicate seamlessly seduced and tormented many a software developer, hardware developer, and user. As Paul Vixie says in the foreword of Zero Configuration Networking: The Definitive Guide (O'Reilly, US $39.95), "If electricity worked like communications, your house would be wired for Apple voltage or Microsoft voltage and you'd need a step-down transformer if someone gave you a desk lamp for Christmas." Contrast that with a world where you can find other computers, printers, and all your digital devices as easily as any file on your computer--networking that "just works." Fact or fantasy?

The Zeroconf technology (also known as Bonjour) may just be the answer. Zero Configuration Networking: The Definitive Guide, coauthored by technical writer Daniel Steinberg and Stuart Cheshire, original designer of Bonjour, is a must-read for hardware designers or software authors who want to use this ground-breaking technology, as well as users who want to know how Apple, and others, have built "it just works" technology, as they call it, into iTunes, SubEthaEdit, and printers.

As Cheshire and Steinberg expound, "You walk in a few minutes late to a meeting and want to know what you've missed. You open your text editor and your computer automatically discovers a shared document in which one or more attendees are taking notes. A presenter announces that anyone who wants a copy of his slides should let him know. You open your local Instant Messenger application and you see his name, even though you've never met before. A moment later he has placed a copy in your Public folder, which he has discovered in his network directory.

"This is not a fantastical glimpse of the elusive future," they add. "It is a concrete description of what is available today using Zeroconf."

Zeroconf is an open standard that was initially developed by engineers at Apple. Promoted by Apple, first under the name Rendezvous, and then Bonjour, the technologies of Zeroconf are also available for Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, BSD Unix, and other operating systems. It's a standard for building devices and applications that configure themselves: chat clients that find other people on a LAN, printing software that automatically finds printers, file-sharing software that automatically finds shared resources. Devices such as printers, cameras, PDAs, and music players also use Zeroconf so that they work "out of the box" without requiring any configuration or setup by the user.

The early chapters of the book cover the underlying components of Zeroconf: local-link addressing, Multicast DNS and DNS Service Discovery. Later chapters cover Zeroconf programming: APIs for C, Java, and Python. The Python API was developed using SWIG so that Zeroconf service discovery is available through the same API in a host of other languages including Tcl, Perl, Scheme, and PHP. Together they comprise an indispensable guide to using this technology.

Anyone interested in creating software or gadgetry that's pain-free and trouble-free for users, will want to use Zeroconf. Zero Configuration Networking: The Definitive Guide provides clear and detailed instructions on putting it to work.

To conclude with the words of Cheshire and Steinberg, "Zero Configuration Networking--Bonjour as Apple calls it--provides a foundation to enable hardware and software makers to produce great products."

Early praise for Zero Configuration Networking: The Definitive Guide:

"A must-read for hardware developers, software developers, and anyone wondering how Apple--and others--have built 'it just works' technology into iTunes, iPhoto, and virtually every printer on the market."
--Jim Louderback, Editorial Director, Ziff Davis Internet

"Every Windows program I write that is a network client or offers a network service now uses Zeroconf. Zeroconf is an indispensable tool in my bag of tricks."
--Dan Woodward, Chief Technology Officer, Roku

Additional Resources:

Zero Configuration Networking: The Definitive Guide
Stuart Cheshire and Daniel Steinberg
ISBN: 0-596-10100-7, 226 pages, $39.95 US
1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

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