Customer Review

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Low-Level Network Troubleshooting Book, January 24, 2010
This review is from: Network Maintenance and Troubleshooting Guide: Field Tested Solutions for Everyday Problems (2nd Edition) (Paperback)
Good network troubleshooting books are rare. TCP/IP Analysis and Troubleshooting Toolkit by Kevin Burns (2003), Troubleshooting Campus Networks by Priscilla Oppenheimer and Joseph Bardwell (2002), and Network Analysis and Troubleshooting by Scott Haugdahl (1999) come to mind. Network Maintenance and Troubleshooting Guide (NMATG) brings a whole new dimension to network analysis, particularly at the lowest levels of the OSI model. I found topics covered in NMATG that were never discussed in other books. While not for every networking person, NMATG is a singular reference that belongs on a network professional's shelf.

I like network troubleshooting books because they tend to approach material from the perspective of problems. Comparing a functional network to a broken one is a great way to learn how networks work. NMATG spends the first half of the book explaining numerous low-level networking standards and concepts before talking about how to troubleshoot problems. He concentrates on layers 4 and below, with an amazing amount of detail on areas I never considered.

For example, author Neal Allen describes the optional MAC Control and Operations, Administration, and Maintenance (OAM) sublayers between the Medium Access Control and Logical Link Control layers. He describes how link autonegotiation happens at the protocol level. He carefully distinguishes between different versions of Ethernet. This sort of information is rarely found outside the specifications themselves, which the author frequently cites by section to reinforce his points.

Another unique feature of NMATG is the Waveform Decoding Exercise, where students are encouraged to work with a fold-out waveform to transform it into a trace. That is amazing and a great exercise for an academic environment. Similarly, the end-of-chapter questions plus the answers at the end of the book make this a great course book for students.

I had very few issues with NMATG. I expected some discussion of ARP and ICMPv6 with respect to mapping MAC addresses to IPv4 or IPv6 addresses, respectively. On p 7-5 I would have liked the diagram to say FIN-ACK where it says only "FIN". I would have preferred normal numbering instead of the chapter-page format. I also thought the text was a little small and the multiple-column layout unnecessary.

I'll finish by citing a great quote from p 9-2: "One technician following a logical sequence will almost always be more successful that a gang of technicians, each with their own theories and methods all troubleshooting the same problem at once." That is so true! Great work Mr. Allen!
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