The Wireless Networking Starter Kit Second Edition is a Great Help to Get Started with WiFi

The other day, I bought a copy of The Wireless Networking Starter Kit, Second Edition, read a significant part of it, and browsed through the rest. I think that this is one of the best books on wireless networking that has been published recently in terms of bredth of topics covered and readability.

I think this is the first time that Operation Gadget has ever reviewed a book. This is partly due to the fact that so many of the products discussed here are simple enough to use with minimal supplimental reading. While you can plug in wireless networking equipment at your home or office and start using it immediately, this is a bad idea from a security standpoint. I also think that there are enough subtle issues in WiFi that can influence how responsive your computer is when you are connected, that you ought to do some advance reading even if you are willing to take your chances with minimal security.

Adam Engst and Glenn Fleishman have done their homework in writing this book. In 488 pages (I left out the pages in the glossary and the index), they manage to cover wireless basics, connecting a computer, building a wireless network, security, WiFi on the road, long range connections, technical configuration, and troubleshooting. The book covers issues associated with desktop PCs, laptops, PDAs, and other wireless network devices like webcams and network printers.

One of the book's big strengths is that it covers both Windows and Macintosh computers well. It also has some information about Linux and FreeBSD, although the book primarily provides information about which OpenSource projects deal with which WiFi chipsets and points readers in the right direction for more info.

A lot of people use the terms "wireless network" and "WiFi" interchangeably, but, there are other wireless network standards that are used rather extensively, and this book at least touches on most of them. It provides a fairly good overview of cellular data networks, including 2.5G and 3G standards, but there is not a lot of explanation of how to connect specific devices to carriers' services.

On the other hand, an entire chapter is devoted to Bluetooth, with a lot of PC and Mac screenshots to help you make connections. If you think about it, Bluetooth is much easier to explain in a book because it is typically used to connect personal computers (with one of two standard UIs) and handheld devices, which typically have very simple connectivity options. So, it's not surprising to me that the book provides more helpful info about Bluetooth than cellular data networks.

I recently bought a D-Link DI-624 AirPlus Xtreme G Router for my office. This router is talked about in the Operation Gadget article Dallas Morning News Tests and Reports on Consumer 802.11g Gear. Because I read the article from the Dallas Morning News and I wrote about it for this site, I had a good idea of the type of WiFi router I wanted.

If you don't think that the routers reviewed on this site so far meet your needs, you may benefit from reading The Wireless Networking Starter Kit before buying anything. This book has a 2004 copyright date and talks extensively about specific network hardware. It's fairly clear that Engst and Fleishman plan a third edition of this book eventually, and the ability to focus on current product offerings is definitely a strongpoint of this book.

I strongly recommend this book for its bredth of basic technical information and its understandable advice on wireless network security. There are deeper books on wireless networking available, but, I wouldn't want any of them as my first book on the subject. The Wireless Networking Starter Kit is also a much better choice than a more simplistic book, which would tend to encourage new wireless users to plug in and go, and come back if you want to know how it works.