What I'm Reading These Days - Networking Books Recommendations

by [Published on 21 Dec. 2004 / Last Updated on 21 Dec. 2004]

I like to read a lot for several reasons. First, I need to read to keep up on the latest IT technologies, tools, and practices. And second, I write a lot and a writer needs to always learn. So I thought I’d take a moment and tell you about some of the books I’m currently reading in case you want to add some of them to your bookshelf. The five titles reviewed in this particular article are all available from Microsoft Press.

Insider Power Techniques for Microsoft Windows XP


Insider Power Techniques for Microsoft Windows XP

This book covers a wide range of tips and tricks for tweaking various aspects of Windows XP, mostly in a standalone environment. So although the target audience is savvy home users, there are a number of things that can be useful reading for enterprise users and administrators. The chapter on Installing and Running Programs is one, and has a good introduction to the topic of application compatibility. The chapter on Setting Up and Administering a Small Network is enough to get a small business up and running with a peer-to-peer network. And the chapter on Programming Windows XP with Scripts is a quick lesson on scripting for those who haven’t yet delved into that topic. What I like most about this book is that topics are divided up into bite-sized portions, which makes the book useful when you have a few free minutes to fill in between meetings. An experienced administrator will probably find most of it a bit light, but you’ll still be likely to pick up a few tips that can be helpful in your job. I know, I learned some things reading it.

Microsoft Windows Desktop Deployment Resource Kit


Microsoft Windows Desktop Deployment Resource Kit

Jerry Honeycutt has done an outstanding job writing this book, and it’s bound to become a valuable reference on the bookshelf of every enterprise administrator. Not only is the book well-written and even entertaining at times, it’s also chock full of scripts that can simplify the deployment of Windows systems in the enterprise. A companion CD also contains these scripts so you can easily add them to your scripting library. Jerry even brings to life seemingly passé topics like answer files by showing how to build a library of templates you can customize to meet your deployment needs. Detailed instructions are provided on how to create distribution points that include third-party drivers, how to integrate service packs into your distribution points, and how to deploy Microsoft Office from distribution points as well. Other helpful topics include installing .inf files, setting values with .reg files, chaining installations, deploying default user profiles, using the Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE), disk imaging with Sysprep, RIS, SMS, SUS, and tons more. All I can say is Wow, what a book. Definitely one I’m going to try to plow through from cover to cover to see what I can learn.

Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Administrator’s Companion


Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Administrator’s Companion

A big book for a big topic, this book by Charlie Russel, Sharon Crawford, and Jason Gerend, is an easy to use tutorial on everything you need to know to install, configure, manage and maintain a Windows Server 2003-based network. Topics covered include planning Active Directory namespace and domains; installing and upgrading servers; managing users, groups, files, disks and printers; TCP/IP networking; IIS, Connection Services and ISA; clustering and NLB; remote storage; security; UNIX and Macintosh interoperability; Certificate services; disaster planning; and more. Obviously coverage of these topics is not exhaustive, but the authors have tried hard to focus on the most common server administration tasks and have included detailed step-by-step procedures with accompanying screenshots to help you get these various features and services up and running quickly. Keep this book within arms reach so you can grab it when you need it!

Assessing Network Security


Assessing Network Security

This book is perhaps my least favorite of the books I’m reviewing here, not because it’s poorly written but because it’s difficult to do justice to so complex a topic at the somewhat uneven level at which the book covers them. An example will illustrate what I mean. The chapter called Session Hijacking starts with several pages of diagrams illustrating how various man-in-the-middle types of attacks can allow attackers to hijack TCP sessions. Then a section on Countermeasures tells us the way to overcome these attacks is to implement encrypted transports like SSH, SSL and IPSec, but no help is provided on how to do this. Later in the chapter are some examples of C# code to illustrate server port hijacking, and then another Countermeasures section explains how to prevent such port hijacking by coding properly using certain .NET or C/C++ functions. Who’s the intended audience here? Security professionals? Developers? Sysadmins who have to deploy SSL or IPSec to protect their networks? The book alternates between advising on good policies and best practices to providing quick looks at various tools and procedures, and while parts of it are informative and even illuminating, it’s definitely doesn’t provide a simple prescription you can follow to make your network more secure. But as I said, maybe that’s not the fault of the book but rather the fact that network security is complex topic with no simple prescriptive solution. Still, if you’re a security professional you might want to go to a book store and take a look at the book, as you might decide there is enough worthwhile content inside to justify your buying it.

Microsoft Windows XP Inside Out Deluxe Edition, 2nd Edition


Microsoft Windows XP Inside Out Deluxe Edition, 2nd Edition

Another really big book (over 1400 hardcover pages) but an extremely useful one to anyone who wants to get the absolute most out of Windows XP. This book is targeted towards intermediate and advanced users who want to learn more about automating, customizing, tuning, protecting, maintaining, tweaking, and troubleshooting Windows XP machines. Both home users and sysadmins will find this book useful, and the content while easy to read is also deep and technically accurate as well. The book was revised in this edition to cover Windows XP Service Pack 2, so you’ll find full coverage of Windows Firewall, new features of Internet Explorer, and other security enhancements added by this service pack. I keep this book on my desk and have been reading through various chapters as they interest me, but you can also use it as a tutorial and read it cover to cover to increase your understanding of XP and your skills using it. Good book, I recommend it.

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