802.11 Wireless Networks: The Definitive Guide (O'Reilly Networking)

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9780596001834: 802.11 Wireless Networks: The Definitive Guide (O'Reilly Networking)

As a network administrator, architect, or security professional, you need to understand the capabilities, limitations, and risks associated with integrating wireless LAN technology into your current infrastructure. 802.11 Wireless Networks: The Definitive Guide provides all the information necessary to analyze and deploy wireless networks with confidence.Over the past five years, the world has become increasingly mobile. Traditional ways of networking have altered to accommodate new lifestyles and ways of working. Wireless networks offer several advantages over fixed (or wired) networks, with mobility, flexibility, ease and speed of deployment, and low-cost at the top of the list. Large productivity gains are possible when developers, students, and professionals are able to access data on the move. Ad-hoc meetings in the lunch room, library, or across the street in the café allow you to develop ideas collaboratively and act on them right away. Wireless networks are typically very flexible, which can translate into rapid deployment. Once the infrastructure is in place, adding new users is just a matter of authorization.After a general introduction to wireless networks, this practical book moves quickly into the gory details of the 802.11 standard. If you ever need to debug a wireless network that isn't working properly, you'd better understand this material. 802.11 MAC (Media Access Control), detailed 802.11 framing, WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy protocol), 802.1x, management operations, and the PCF (point coordination function) are all covered in detail. Author Matthew Gast also supplies impressive detail on the physical layers.As for getting a wireless network up and running... Gast offers clear, no-nonsense guide for using 802.11 on Windows and Linux, using and selecting access points, making deployment considerations, and seeing to 802.11 network monitoring and performance tuning. In the final section of the book, he summarizes the standardization work pending in the 802.11 working group.If you're looking for one book that provides a full spectrum view of 802.11, from the minute details of the specification, to deployment, monitoring, and troubleshooting, 802.11 Wireless Networks: The Definitive Guide is worth its weight in gold.

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Review:

Among network designers and administrators, wired Ethernet is a known quantity. Plenty is known about how to build good twisted-pair network infrastructures, how to keep them secure, and how to monitor their excess capacity. Not so for the wireless Ethernet networks (built around the IEEE 802.11x standards)--these hold much more mystery for even experienced network designers. 802.11 Wireless Networks: The Definitive Guide aims to codify the body of knowledge needed to design and maintain wireless local area networks (LANs). The authors succeed admirably in this, covering what installation and administration teams need to know and digging into information of use to driver writers and others working at lower levels.

The only significant detail that's been excluded has to do with security--a notorious weak point of 802.11x LANs. The authors cover the feeble but widely used Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) authentication protocol in detail and devote another whole chapter to 802.1x, which is an emerging authentication scheme based on Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP). The author has considerable skill in communicating information graphically and does a great job of using graphs to show how communications frequencies shift over time and how conversations among access points and network nodes progress over time. This is indeed an authoritative document. --David Wall

Topics covered: How IEEE 802.11a and 802.11b wireless networks (also known as WiFi networks) work, and how to configure your own. The framing specification is covered well, as are authentication protocols and (in detail) the physical phenomena that affect IEEE 802.11x radio transmissions. There's advice on how to design a wireless network topology, and how to go about network traffic analysis and performance improvement.

About the Author:

Matthew Gast currently works for an advanced wireless network systems company in the Bay Area. Prior to that, he spent several years as an engineer for a series of network security companies. He is the author of 802.11 Wireless Networks: The Definitive Guide, Network Printing, and T1: A Survival Guide.

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