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Book details of 'How Wireless Works'

Cover of How Wireless Works
TitleHow Wireless Works
Author(s)Preston Gralla
PublishedSeptember 2001
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The Virtual Bookcase Reviews of 'How Wireless Works':

Reviewer wrote:
"Any sufficiently advanced technology," said 2001 author Arthur C. Clarke, "is indistinguishable from magic." By that standard, those of us who carry wireless phones and palmtop computers have been running around with more magical devices than the average character in a Harry Potter novel. How Wireless Works aims to strip wireless of its mystical characteristics, and succeeds wonderfully with illustrations and highly modular text. The proven How It Works series format suits wireless technology very well, largely because wireless services can be explained as stories (the handset sends the dialed number to the nearest base station, which contacts its switching center, which routes the call, and so on). Preston Gralla, a great explainer of technical subjects who's written several fine books, makes great use of the "enhanced comic book" style to show what talks to what, when, and why. He doesn't oversimplify, either. Though reading this book won't fully prepare you for a job at a wireless service provider, it will enable you to speak intelligently about the differences among various mobile telephony standards.It's very hard to find fault with this book. All the latest technologies receive attention, including the emerging Voice XML (VXML) concept and the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) standard that sees widespread Japanese use in NTT DoCoMo's i-mode service. Gralla also does his readers a service by explaining activities like mobile-phone service theft. --David Wall Topics covered: Ways of communicating voice, data, video, and pretty much anything else over distances, without having a wired connection. This covers the whole range of technologies, from old-fashioned AM radio to swanky new services like third-generation (3G) mobile and location-based services. Internetworking is explained in the context of the unplugged Internet, and short-range wireless specifications like Bluetooth get attention, too.

Reviewer Rob Slade wrote:
Albert Einstein was once asked to explain radio. His famous response was that one should consider a cat long enough to stretch across the United States. Pull the cat's tail in New York, and it meows in Los Angeles. Radio, said Al, is just the same--except that there is no cat. What Einstein did facetiously, Gralla seems to be trying to do in earnest. This pictorial non-explanation provides the reader with a lot of interesting information and trivia--about everything except the central topic. There is some very good material. The basic explanations of modulation and the electromagnetic spectrum are excellent. But they are also old news: well known concepts that aren't new fields of technology. When the book moves into applications it also starts to engage in hand-waving. Even basic broadcast radio and television is only covered at the level of "the information goes in here and it comes out there." Once the topic moves to cellular systems and wireless networks the terms are all there (handoff, CDMA, WML, Bluetooth, GSM, WAP), but the reason given for how it works is merely that it does. Some of the material, simplistic as it is, contradicts itself. On page 91 we are told that all digital cellular systems use only one frequency for both transmission and control, while the very next sentence says that digital cellular phones can do so if necessary. Other parts are unintentionally ironic, such as the page that shows a "hacker" being stopped by a firewall on a wireless network, when the security leakage that wireless networks provide has been amply documented. (In the section on security these problems are virtually ignored: the only items of concern are "wireless viruses" and cloned cell phones.) A little effort put into bringing the contents of this colourful book up to the same level as the introductory material would make it a more useful tutorial for non-specialists. It is rather frustrating to read these pages and note that very brief additions could have immensely enhanced them. As it stands, the first chapters do explain the concepts behind basic radio transmissions and data modulation. The bulk of the work is flashy, but pointless. copyright Robert M. Slade, 2001

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Book description:

How Wireless Works continues in the How It Works series tradition by explaining every aspect of wireless communications, from the remote control on your coffee table to the most sophisticated wireless Internet networks. As wireless technology proliferates, readers will need to understand how wireless technologies work in order to make educated buying and business decisions related to wireless technologies. This book will provide readers with a basic technical background on wireless technologies, including infrared, radio-frequency, power line, and PNA (wireless home networking.) The book will also explain the strengths and weaknesses of each technology, so the reader will understand which technology is best suited to a particular application. Where appropriate, we¿ll explain the differences between competing industry standards, so readers can make an informed buying decision.

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