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Book details of 'The Ultimate Modem Handbook : Your Guide to Selection, Installation, Troubleshooting, and Optimization'

Cover of The Ultimate Modem Handbook : Your Guide to Selection, Installation, Troubleshooting, and Optimization
TitleThe Ultimate Modem Handbook : Your Guide to Selection, Installation, Troubleshooting, and Optimization
Author(s)Cass R. Lewart
ISBN0138494150
LanguageEnglish
PublishedJanuary 1998
PublisherPrentice Hall PTR
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Reviewer Rob Slade wrote:
A handbook tends to indicate either small size, or a compendium of reference information. This book is neither small nor a particularly good reference, but it is quite complete. The introduction to data communications given in chapter one is quite technical, and generic. Chapter two, although ostensibly about modem speeds, is probably of interest only to engineering students. I'm not sure why it was divided from chapter three, on modulation techniques. The material starts to become slightly less technical, and possibly of more use to the modem installing reader at this point. Certainly chapter four, dealing with data communications, and particularly modem, protocol standards is a very useful reference in choosing a modem. Chapter five discusses synchronous and asynchronous transmission, again, mostly of interest to the professional. The serial interface, in chapter six, blends the technical and more general material reasonably well. Part two is a more practical section, and the home user might be well advised to skip part one for the moment and start here. Chapter seven does not repeat the discussion of protocols, but otherwise is a fairly complete and useful guide to modem choice and purchase. The installation instructions, in chapter eight, are a bit more complete and informative than the usual optimistic guide. However, I doubt that it would be an awful lot of help in the all too frequent case that installation did *not* go as advertised. Lewart, like most modem book authors, is rather willing to believe that there are "standard" AT command sets, but he does at least provide a handy means of communicating directly with the modem under Windows 95 in the command set discussion in chapter nine. Chapter ten, on communications software, also suffers from limited exposure. However, I can forgive a lot to someone who finally knows how good Kermit is. He also touches briefly on compression, encoding, and encryption. Oddly, though, the whole class of Internet software is left until chapter eleven, which talks about who you can call. Chapter twelve gets back into the real techie stuff, with circuit diagrams for the Rockwell chipset modems. This chapter also contains additional AT commands for fax modems. Part three looks at specialized modems, with chapter thirteen covering the commercial modem standards other than those common in home use. Chapter fourteen deals with ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network), cable, wireless, and combination modems. Chapter fifteen covers limited distance modems. Part four offers troubleshooting tips and guidance. Chapter sixteen suggests testing, most of which the home user can do, but some of which will be available only to the professional. Some fixes are easier than others: under "Frequent disconnects" one of the possible causes is poor line quality and the suggested remedy is to "try to convince the phone company to improve your phone line." I had to call monthly for two years to get BC Tel to check egregious line noise whenever the weather turned suddenly cold or wet. After all that, it was traced to an improper connection in the junction box. End of line noise. However, Lewart also suggests turning *off* the error correction software. I don't understand that suggestion, since error correction can deal quite well with low level and sporadic line noise. (There was the time that I made my contribution to discussion of fairly consistent line noise affecting one particular BBS by saying that *I* hadn't seen any, to be told by the sysop that of course I hadn't: I always called with an error correcting modem.) Chapter seventeen is back to engineering class, with attenuation and frequency graphs. Chapter eighteen projects into the future for possible emerging technologies. In the preface, Lewart states that this book is for both the personal computer user, and for the communications professional. Even given these two distinct audiences, the material is both too technical, and not technical enough. The first chapter, introducing data communications concepts, is a case in point. The text describes the two-wire and four-wire options for the local loop. However, it does not enlighten the reader as to why one should need to know about the number of wires in the local phone circuit or hybrid circuits, and neither the written content nor the illustrations explain why a four-wire loop can be used to send high-speed data over longer distances. Again, there is a five page overview of the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) model of networking in a book which is going to deal with only the physical (or, at most, the data link) layer. Information on Nyquist, Shannon, and noise due to digital quantization is of use only to modem engineers, and the material given here is too limited to be of use to them. (The figures and tables are particularly useless in the book. Even knowing the field I was often unable to determine what was supposed to be illustrated or clarified by a figure. Generally they add no explanatory value to what is being discussed.) While sometimes too technical, and occasionally pedantic, this book is nonetheless much more accurate, and generally more complete, than the bulk of the modem library. Some gaps could be filled, and care could be taken with the writing level, but for those needing a modem guide, this should be considered. copyright Robert M. Slade, 1998
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