book review - the story of ping

Romana Branden romana at
Sun Sep 3 23:41:22 CST 2006		
The Story about Ping by Marjorie Flack
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $10.87
Availability: In Stock
82 used & new from $3.45
8183 of 8426 people found the following review helpful:
Ping! I love that duck!, January 25, 2000

PING! The magic duck!
Using deft allegory, the authors have provided an insightful and 
intuitive explanation of one of Unix's most venerable networking 
utilities. Even more stunning is that they were clearly working with 
a very early beta of the program, as their book first appeared in 
1933, years (decades!) before the operating system and network 
infrastructure were finalized.
The book describes networking in terms even a child could understand, 
choosing to anthropomorphize the underlying packet structure. The ping 
packet is described as a duck, who, with other packets (more ducks), 
spends a certain period of time on the host machine (the wise-eyed boat). 
At the same time each day (I suspect this is scheduled under cron), the 
little packets (ducks) exit the host (boat) by way of a bridge (a bridge). 
From the bridge, the packets travel onto the internet (here embodied by 
the Yangtze River).
The title character -- er, packet, is called Ping. Ping meanders around the 
river before being received by another host (another boat). He spends a 
brief time on the other boat, but eventually returns to his original host 
machine (the wise-eyed boat) somewhat the worse for wear.
If you need a good, high-level overview of the ping utility, this is the book. 
I can't recommend it for most managers, as the technical aspects may be 
too overwhelming and the basic concepts too daunting.

Problems With This Book
As good as it is, The Story About Ping is not without its faults. There is no 
index, and though the ping(8) man pages cover the command line options well enough, 
some review of them seems to be in order. Likewise, in a book solely about Ping, 
I would have expected a more detailed overview of the ICMP packet structure.
But even with these problems, The Story About Ping has earned a place on my 
bookshelf, right between Stevens' Advanced Programming in the Unix Environment, 
and my dog-eared copy of Dante's seminal work on MS Windows, Inferno. Who can 
read that passage on the Windows API ("Obscure, profound it was, and nebulous, 
So that by fixing on its depths my sight -- Nothing whatever I discerned 
therein."), without shaking their head with deep understanding. But I digress.

Romana Branden
Nothing - well, thats something.
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