Review: Computer Networking: A Top-Down Approach

Computer Networking: A Top-Down Approach - James F. Kurose, Keith W. Ross

This textbook was required reading for a Computer Networking course.  As far as college textbooks go, it was pretty good.  I learned the material from it that I needed to learn.  The textbook was well-organized, and it was easy to understand.  It had quite a few analogies and real-world examples that aided in understanding.  

For me, this textbook was a pretty dry read and I sometimes had trouble pushing through the weekly reading assignments.  However, networks are not an aspect of Computer Science that I’m particularly interested in, so this was to be expected.  I usually found the beginning of each chapter interesting, but my interest tapered off about halfway through and the rest was a chore to get through.  However, I did learn a lot about how networks work.  I may not retain all of the nitty-gritty details over the long term, but I expect the main concepts to stick with me.

I think one of the best parts of this textbook were the Wireshark labs at the companion website, which my professor used for some of our assignments.  I had fun learning how to “sniff packets”, and I liked seeing the protocols in action for myself using real, live information being passed to and from my own personal network.

Aside from my subjective complaint about the dryness of the material, my only other real complaint is in regard to the acronyms.  There were an amazing number of acronyms, and many of them were not in the index so it could be difficult to find the original definitions again.  Once an acronym was defined once, it was not defined again – at least not within the chapter in which it was introduced.  (The chapters were 70-100 pages long.)  A glossary of acronyms in the back of the book would have really helped.  To any future readers of this textbook, I recommend making a note of each acronym you encounter and at least noting the page # where it was first introduced in case you need to reference its definition again.