Book: An Engineering Approach to Computer Networking

A while ago the Packet Pushers had Geoff Huston on as a guest in the future of networking series. There are lots of good ideas and contrarian opinions in that podcast episode – go listen to it.

During the episode, Geoff mentioned a book that had a big influence on him called An Engineering Approach to Computer Networking. Naturally, I ordered a copy.

The first thing you’ll notice reading this book is that some aspects are dated – it was written in 1996 after all. This becomes obvious early on when ATM is mentioned as the likely replacement for Ethernet and how it will play a major role in the future – obviously that didn’t work out.

Fortunately, most of the content is much more timeless.

Almost all networking books that try to be computer science or engineering text books are much closer to being descriptions of how IP networking works vs. really teaching the science behind networking. This book is the opposite – it’s not the book to read if you want to win an IP networking quiz show.

The principles discussed throughout the book underlie all circuit and packet switched networks so digging into details that may seem out of date is still well worth the time. This helps to build a solid foundation and gives a bit of perspective on how and why so much has stayed the same.

I’m not going to bother giving this book any kind of rating. If you have an interest in computer networking you should read it. For an even more abstract and science based view of computer networking you should also read my favourite networking book – Patterns in Networking Architecture.

Science funding in Canada

During the latest episode of CBC’s excellent national science program Quirks and Quarks (podcast) there was mention of www.sciencefunding.ca. There are some interesting documents available on that site which discuss how science is funded in Canada. The letter in this document (2005) gives some background.

Also, this week’s Quirks and Quarks is the 30th anniversary show. This would be a great show to listen to if you are new to Quirks and Quarks.