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Linux Unwired Roger Weeks, Edd Dunbill and Brian Jepson
Published by O'Reilly Media
297 pages
£ 17.50
Published: 23rd April 2004
reviewed by John Collins
   in the December 2004 issue (pdf), (html)

This book describes itself as ``A complete guide to Wireless Configuration''.

It kicks off with a little of the physics of radio networks and the advantages and drawbacks of the various technologies from that point of view.

There then follow five chapters about Wi-Fi and one each on Bluetooth, Infrared, Cellular networks and GPS. The majority of the information about configuring the kernel, loading modules and installing utilities are to be found in the Wi-Fi chapters with knowledge assumed later on.

Kernel configuration is for up to 2.4 series kernels, configuration of 2.6 being slightly different but probably came too late for publication. Recent versions of Linux with 2.4 kernels from all the major suppliers are described and their compatibility discussed. The book also covers which hardware suppliers are more or less co-operative about supplying Linux drivers or information to enable others to do so. There is a chapter on security, on configuring access points and on building your own access points.

The book concentrates more on manufacturers and specific bits of hardware the authors have tried rather than producing a comprehensive list. There are photographs of various bits of hardware throughout. Various utilities for configuring the hardware are described.

The Bluetooth description is a little more skimpy, relying largely on the reader having read and digested the Wi-Fi sections. The Infrared section is shorter still, with the emphasis on talking to Palm Pilots and Pocket PCs.

The cell phone section is exclusively addressed to the US market and most of the phones, frequencies used and other hardware described and pictured, although similar to UK and European ones, are somewhat different. The networks are completely different. Talking to the devices is much more basic involving typing the appropriate ``runes'' using Kermit. You have to edit PPP chat scripts by hand.

The GPS section is brief. it explains how to interpret the strings generated by the various devices.

I think this book is an outline guide rather than a reference manual. Some readers may get irritated by statements like ``we tried X hardware on machine Y running Z and it worked'' if they're trying to get help running different combinations. The later chapters assume that you've read and inwardly digested the earlier ones and the cross-referencing is poor, as is the index.

It would have been nice to have put up a Perl script or similar to manipulate the obscure data files in the later chapters, such as the GPS device output.

Parts, particularly the section on cell phones, need to be revised to be useful outside the USA.

I would have liked an appendix of a comprehensive list of hardware with comments about ease or otherwise of configuration.

I thought that the book made a great start, but tapered off a bit in the later chapters.

I would suggest this book as an introduction to the concepts, but not as a reference. As I have said, there needs to be a UK/European edition, particularly in regard to cell phones.

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