David Mandl on Fri, 18 May 2001 21:05:32 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> The Story About Ping


A customer review of the book "The Story About Ping" on Amazon's site:


[5 stars] Ping! I love that duck!, January 25, 2000
Reviewer: A reader from El Segundo

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. --This text
refers to the School & Library Binding edition.


Dave Mandl

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