Sunday, January 14, 2007

Mac User's Guide to Living Wirelessly by Brad Miser

While wireless connectivity should be “plug and play,” in reality there are choices, compromises, and caveats when using wireless devices. The author effectively navigates the reader through the wonder world of wireless connectivity and while warning us of problems, does not make the process overly complex.

By far, this is the most hands on and effective book on wireless networking I have read! The book was very logically organized by first training the reader on all the lingo such as the difference between an Airport Extreme and Airport Express and all the 802.11 alphabet soup. Once establishing that baseline with the reader, Miser then gives the reader all the potential options of how to setup a wireless Mac network and then explains each step with plenty of simple diagrams and pictures. Other books I read on this subject quickly lose the reader with complex and unnecessary options. For example, Miser doesn’t go into detail about “port mapping” which allows you to use create a web server “behind” an airport. If someone needs to set up a webserver, they probably don’t need help setting up a wireless network. This book covers the practical aspects of wireless networking the typical Mac user would face. If someone wanted complex, they’d probably be using a PC!

I was particularly impressed with his hints on how to have certain parts of your network secure, while realizing that it may not be worth the hassle of securing other parts. Heck the guy even asks you to email him if you have any questions about setting up your network (though to be fair, he didn’t say the advice would be free, but I suspect it is!). Having setup thousands of wireless networks for clients, I really think he’s covered everything an average user would face. His wireless network troubleshooting section should be licensed by every ISP! Too often, when a user calls tech support and tells them they have a Airport Base Station–tech support blows them off and tells them to get a Linksys or other brand they know. Miser covers it all in his troubleshooting section. In fact, after reading his section you can avoid calling tech support all together….just pick up his book.

To add the proverbial icing on the cake, Misner covers another technology that would fall under the terms of wireless: Bluetooth. Bluetooth almost always works, but every once in a blue moon (pardon the pun) things don’t always click. He covers almost every major bluetooth peripheral you’d connect to your Mac. He even covers how to sync your phone. Cell phone companies are notoriously bad about assisting customers syncing with Macs. They say to call Apple. Apple says to call the cell phone provider, and you’re left stuck having to manually put in phone numbers to your phone. Finally, you can get those pictures off your cell phone and into iPhoto with Miser’s help.

Realizing that people that use wireless technology probably travel, Miser includes a brief section on how to find wireless networks and how to safely connect to them over the road.

Overall, an outstanding book for any Mac user wanting to setup and enhance their wireless experience.

Pros: Covers every aspect of using Apple’s Airport products to set up a wireless network and most of his advice is applicable to 3rd party products

Cons: Would have like to seen coverage of Linksys and other popular wireless products