Structure and Organization of The TCP/IP Guide
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You may have already noticed that the TCP/IP Guide is organized in a way that is very different from most books. I believe this structure will help you not only find the information you need easily, it will even assist you in understanding the content. However, because it is unorthodox, I want to take a few moments to explain what I have done and why.
In reviewing other networking books and materials before I wrote this Guide, I was consistently disappointed--not in the descriptions of the various subjects, but in the way they were organized. Invariably, these resources would cover a lot of material, but it would be presented as a poorly-structured set of seemingly unrelated chapterssubject salad as I sometimes call it. A typical networking book would have dozens of little chapters cobbled together and presented almost as if they were independent of each other. The reader had to figure out how they all connected, and also had to wade through several repeated descriptions of similar concepts, due to aspects that were common between certain technologies. This was all exacerbated by the inability to hyperlink between related topics in a print book.
TCP/IP is a complex topic largely because so many of the concepts and technologies are closely related. TCP/IP as a whole consists of a number of defining concepts and a large number of individual protocols, many of which interact in a specific way. Many of those protocols in turn consist of either subprotocols or descriptive elements that are related to each other in a particular fashion. For example, you cant easily describe IP datagram formatting without making reference to IP addressing, which in turn is related to IP routing, which is of course related to IP routing protocols, and so forth.
For this reason, I didnt want to just make this book consist of several dozen chapters slapped together as peers and leave you to figure out how they fit together. So, I spent several weeks just trying to come up with a way to describe TCP/IP technologies in a coherent, organized way that made sense. My primary goal was to come up with a structure that would clearly show how all the various protocols, concepts and technologies were interrelated, to help you understand the subject as a whole, and not just as a collection of parts.
The result of this effort is that rather than using a set of dozens of chapters all at the same level, this Guide uses a hierarchical structure with many levels. The Guide contains several sections on various high-level subjects, which we will explore in a moment. Most of these contain subsections that describe components or more detailed elements within the higher-level subject. These in turn can contain their own subsections and so on, possibly going down several layers in detail.
The Guide is formatted so that each section header and section starts at the top of a page. This facilitates printing small sections of information (for use as handouts in a classroom setting, for example) and also helps make navigating using hyperlinks easier. A special horizontal divider graphic is used to clearly mark the end of each section.
Another organizational feature of this Guide is that I have made extensive use of overview topics. Most sections that include multiple individual topics begin with an overview topic that provides a high-level look at the contents of that section. These serve two purposes. First, they introduce the subject and provide a context for understanding the detailed discussions that follow it, for those who want to read about the protocol or technology in detail. Second, they serve as a short cut for those who do not wish to read an entire section. Some large sections containing subsections will have an overview for the section as a whole, and an overview for some of the subsections as well. This is by design, to provide you with flexibility in choosing what you want to read.
Some of you might find that this all of this takes a bit of getting used to, but it has advantages compared to a flat set of chapters. The hierarchical structure itself helps you understand how the many protocols, concepts and other bits and pieces of TCP/IP fit together. It shows you what aspects of TCP/IP are closely and more distantly related. The hierarchy and the use of overview topics allows you to explore a particular subject of interest in the manner you choose, by enabling you to easily choose some subsections to delve into while skipping others that you may already understand or simply not wish to know.
So, where to begin in exploring this large Guide? Well, you can just read the entire thing from cover to cover, but most people lack the time and patience to do that! The key to taking advantage of this Guides hierarchical structure is to make use of the links that appear in the table of contents. These let you clearly see the structure of each part of the Guide and let you instantly jump to any topic of interest.
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