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by Charles E. Spurgeon

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Ethernet is a core networking technology used by every high tech business. While the basic protocols have changed little, new options such as Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet have increased the complexity of the topic.

Ethernet has been the flavor of choice for networking administrators since the early 1980s because of its ease of use and scalability. Written

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Ethernet is a core networking technology used by every high tech business. While the basic protocols have changed little, new options such as Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet have increased the complexity of the topic.

Ethernet has been the flavor of choice for networking administrators since the early 1980s because of its ease of use and scalability. Written by one of the foremost experts on Ethernet standards and configuration, Charles E. Spurgeon, Ethernet: The Definitive Guide includes everything you need to know to set up and maintain an Ethernet network.

Ethernet: The Definitive Guide teaches you everything you need to know about the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet standard and its protocols. The book is logically separated into five parts:

  • Introduction to Ethernet provides a tour of basic Ethernet theory and operation, including a description of Ethernet frames, operation of the Media Access Control (MAC) protocol, full-duplex mode and auto-negotiation.
  • Ethernet Media Systems is the heart of the book. This sectionof Ethernet: The Definitive Guide shows you how to build media-specific Ethernet networks, from a basic 10BASE-T Ethernet offering 10 Mbps over twisted-pair cables, to an advanced 1000BASE-X Gigabit Ethernet, providing up to 1 Gbps of data transfer over fiber optic cables.
  • Building Your Ethernet System teaches you how to build twisted-pair and fiber optic media segments, as well as how to build your Ethernet using repeaters and hubs.
  • Performance and Troubleshooting is divided into two chapters. The first describes both the performance of a given Ethernet channel, as well as the performance of the entire network system. The second includes a tutorial on troubleshooting techniques and describes the kinds of problems network administrators are likely to encounter.

The last part of the book includes a complete glossary of terms used throughout the book, a resource list, descriptions of thick and thin coax-based Ethernet systems, a guide to AUI equipment installation and configuration, and a listing of troubleshooting numbers.

This book is the definitive guide for anyone wanting to build a scalable local area network (LAN) using Ethernet.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Although O'Reilly books are not the best place to learn how to use a technology, they are excellent for polishing its finer points. Ethernet and Internet protocols are difficult by nature, but cascading style sheets and MP3s are much more accessible to beginners. All of these books are recommended for university and large public libraries; Cascading Style Sheets and MP3 will also serve well smaller public libraries.
Explains how to build and manage scalable local area networks using Ethernet. The author describes all the Ethernet technology specified in the IEEE standard, as well as switching hubs and structured cabling systems. The book is separated into five parts<-->an introduction to Ethernet, media systems, how to build an Ethernet system, performance analysis, and troubleshooting. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: The Evolution ofEthernet reached its 25th birthday in 1998, and has seen many changes as computer technology evolved over the years. Ethernet has been constantly reinvented, evolving new capabilities and in the process growing to become the most popular network technology in the world.

This chapter describes the invention of Ethernet, and the development and organization of the Ethernet standard. Along the way we provide a brief tour of the entire set of Ethernet media systems.

History of Ethernet

On May 22, 1973, Bob Metcalfe (then at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, PARC, in California) wrote a memo describing the Ethernet network system he had invented for interconnecting advanced computer workstations, making it possible to send data to one another and to high-speed laser printers. Probably the bestknown invention at Xerox PARC was the first personal computer workstation with graphical user interfaces and mouse pointing device, called the Xerox Alto. The PARC inventions also included the first laser printers for personal computers, and, with the creation of Ethernet, the first high-speed LAN technology to link everything together.

This was a remarkable computing environment for the time, since the early 1970s were an era in which computing was dominated by large and very expensive mainframe computers. Few places could afford to buy and support mainframes, and few people knew how to use them. The inventions at Xerox PARC helped bring about a revolutionary change in the world of computing.

A major part of this revolutionary change in the use of computers has been the use of Ethernet LANs to enable communication among computers. Combined with an explosive increase in the use of information sharing applications such as the World Wide Web, this new model of computing has brought an entire new world of communications technology into existence. These days, sharing information is most often done over an Ethernet-, from the smallest office to the largest corporation, from the single schoolroom to the largest university campus, Ethernet is clearly the networking technology of choice.

The Aloha Network

Bob Metcalfe's 1973 Ethernet memo describes a networking system based on an earlier experiment in networking called the Aloha network. The Aloha network began at the University of Hawaii in the late 1960s when Norman Abramson and his colleagues developed a radio network for communication among the Hawaiian Islands. This system was an early experiment in the development of mechanisms for sharing a common communications channel-in this case, a common radio channel.

The Aloha protocol was very simple: an Aloha station could send whenever it liked, and then waited for an acknowledgment. If an acknowledgment wasn't received within a short amount of time, the station assumed that another station had also transmitted simultaneously, causing a collision in which the combined transmissions were garbled so that the receiving station did not hear them and did not return an acknowledgment. Upon detecting a collision, both transmitting stations would choose a random backoff time and then retransmit their packets with a good probability of success. However, as traffic increased on the Aloha channel, the collision rate would rapidly increase as well.

Abramson calculated that this system, known as pure Aloha, could achieve a maximum channel utilization of about 18 percent due to the rapidly increasing rate of collisions under increasing load. Another system, called slotted Aloha, was developed that assigned transmission slots and used a master clock to synchronize transmissions, which increased the maximum utilization of the channel to about 37 percent. In 1995, Abramson received the IEEE's Koji Kobayashi Computers and Communications Award "for development of the concept of the Aloha System, which led to modern local area networks."

Invention of Ethernet

Metcalfe realized that he could improve on the Aloha system of arbitrating access to a shared communications channel. He developed a new system that included a mechanism that detected when a collision occurred (collision detect). The system also included "listen before talk," in which stations listened for activity (carrier sense) before transmitting, and supported access to a shared channel by multiple stations (multiple access). Put all these components together, and you can see why the Ethernet channel access protocol is called Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detect (CSMA/CD). Metcalfe also developed a more sophisticated backoff algorithm, which, in combination with the CSMA/CD protocol, allowed the Ethernet system to function at up to 100 percent load. In late 1972, Metcalfe and his Xerox PARC colleagues developed the first experimental Ethernet system to interconnect the Xerox Alto. The experimental Ethernet was used to link Altos to one another, and to servers and laser printers. The signal clock for the experimental Ethernet interface was derived from the Alto's system clock, which resulted in a data transmission rate on the experimental Ethernet of 2.94 Mbps.

Metcalfe's first experimental network was called the Alto Aloha Network. In 1973, Metcalfe changed the name to "Ethernet," to make it clear that the system could support any computer-not just Altos-and to point out that his new network mechanisms had evolved well beyond the Aloha system. He chose to base the name on the word "ether" as a way of describing an essential feature of the system: the physical medium (i.e., a cable) carries bits to all stations, much the same way that the old "luminiferous ether" was once thought to propagate electromagnetic waves through space.* Thus, Etbernet was born.

In 1976, Metcalfe drew the following diagram (Figure 1-1) " present Ethernet for the first time. It was used in his presentation to the National Computer Conference in June of that year. On the drawing are the original terms for describing Ethernet. Since then, other terms have come into usage among Ethernet enthusiasts. "

In July 1976, Bob Metcalfe and David Boggs published their landmark paper "Ethernet: Distributed Packet Switching for Local Computer Networks," in the Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery (CACM). In late 1977, Robert M. Metcalfe, David R. Boggs, Charles P. Thacker, and Butler W...

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Meet the Author

Charles Spurgeon is a senior technology architect at the University of Texas at Austin, where he works on a campus network system serving over 70,000 users in 200 buildings on two campuses. He has developed and managed large campus networks for many years, beginning at Stanford University, where he worked with a group that built the prototype Ethernet routers that became the founding technology for Cisco Systems. Charles, who attended Wesleyan University, lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, Joann Zimmerman, and their cat Mona.

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Ethernet 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Have you ever wondered how your own home network works? Or are you responsible for deploying a network for some Fortune 500 company? Maybe you're just somewhere in between. No matter, since this book is, like it's title states, a 'definitive' guide on the topic of Ethernet networking. The book starts off with a history of how Ethernet evolved, from it's roots at Xerox PARC, and quickly moves on to the IEEE specifications used today. This book is relatively dry reading for most readers for the first few chapters at least, since a very in-depth presentation of the basic Ethernet system is given, as well as the ensuing chapters that look at each system in more detail (ie, 10, 100, and 1000 Megabit Ethernet). One point that struck me as rather odd is the over-emphasis that the author seems to place on fiber optic networks, as though fiber-optic networks are the best thing since sliced bread. Also absent is any mention of wireless Ethernet, although that can pretty much be explained by the age of the book (More than 3 years at the time this review was written). The rest of the book is more or less devoted to network implementation, covering topics ranging from different cabling systems, all the way down to how to design and implement whatever size network is needed. Hubs, repeaters, routers, and other signaling components are also covered, discussing the functions, uses, and when/when not to use a particular device. Troubleshooting and Ethernet network performance is also covered, though most of the testing tools they cover are well beyond the budget of your average home user. All in all, 'Ethenet: The Definitive Guide' is a good read for just about anyone who is involved in Ethernet networking, or even just anyone who is more than curious about the topic. Despite it's age, the information given is very thorough, and is still a very valuable reference because of that.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This text is an excellent reference and comprehensive resource for the most popular LAN technology. Spurgeon¿s technical writing abilities are very succinct and rarely dull. I'm attempting (and succeeding) to read this as a primer or a ¿learning series¿ in the O¿Reilly sense, however, it is a little ponderous in that aspect. If you attempt to read it like that, don¿t be frightened to peruse or to even skip sections and chapters (like some of the number figures and Spurgeon¿s over-simplistic diagrams! But they do get the point across¿). The approx. 1 page on reasons for network documentation should be posted on every system/network administrator¿s cube. The book is a little lacking in the fiber definitions although I was able to find more info on the web. AUIs and external transceivers are a little dated, although coverage is necessary for a ¿definitive guide.¿ The structured cabling standards he provides are very helpful, even in the event of contracting such an effort. I was disappointed on how frequently the OSI Model was mentioned; a good understanding is necessary before delving into this book. Spurgeon could stand to devote a larger section to digital encoding schemes, as some of that is still a mystery to me. Overall, I do recommend this book as it is changing my perception about Ethernet; the Octopus is not as menacing as when I first started¿