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Deeply disappointing with no obvious target readership
on 17 April 2012
I am afraid this book is basically a Windows manual with a couple of chapters on Windows 7 home networks (Homegroups). There are two GLARING omissions from the book (see below) and what it does contain is not much more than you get by reading the set up screens in Windows 7.
I bought this book to help me set up a home network consisting of a laptop, a pc, a NAS drive and my BT Home Hub using Windows 7. My background is that I work in IT as an analyst and I have had home computers since the BBC micro but have never tinkered with operating systems or their like. I could probably be considered computer literate but not well read.
So what are the two glaring omissions? NAS drives (Network Accessible Storage drives - shared external disc drives) are not mentioned anywhere in the book! Not even in the section about backups!! Surely one of the GREAT advantages of a home network is the ability to have shared storage which does not rely on all the computers on the network being switched on but allows you to put files in one place and access them from any machine? This is a book that mentions that fridges can be on a network (page 168 - without mentioning how to do it) but it does not mention shared storage other than internal drives? This alone makes the book not fit for purpose.
Secondly it does not mention the most common problem people hit when linking a computer with a 32 bit operating system (commonly laptops and PCs with less than 3 gigabyters of RAM) to a network with 64 bit operating system machines (any computer with more than about 3 gigabytes of RAM). There is a common problem (try Googling it) which can be addressed quite easily but it invovles a register edit. I suspect more people will need their hands held with screen shots on how to do that than setting up a Homegroup using well explained, simple and concise screens. It certainly made me nervous when I hit it, found no mention of how to solve it in this book and turned to the internet for advice.
The rest of this review breaks the book down to tell what is in it. Keep in mind that this book states that it is specifically aimed at helping you set up a home network with Windows 7.
Chapter 1 tells you why you might need a home network. I would suggest, if you have bought the book, you have defined a need for a home network already.
Chapter 2 takes you through 'basic network properties' such as IP addresses, subnet masks, default gateway addresses and DNS server addresses. This is all well and good but to set up a Homegroup on Windows 7 you will only need this information if things are going wrong. If you follow the set up routines you will never see any of this. It is intimadating to hit the novice with this lot up front and frustrating that, if all goes well, you will never use it. Perhaps this would have been more at home in a trouble shooting appendix?
Chapters 3 and 4 walk you through the hardware components you will need and how to configure a wireless connection. The hardware section is certainly useful (pointing such things as the difference between a crossover cable and a straight through). The configuring of the wireless connection is of less use. My BT supplied router was configured automatically from the set up disc and it is a version 1.0 which must be about 7 years old (writing in 2012). Again, it tells you a lot of stuff you will not need to know if things are working well and does so using screen shots from Netgear which are of value but not the same as the equivalent screens for other hardware and so might be confusing.
Chapter 5 tells you how to set up Windows 7 user accounts. I am mystified to know how you could possibly be running Windows 7 without having gone through the account set up routines but this may help some people. Would the people it would help really be trying to set up a home network though? Mind you, this chapter gets the book its 2nd star from me as it tells you how to create and use a password reset disk, something I didn't know before, so maybe I am the target audience afterall!
Chapter 6 takes you screen shot by screen shot through setting up a Homegroup, joining one and changing the password for one. This is useful stuff. It is also (as I have subsequently found out) very obvious if you go through the set up routines in Windows 7, so obvious in fact that I forgot to open the book until after I had done it. This is the 2nd shortest chapter in the book!
Chapter 7 tells you some useful things about sharing files in your Homegroup assuming those files are all one computers in the group.
Chapter 8 tells you how to connect to the Internet. Again, I would be surprised if anyone setting up a home network isn't already connected. In fairness this is the shortest chapter.
Chapter 9 tells you how to connect remotely - this may be of use to people.
Chapter 10 tells you how to 'Have fun with your Home Network'. It goes through how to connect various home entertainment devices such as an XBox, a Playstation and a Wii to your network. Again I have to ask why? I have only tried connecting my XBox. I put the ether cable in the back, it called home to the Mothership without my doing anything what so ever and immediately updated itself. I know this was not due to my home network set up as, at that stage, I had yet to set it up and neither of my computers were even switched on!
Part IV (chapters 11 to 15) take you through Windows Firewall, Windows Defender, Windows Update, backing up and restoring your system and building a SOHO Network (Small Office/Home Office). None of the Windows bits are network specific. It has good, sensible stuff but it is basic Windows 7 material. It looks like a cut and past from a Windows 7 book used for padding. In the SOHO chapter there are bits on encryption of files which tell you how to set up the Windows 7 Encrypting File System which may be of use. However, the fact that W7 decrypts files you send via e-mail is mentioned in passing and may well be something of interest if you handle confidential documents but not addressed in any way.
Part V tells you 'Ten Great W7 Resources' but as Dummies Books and Dummies Website are the first two and the Microsoft website is the 4th you can gauge the value of the list. The second chapter list some troubleshooting hints which are of value but see my comment above about the omission of information about what I suspect is a common issue.