Author: Michael Lucas
Publisher: No Starch Press
Reviewed by: Dean Wilson
There is a special place on my shelves for slender books that are focused on a single topic, offer practical advice, are pragmatic in their coverage and engagingly written. "Cisco Routers for the Desperate" (CRftD) meets all four criteria.
Most sysadmins inherit a couple of Cisco routers and treat them as (forest green) black boxes. We don't need to touch them very often and when we do the lack of familiarity makes the experience one of dread. CRftD is a very practical guide to the basic tasks you'll occasionally have to do. It explains how to connect to a Cisco router, how to nose around, set up local and WAN interfaces, upgrade and backup your IOS install and introduces a surprising number of advanced topics (BGP, HSRP, enabling syslog, SSH and SNMP services) in just under 120 pages.
As you can guess by the range of topics and the page count the coverage isn't very deep and doesn't cover all the edge cases, but in this book that's both deliberate and part of its charm. The topics it does cover are those that 95% of the readers will need, and they're explained well enough, and in so few pages, that it'll actually get read. Which is a rare thing these days.
So what's bad about it? The authors personality can be seen in a number of the chapters. If you like his style and sense of humour these little snippets help lighten the tone and break the book up, if you don't then you'll sigh half-a-dozen times while reading it. It also lacks coverage of access control lists. I know these are a major topic in themselves but a dozen page introduction (with examples such as limiting the SNMP access to a monitoring machine) would have rounded the book out perfectly and covered the only thing most admins will need to do that isn't in the book.
Summary: If you've tech savvy but Cisco challenged then this books for you. It's not a one stop shop but it covers almost everything you need to get started. We've just bought an office copy so I can have mine back. 8/10