[Book] The Story About Ping(8)

Rohit Khare (rohit@uci.edu)
Fri, 5 Mar 1999 18:53:01 -0800

Thanks to Rajit for referring a new entry to the FoRK Recommended Book List:

The Story About Ping
by Marjorie Flack, Kurt Wiese (Illustrator)

Our Price: $4.79
Reading level: Baby-Preschool
Amazon.com Sales Rank: 657

A little duck finds adventure on the Yangtze River when he is too
late to board his master's houseboat one evening.

New York Times: A childhood classic. "Kurt Wiese and Marjorie Flack
have created in Ping a duckling of great individuality against a
background (the Yangtze River) that has both accuracy and charm"

Customer Comments
A reader from Moscow , February 1, 1999: Very Good
Using deft allegory, the authors have provided an insightful and
intuitive explanation of one of Unix's most venerable networking
utilities. Even more stunning is that they were clearly working with
a very early beta of the program, as their book first appeared in
1933, years (decades!) before the operating system and network
infrastructure were finalized.
The book describes networking in terms even a child could understand,
choosing to anthropomorphize the underlying packet structure. The
ping packet is described as a duck, who, with other packets (more
ducks), spends a certain period of time on the host machine (the
wise-eyed boat). At the same time each day (I suspect this is
scheduled under cron), the little packets (ducks) exit the host
(boat) by way of a bridge (a bridge). From the bridge, the packets
travel onto the internet (here embodied by the Yangtze River).
The title character -- er, packet, is called Ping. Ping meanders
around the river before being received by another host (another
boat). He spends a brief time on the other boat, but eventually
returns to his original host machine (the wise-eyed boat) somewhat
the worse for wear.
The book avoids many of the cliches one might expect. For example,
with a story set on a river, the authors might have sunk to using
that tired old plot device: the flood ping. The authors deftly avoid
Who Should Buy This Book
If you need a good, high-level overview of the ping utility, this is
the book. I can't recommend it for most managers, as the technical
aspects may be too overwhelming and the basic concepts too daunting.
Problems With This Book
As good as it is, The Story About Ping is not without its faults.
There is no index, and though the ping(8) man pages cover the command
line options well enough, some review of them seems to be in order.
Likewise, in a book solely about Ping, I would have expected a more
detailed overview of the ICMP packet structure.

But even with these problems, The Story About Ping has earned a place
on my bookshelf, right between Stevens' Advanced Programming in the
Unix Environment, and my dog-eared copy of Dante's seminal work on MS
Windows, Inferno. Who can read that passage on the Windows API
("Obscure, profound it was, and nebulous, So that by fixing on its
depths my sight -- Nothing whatever I discerned therein."), without
shaking their head with deep understanding. But I digress...


Rohit Khare, rohit@uci.edu
"Alphanumeric means any character that has a Unicode category of Nd, 
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