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Bluetooth Revealed & The McGraw-Hill Illustrated Telecom Dictionary

Bluetooth Revealed & The McGraw-Hill Illustrated Telecom Dictionary

Bluetooth Revealed:
The Insider's Guide to an Open Specification for Global Wireless Communications
reviewed by Bill Ray

Authors: Brent A. Miller,
Chatschik Bisdikian,
Anders Edlund
Publisher: Prentice Hall
ISBN: 0-13-090294-2
Paperback: 320 pages

Bluetooth is a new protocol designed to replace the tangle of wires that seems to accompany all technical advances.  Operating over radio, it's not limited to line-of-sight and is destined for everything from keyboard connections to wireless Internet surfing. Clearly a standard was necessary to achieve the ubiquity it needed. Thus the Bluetooth Special Internet Group (SIG) was born to define this new standard in communications.

The first product of that Consortium, the Bluetooth standard version 1.0, was published in July 1999 and made available free from the Bluetooth Web site (www.bluetooth.com). The standard covers everything from the radio frequencies used, to the types of applications for which it might be used (known as Profiles). It tries to provide everything necessary for a company to embed Bluetooth functionality into their products, and an application designer to write new networking applications that take advantage of Bluetooth features.

Fitting the 1,500 pages of the specification into a 300-page book isn't easy, and Bluetooth Revealed doesn't attempt it. The authors certainly know their stuff, both having been involved in the creation of the specification, even if they do seem to be showing off their knowledge in places. The book makes no attempt to provide a comprehensive examination of Bluetooth, but instead suggests it be read as a companion to the specification. Frequent references to the specification are made throughout.

Suggestions as to the order of reading set the tone for the rest of the book. Readers are advised to focus on an area of the specification that interests them, then follow reading patterns provided. While reading from cover to cover is acknowledged, the authors are aware that the entirety of the book will be of interest only to a minority.

A basic introduction to the technology is followed by the first examination of the Usage Models, applications that were suggested and formed the basic requirements for the specification. While this shows us how Bluetooth can be used, it also demonstrates how the specification was always application-driven; first the applications were decided, then the specification was written to make them possible.

In Part 2 a detailed examination of each part of the protocol is presented, starting with the types of radio used and steps taken to conform to global standards. This section plunges the reader into a world of frequency hopping and RF interference, allowing little time for acclimatization. It would have been nice to have some step-by-step examples of the processes; this is something lacking from the rest of the book too. While generic examples are given, it's often difficult to relate the exchange of messages to genuine applications.

The various levels are transcended, though no comparison to the OSI 7-Layer model is made (other than a short note that the levels do not correspond). The detailed descriptions of the various control layers, and explanations of how implementations can be split into sections, are very clear and enable the reader to imagine how Bluetooth could be applied to new applications.

Part 3 presents the Profiles in more detail, showing how the specification answers the challenges of each of them. Here we are shown more of the workings of the Bluetooth SIG, with explanations not only of the specifications, but also how they were developed (and in some cases, by whom) and their history. While it's often useful to understand how a conclusion was reached, there's little space in a book trying to cover such a broad subject, and some of the references seem to add little to an understanding of Bluetooth.

A short final section, Part 4, looks at some of the current development work aimed at improving the specification to move it toward version 2.0. Likely improvements are given, as well as information about the kinds of Bluetooth-enabled devices already available.

The problem with a book of this type is identifying the target audience. With such a broad subject it's clear that very few people will be interested in all of it, and in attempting to cover the entire specification, the authors seem to have summarized some areas while providing verbatim detail in others. The lack of a glossary makes already difficult-to-read text almost unintelligible in places, and several acronyms are never explained.

But by attempting the impossible, the authors have written an effective companion to the specification. No one is going to be able to use Bluetooth after reading just this book, but it should certainly guide them to the information they need, and provide an alternative explanation to ease understanding. Bluetooth is just too complex a subject to fit into 300 pages.

Bill Ray is security editor of WBT and tecnical director of UK-based Network 23.
[email protected]

The McGraw-Hill
Illustrated Telecom Dictionary
reviewed by Tom Farley

Author: Jade Clayton
Publisher: McGraw-Hill
ISBN: 0071360379
Format: includes CD-ROM
Price: $29.95
Paperback: 752 pages

Now in its second edition, with a third due any moment, Jade Clayton's McGraw-Hill Illustrated Telecom Dictionary is a wonderful work. It's my first choice whenever I need to look up a term.

Deliberately focused on telephony terms, the book contains 3,000 definitions, with 400 photos, diagrams, and charts. The author has a strong background with telephone companies and explains topics well.

The only comparable dictionary in this price range is Harry Newton's Telecom Dictionary, which tries to cover the entire field of communications.

Keeping in mind Clayton's emphasis on traditional but up-to-date telecom definitions, his book has many things Newton's doesn't: original writing throughout, a lower list price, photographs and diagrams, a signature binding that won't fall apart, and a searchable CD-ROM that features the book's entire text, as well as content from other McGraw-Hill publications.

The CD makes the book an even greater value, letting you keep the dictionary open on your computer while you work on your telecom research or writing. The extra material also lets you go further with many topics. This CD-ROM and book project is quite an accomplishment.

About the author of the book:
Jade Clayton ([email protected]) writes: "I've done lots of wireline work in the last 13 years. I put in seven years with U.S. West, and have also worked for ATT Broadband when it was TCG. That work involved SONET and DS3 Radio. I've done wireless, too, a couple of short projects with Sprint PCS, as well as wireless wide area and local area network jobs in my current position. I now specialize in IP (Internet protocol) telephony design and implementation."

Author's Own Comments On His Book
"Contrary to popular belief, my work was never intended to be a book. It was originally written to be used by the Baby Bell Companies in several different training materials. Those involved with the project set aside the training idea after the Communications Act of 1996 brought anarchy to the industry. I sent a portion of the manuscript to Steve Chapman at McGraw-Hill, telling him he was welcome to use the material as a standard glossary for telecommunications-related textbooks. Steve ultimately requested the entire manuscript. Upon receiving it, he determined there was too much material to attach it to the back of any textbook. He then contracted me to be the author of the book that they chose the title for (I wanted it to be the Bitchin' Illustrated Telecom Dictionary or something ridiculous)."

Tom Farley is the owner of www.privateline.com, "a Web site of inquiry into the telephone system."
[email protected]

More Stories By Bill Ray

Bill Ray, former editor-in-chief (and continuing distinguished contributor to) Wireless Business & Technology magazine, has been developing wireless applications for over 20 ears on just about every platform available. Heavily involved in Java since its release, he developed some of the first cryptography applications for Java and was a founder of JCP Computer Services, a company later sold to Sun Microsystems. At Swisscom he was responsible for the first Java-capable DTV set-top box, and currently holds the position of head of Enabling Software at 02, a UK network operator.

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