Review: The World According To Professor James A. Finnegan

This is a collection of brief satirical essays on networking and Internet design topics from the 1980 and 1990s.  This makes for something of a niche market.  Danny Cohen, the author, was a long time ISI-er with whom I never quite overlapped, though we passed rather closely for ships in the night.  He had headed off to found Myricom around the time I appeared on the ISI scene.  We certainly knew many of the same people. When I heard this collection was being published through a mutual friend, I made a note to check it out.

The essays here are actually better written than I was expecting.  I wasn’t expecting anything bad, mind you, but they’re a significant cut above the usual academic tomfoolery or April 1 RFC. Cohen does a rather nice job making sound technical points while keeping his tongue firmly in cheek.

That said, these are primarily making points about protocol design, the old ISO/OSI vs. TCP/IP wars and other technical battles.  While many of the points raised remain valid – even compelling – sifting through the history and obliqueness to get to them can be tricky.  I find it humorous that Cohen uses mass transit analogies to describe his protocol insights where a modern writer might use protocol analogies to make transit points.  Funny old world.

Overall these are primarily interesting to networking/technical folks, but there are a few gems.

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