Originally published in Commercial Integrator Magaizine - October 24, 2013
Networking is everywhere. Ethernet is the conduit by which all media and information is pushed through, or will be imminently.
For some of us gaining a working knowledge of a nearly ubiquitous technology is a bit harder than it might seem at first pale. Where can you get a running start to becoming comfortable with the nomenclature and core technologies?
You could ask the neighbor’s 15-year-old, but unless he or she is practiced in the art of teaching concepts from the beginning to end, it is likely this will confuse you more than enlighten. What you need is a source which explains it all without it feeling like being taught how divine the future by reading rune stones.
Fortunately the same technology we are looking to study provides access to a variety of sources which are only a few web clicks away.
The InfoComm Connection
Looking for a way to learn a new technology or concept and a certification at the same time?InfoComm International’s online CTS courses may be just the ticket. While membership is not always required, the cost is less if you join. If you are going to be taking the courses it makes sense to make it official and rack up those points. The Networking for AV course is written with input by some of the leading AV manufacturers and professionals, using examples directly relevant to AV installs and technology.
If you feel online documents and courses provide a quick read but find the classroom experience gives you the best focus, InfoComm also holds classes in their Fairfax, Va. offices and, of course, at all of its global tradeshows. The teachers at these events are seasoned AV pros who can explain the concepts in ways that a single paragraph of text may not.
There are a plethora of books on the technical aspects of Ethernet. The trick is in finding the right one. The temptation could be to buy the most complete tome on the shelf (or listed on the Amazon page). Many IT certification prep books are certainly comprehensive with over 1,100 pages of information, but for the newbie it would be best to start with a more basic version.
If not the encyclopedia of networking, what then? Many educators suggest people digging into a complicated topic for the first time start with a books directed at younger readers. These publications break the concepts down to straightforward blocks of information. The simpler one starts, the more likely he or she will be to comprehend and retain the information.
The “For Dummies” and “Idiots Guide to…” books are well known and come with praise from many professional corners. Another option is the fantastic First-Step Series of books published by Cisco (yes, that Cisco). The titles are perfect for absolute beginners, or as the website states, “The First-Step Series assumes that readers have no previous experience with the networking technology discussed.”
A simple YouTube search will bring back a number of videos which explain aspects of setting up a network or concepts of Ethernet. These can be helpful but qualifying the veracity of the information can be similar to trusting Wikipedia entries, most likely true but how do you know?
Verification comes at a cost, albeit a small cost, with a great site dedicated to all thing IT knowledge, ITProTV. The site is chock full of video courses which play out more like a TWiT.TV show than a class with the added benefit of getting you on the path to an IT certification. You can test drive a few shows before having to pony up, well worth the trip to their site.
Books and videos are great entry ways to understanding the technology, but being purely erudite will not help solve problems in the field.
What you need is to get some dirt under your fingernails and some nicks on your knuckles. The only way to do this is to set up your own system for testing, rather than making the clients system the equivalent of an electronic lab rat.
Many of mid-level Ethernet hardware products include a glossary explaining each setting right on the setup HTML pages. While this is not a step-by-step tutorial, combined with the other resources you can improve your knowledge and create your own private internet. To build, purchase a wireless router, connect two or more devices, make modifications and get experience setting up and solving issues without incurring the wrath of your better half on the home connections.
Now you know where to start: hit the books, watch the videos and crack open a router. Become the person that 15-year-old neighbor (and your staff) go to for answers.