Book Review - Making Things Talk: Practical Methods for Connecting Physical Objects by Tom Igoe
I don't think I've ever seen a book on "networking" devices be quite this much fun (as well as practical and hands-on)... Making Things Talk: Practical Methods for Connecting Physical Objects by Tom Igoe. Once you're done with this book, you'll know more about communication protocols and networking than you thought possible, and you'll know it well. And Spanky will be able to play pong, too...
The Tools; The Simplest Network; A More Complex Network; Look Ma! No Computer; Communicating in (Near) Real Time; Wireless Communication; The Tools; How to Locate (Almost) Anything; Identification; And Another Thing; Where to Get Stuff; Program Listings; Index
Making Things Talk does an outstanding job of blending two different approaches. Books on communication and networking are common, but they are often dry as dirt and deal in how things work "virtually". How-to books, like the Make magazines from O'Reilly, show how to build really cool off-beat stuff, but there's only so much background you can get in a single article. Igoe is able to take the best of both those worlds and create a tutorial on how communications and networking protocols work, as well as how to build stuff that takes advantage of it. Through projects such as the networked CatCam, the Toxic Chemical Alarm, and my favorite, Monski Pong (a stuffed pong-playing monkey), you learn hardware, software, programming, protocols, troubleshooting, you name it. You could also make a course from this material, it's that complete.
While you'll do best with a bit of background in hardware and software design skills, he is very clear on what items are needed. Instead of just saying you need to get a certain capacitor, he tells you the part number as listed on a few different sites. Couple that with very clear pictures and detailed code listings, and your chances of success are pretty good. Surprisingly, the detail doesn't come across as handholding, either. It's just solid information, clearly written for someone who is interested in the subject, with fun outcomes along the way from serial wired communications to wireless, bluetooth, RFID, etc...
If you're looking to learn theory with hands-on reality, this is it.