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Microsoft .NET for Programmers

Microsoft .NET for Programmers

Introductory books are always a challenge to create, especially when they attempt to cover a topic as large as developing on the .NET Framework. However, at 350 pages and $35, Microsoft .NET for Programmers does an admirable job of skimming the cream off the surface and presenting it in a way that's easy to comprehend and follow. Aimed at the experienced programmer who needs a quick reference to .NET and the new technologies and concepts surrounding it, Fergal Grimes' book is, for the most part, a must have.

A brief introduction to the .NET platform and the Common Language Runtime heads the book, as you'd expect, followed by the first real meat of the book as we head into the .NET type system, assemblies, and Microsoft's intermediate language. This chapter does suffer from being too concise, but in its favor it does cover a lot of ground. It certainly does the best job seen so far of explaining the majority of the underlying concepts of .NET applications - without which developers may stumble later on.

The switch from .NET fundamentals to the technologies that sit on top of .NET is marked by the introduction of the book's case study - a simple video poker game. The choice here is well made. Readers can appreciate it as a nontrivial piece of code, but its source code is small enough that it doesn't hide away the changes being made as its core engine is reused a further 10 times to fit the different scenarios (local, Web-based, Windows service, message-queued, etc.) covered during the remainder of the book.

The material in the second, better half of the book tends toward a fuller coverage of concepts new to .NET, rather than those latest versions of an already established technology. It's not surprising then that the most perfunctory chapter in the book covers Windows Forms, while the two best cover remoting and Web services in a .NET scenario. Both of these chapters are well thought out and thorough, and they manage to spend a little time explaining concepts a bit further than others in the book. Remoting is a tough subject to handle, but the 47-page DIY guide to marshaling, singletons, client- and server-based remote objects, server and client invocation of those objects, and MSMQ (as an afterthought) is a fantastic introduction. Likewise, the 39 pages covering .NET's approach to Web services are concise and fact-packed. While they do assume you've come across XML and SOAP before, the discourse on WSDL, state management, DISCO, and UDDI is straightforward and easy to put into practice.

ASP.NET is likewise well covered. An excellent introduction covering the evolution from old style ASP to new - and the change in thinking required to go with it - sets the scene for a swift tour through user controls, Web forms, tracing and managing an online application. Coverage of its counterpart, ADO.NET, meanwhile starts off okay with a nice rundown of the new DataSet object, but then gets lost among the redevelopment of the case study to use it. Annoyingly, it also fails to expand into any coverage of the System.Xml namespace, despite two snatch-and-grab sections on generating XML from databases and files.

Microsoft .NET for Programmers isn't a one-stop guide to .NET - how could it be? But it is a great little book to have around for the topics it does cover. The C# reference won't teach you the language, but it will remind you of what you can and can't do with it, and so it goes with the rest of this book. Chapters on System.Security and System.XML and a section on SOAP would be a welcome addition if Manning Publications decides to reissue it against the final release of .NET. The book was written against beta 2 and release-candidate software, but works fine on v1.0 - as would some more references to further information beyond the book (and an edition for the neglected VB.NET developer). Aside from that, it's quite good. Poker-playing readers in particular will have a field day.

Pros

  • Good case study
  • Concise, fact-packed reference
  • Excellent chapters on remoting, Web services, ASP.NET

    Cons

  • C# only
  • Based on beta 2 build of .NET
  • No coverage of System.Security or System.Xml
  • Very few references to further information outside of the book
  • More Stories By Dan Maharry

    Dan Maharry is a freelance techical writer and reviewer based in the UK.

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