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Book Review: .NET Compact Framework 3.5 Data-Driven Applications

August 18, 2010 Comments off

In 2005 and 2006 I did a significant amount of Compact Framework development for my company.  I wrote a very large, intensely data-driven application for field workers to confirm and collect real estate assessment data.  We used SqlServerCE on the device (and later tried SqlLite), and ultimately the data had to sync back to an existing database on the AS/400.  This was a real mother of a project and ate up almost a year of development time, largely because there was very little real help available.

I just got done perusing Edmund Tan’s book .NET Compact Framework 3.5 Data-driven Applications and let me say I *really* could have used this book back then!  This is an extremely thorough coverage of the current Compact Framework for Windows Mobile 6.0.  The book walks the reader through developing a series of real world applications, which seems to be PACKT’s preferred style.  Unlike many books about Microsoft technologies, this one is not limited to Sql Server: the author gives Oracle Lite equal coverage throughout.

As the title suggests, this title is very data centric.  Data topics include building the data tier, parameterized queries, full-text searching, data synchronization, and more.  I would have killed for the guidance provided in the Performance and Packaging & Deployment chapters.  There are several other topics, like SMS and Security that are just icing on the cake.  As I said before, I would have loved this book 5 years ago.

It’s obvious Mr. Tan knows his topic well, the material is very accessible and well written.  If you have any Windows Mobile 6.0 or Compact Framework projects then I’m pretty confident there is something here for you.  The publisher has made the chapter on “Building Integrated Services” available for free, so you can download it and check it out for yourself.

Categories: Book Reviews

New Silverlight Book

April 7, 2010 3 comments

I was honored last year to be asked to be the Technical Editor/Reviewer for Frank LaVigne’s new Silverlight book “Microsoft Silverlight 4: Business Application Development.”  Cameron Albert also contributed a couple of chapters and is listed as a co-author, but my image below does not show his name.

I’m happy to announce that PACKT Publishing has just released the book!

9768_MockupCover

Buy this Book!

I’m not going to give an official review, since I’m a little biased – but I will say that this book takes a different approach to Silverlight.  This is not another reference book.  Instead, the book guides you through the hands-on development of several applications and shows you how to incorporate typical features as well as some really cool not-so-typical ones.

Of course the book covers entry level material, like introducing XAML and the tools you will want to use.  The book has a fair mix of Visual Studio and Blend.  Within just a few chapters though, you are adding media, interfacing with Bing Maps, using Isolated Storage, etc.  Some of the highlights for me are Data Validation, RIA Services, Charting, and more.

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone getting started with Silverlight.  You can find and purchase it on the PACKT website.

Inside the Ropes

This was my first opportunity to be inside the ropes on a book under development and I learned an awful lot along the way.  I mostly learned that writing a book is a serious endeavor and takes a lot of work by a lot of people.  Knowing what I know now, it is kind of amazing to me that any technical books get published in a timely manner.  My hat is off to the published authors in our midst because you have really accomplished something.

I would like to thank Frank for asking me to help with the book, it means a lot to me.  I would also like to thank the great folks at PACKT for nursing me through my first such project and dealing with my performance anxiety.  In the end my part was small: I can only imagine what coordinating the whole process must be like.

My Own Book

Many people have asked me when I plan to write an Expression Blend book.  I know I don’t blog about it much, but I spend a lot of time presenting on Expression Blend and I’m always eager for the chance to introduce it to WPF and Silverlight developers.  It really has been my technical passion the last couple of years – my Twitter tag lists me as a “self-described Blend Evangelist.”  I also have another site devoted to Blend under development, but as always Time is the Enemy.

I have seriously considered writing a book.  Knowing my time issues of the last couple of years, I’ve also had plenty of published friends warning me about the time commitment.  Until now, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, so I haven’t seriously pursued it.  Having worked on this project, however, I truly have an appreciation for the effort involved: it really is a work of heart.

Fortunately, I have some scheduling changes happening soon that will free up some time for me to begin looking at this in earnest.  With that in mind, along with my experiences on Frank’s project, I feel prepared now to begin my own book.  If not prepared, than at least better informed.  If you have any advice or recommendations for a first time author, I’d love to hear from you.  And of course, I will keep you all informed.

Conclusion

In the meantime, congratulation to Frank and Cameron on a unique Silverlight book.

Categories: Book Reviews, Silverlight

Wrox Silverlight 3 Programmer’s Reference Book Review

November 19, 2009 2 comments

In July, I was offered the opportunity to review Wrox Publishing’s newly released “Professional Silverlight 3”, a massive full-color book covering nearly ever aspect of Silverlight 3.  I’ve long been a Wrox fan and as a WPF developer with a web background I have a keen interest in all things Silverlight, so naturally I jumped at the chance to review this new book.  Unfortunately, life did what it always does and prevented me from completing the review until now. 

NOTE: I finalized this article while attending PDC09, where Scott Guthrie announced Silverlight 4.  This release interval for Silverlight has been unprecedented: only three months after the official Silverlight 3 launch!  I am confident though that you will still find this book timely and valuable.

As expected, Wrox does not disappoint.  Authors J. Ambrose Little, Jason Beres, Grant Hinkson, Devin Rader, and Joseph Croney, all from Infragistics, have provided a wonderful edition that should capture the attention of both fledgling and experienced Silverlight developers.  In fact, the introduction and first four chapters should be mandatory reading: they provide the perfect overview to this game changing technology all .Net professionals should understand whether or not their particular interests run towards Silverlight.

If you have never read a full color technical book, you’ll quickly find this is wonderful addition.  The numerous graphics and screen shots jump off the page, making the material easily consumable.  In addition, all code and XAML samples are in full color as well, mimicking the default IntelliSense color scheme.  This is perhaps the best part of having a .NET volume printed in full color because it allows us to read code on the page in the same manner in which we are used to reading it on screen.  I’ve always found it a bit unpalatable to read code on the printed page, but this feature makes the code imminently more readable.

The book itself is very well written and easy to follow.  The style of the authors reveals their mastery of the material without being overbearing.  This is an extremely accessible book to those new to Silverlight but contains plenty of material for the more experienced developer.  While the text is clear and concise, in no way is this a light read.  Silverlight is a very large topic and any book that attempts to do it justice needs to be sized to the task.  That being said, I would not attempt this book, or many like it, cover to cover.  While none of the chapters is superfluous, if you are new to Silverlight or WPF, beyond the requisite 4 chapters mentioned above, I would begin with chapters 7, 8, 12 and 14.  I would tackle the rest of the chapters on an as needed basis.

Another item I really appreciated in this book was the frequent inclusion of Microsoft Expression Blend. Blend is an invaluable tool for developing WPF and Silverlight applications and yet I find it frequently passed over in technical publications.  Going forward, the more complex XAML based applications become, the more imperative it is going to be for developers to learn Blend, so it is nice to see a Silverlight book give Blend the attention it deserves.

On a scale of 1-5, I give this book 4.5 stars.  This book is exactly what it needs to be, a great reference aimed at professional developers.  I know that as I get more serious about my Silverlight development efforts, I will be reaching for this book frequently.

Categories: .NET, Book Reviews, Silverlight
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