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Book Reviews

.NET - A Complete Development Cycle

.NET - A Complete Development Cycle
It's all a question of balance. You can apply these words of wisdom to managing software development projects and to planning out the contents of a book, but it's still a tightrope walk. Gunther Lenz and Thomas Moeller have learned this balance from their many software projects and now try to reflect their experience in this book - which, as the cover says - covers the complete development cycle of a .NET software project.

In almost minute detail then we are taken through the analysis, design, implementation, deployment, and maintenance strategies of a C# and ASP.NET photoshop application, found on the CD supplied with the book. And somehow, in 540 pages we manage to cover pretty much everything that would make a hobbyist coder at home on a large-scale, structured enterprise project. Everything except experience and good, solid programming skills, anyway.

Chapter 1 is perhaps the only throwaway, introducing .NET and Visual Studio as the IDE of choice for .NET development, in case you weren't already using it. Past that, however, the information comes thick and fast - starting with explanations of no less than 10 different development models - to give us a feel for them all before choosing the Unified Process to develop the project.

Subsequently, we are thrown into prototyping, unit testing with NUnit, designing systems with UML, building requirements tables, using Visual Source Safe to implement a version-control system, refactoring code across point releases, integrating COM modules into .NET projects, threading issues, deployment, and strategies for the maintenance and upgrade of software as required. It's quite a list - and there's also the complete code listing for the application thrown in.

It's nicely written and demonstrates a lot, but that's all it does really: demonstrates things. It's also a single, long case study of a near-problem- free project, but when has that ever happened save in the very smallest of developments?

What this book cannot provide for is the human side of a team. Real-world scenarios are covered - with a brevity that few will appreciate. Indeed, it's this brevity that is equally the book's strength and its weakness. It covers a lot of ground succinctly and well, but many times I wished it would explain more of a topic or even simply justify the assertions it has made before whisking onto the next item. How do you debug threadrelated issues, for example, and why should a project's requirements be structured in XML? As you read, you may come across new techniques, but you'll end up looking to other references to actually comprehend and learn them.

Books often suffer from waffle. Ironically, it's the very opposite that lets down this otherwise solid book, with the editing making it a very clean, efficient book - at the cost of a genuine feel and engagement with the reader. Like many software projects, the book does what it set out to do, but could use some more documentation.

Visual Basic .NET Tips & Techniques
If you plan on learning how to write full-blown VB.NET applications, then this is not the book for you. If you want an introduction to the numerous classes that are provided by the .NET Framework, then this book could give you that overview. Mr. Jamsa tries to cover a wide array of topics within the book, with varied degrees of success. He does do a good job of showing how to create structures, use threads, and read and write to the file system.

I was, however, quite disappointed with this book. While the title claims to be a book of VB.NET tips and techniques, there are very few to be found within the book. This book is really a basic introductory reference book on the many classes available when using Visual Basic .NET. The examples are fairly tame and really don't push the envelope. There are times in the book when the author hints at something that VB.NET can do, but instead of following the thread to its conclusion, he leaves you hanging. For example, at the end of Chapter 7 the author mentions the following after presenting one of his "tips." "The code in this case only supports one page of output. If the text box content exceeds one page, the program will truncate the printed output. To support multiple pages of output, you must keep track of the output line in the PrintPage event handler and then create new pages as required." Instead of talking about it, I would have expected another tip to show me how to actually solve this problem.

There are several chapters, such as those on ASP.NET, Web forms, and ADO.NET, that could have been left out because there are other books that do a much better job of covering these topics. For example, the author mentions that ASP and ASP.NET pages can exist side by side but they can't share application or session variables. He does not mention, however, that the pages can communicate with each other using querystrings, forms, or cookies.

I was quite disappointed by this book. Perhaps the author is planning to write an advanced tips and techniques book that will accomplish what this one fails to do.

Title: .NET - A Complete Development Cycle Authors: Gunther Lenz and Thomas Moeller Publisher: Addison-Wesley ISBN: 0321168828 List Price: $54.99 Rating: **** Reviewer: Dan Maharry

Title: Visual Basic .NET Tips & Techniques Author: Kris Jamsa Publisher: McGraw-Hill, Osborne ISBN: 0072223189 List Price: $49.99 Rating: ** Reviewer: Steven Mandel

More Stories By Dan Maharry

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

More Stories By Steven Mandel

Steven Mandel has worked in the IT industry for over 15 years designing databases using Microsoft Access and SQL Server. He has developed Web and Windows applications using VB.NET and has written numerous articles and reviews about ASP.NET and VB.NET.

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