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Book Reviews

Shared Source CLI Essentials
I began reading Shared Source CLI Essentials with a rather high set of expectations. I knew that one of the authors, David Stutz, was an ex-Microsoft employee who had recently gone on record criticizing Redmond's attitude toward open source. Another one of the authors, Ted Neward, ran Web sites dedicated to both Java (www.javageeks.com) and .NET (www.clrgeeks.com) virtual machines, and was a speaker at SYS-CON's Web Services Edge 2003 West conference. Finally, the book's editor, Brian Jepson, had assured me that the book was going to be one of the best technology books I had ever read.

I wasn't disappointed, but before I tell you why, let me make sure you understand exactly what this book is about and who it is for; otherwise you may find yourself disappointed. Shared Source CLI Essentials is for people who want to better understand the inner workings of the .NET virtual machine, the standardized version of which is known as the Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) and Microsoft's commercial version of which is known as the Common Language Runtime (CLR). This is knowledge that most of us will probably not find immediately applicable within the confines of our daily employment - unless, of course, you are one of the fortunate few working on the CLI teams at Microsoft, Mono, or DotGNU.

So, then, the first prerequisite for really enjoying this book is a natural curiosity about what is going on "under the hood" when your .NET code is executed. In the case of the CLR, which is currently the CLI-of-choice for the overwhelming majority of .NET applications, a thorough understanding of the Shared Source CLI is a definite advantage. This is true because large parts of the Shared Source CLI's code base were taken directly from the CLR itself!

The book provides the written equivalent of a guided tour through every essential aspect of the Shared Source CLI. The stops on this tour are expertly narrated and include material on assembly handling, execution engine threading, memory management, metadata interpretation, and the Platform Adaptation Layer. A compact disk included with the book gives you a copy of the Shared Source CLI, along with plenty of sample code and presentations from various lectures and events.

It is important to note that without a fairly sturdy knowledge of C programming, you will not be likely to derive much benefit from any of the information in this book. The Shared Source CLI is written mainly in C/C++, and - as with all serious books on programming - the focus remains "code-level" throughout the vast majority of the book.

ASP.NET Kick Start
Whenever I receive a new comprehensive software package, I feel a bit overwhelmed. I had the same initial reaction when I loaded Visual Studio .NET. Microsoft did a really good job of loading the .NET help with walkthroughs and tutorials, but you still don't get a good overview of the power available to you when using VS.NET. Most of the early books published about ASP.NET made use of script blocks to encapsulate their code - as opposed to using code behind - and had very little, if any, discussion on developing code using VS.NET. This made VS.NET more difficult to learn, as it uses code behind for all server-side code. I did find a very helpful Web site, www.learnvisualstudio.net. While this site is quite helpful I like to have a really good reference guide that I can pick up and use at any time.

Sams Publishing has addressed this issue and several others in a new series of "Kick Start" books. ASP.NET Kick Start is written by a very knowledgeable author, Stephen Walther, who has a feel for not only discussing a topic but for providing useful solutions to common problems ASP.NET developers face. I have read several of his other books and am always impressed by his thoroughness. This book is no exception. It is not about writing full-blown applications; Mr. Walther's intent is to give you a good grounding in ASP.NET and how VS.NET can get you there and allow you to develop applications rapidly.

As an example of his insight into the practical needs of the developer, Mr. Walther devotes his chapter on ASP.NET security to a very practical example of implementing roles-based authorization using forms-based authentication. This example is extremely helpful because while Microsoft has made it possible to implement this security scenario, they never show you what you need to do to actually make it work. All the examples in the book are given in C# as well as Visual Basic .NET. This gives you a great start on learning both languages and seeing how they differ. The author also peppers the book with helpful notes and warnings of things to watch out for as you develop applications.

A craftsman is only as good as the tools he or she uses. To be an effective .NET developer one needs to master Visual Studio .NET. I highly recommend this book as a way to help you reach that goal.

Title: Shared Source CLI Essentials
Authors: David Stutz, Ted Neward, and Geoff Shilling
Publisher: O'Reilly & Associates
ISBN: 059600351X
List Price: $34.95
Rating: *****
Reviewer: Derek Ferguson

Reviewer Bio: Derek Ferguson is editor-in-chief of .NET Developer's Journal and author of the book Mobile .NET (Apress). He is also chief technology evangelist for Expand Beyond Corporation (www.xb.com), a worldwide leader in mobile software for enterprise management.

Title: ASP.NET Kick Start
Authors: Stephen Walther
Publisher: Sams
ISBN: 0672324768
List Price: $34.99
Rating: *****
Reviewer: Steven Mandel

Steven Mandel has worked in the IT industry for more than 15 years. Steven is a technology consultant with The SAVO Group, a firm that combines marketing and technology expertise to develop custom-built, cost-effective, customer-focused solutions for marketing, sales, and relationship management teams.

More Stories By Derek Ferguson

Derek Ferguson, founding editor and editor-in-chief of .Net Developer's Journal, is a noted technology expert and former Microsoft MVP.

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