I had the pleasure of reading through this book over the course of a week, and I
really let it sink it. I was very impressed with this work. This is a great book
that the intermediate-to-advanced .NET developer should get their hands on. It’s
very well thought-out and the lessons are plainly stated, and easy to follow.
Authors Marco Bellinaso and Kevin Hoffmann describe a fictional content-based
site that provides information for DVD and book enthusiasts, THEPHILE.COM. The
book is essentially a long-form case study, diving into the architecture,
infrastructure, and engineering behind an online publishing system.
The book takes a very honest approach and enforces a disciplined, structured
methodology to writing an extremely practical (and cool!) n-tier Web app. The
book also dives briefly into extending a few of THEPHILE.COM’s various
applications as desktop applications, which is a nice addition to make for a
more well-rounded title.
You’ll need a solid understanding of the .NET Framework, specifically ASP.NET,
C#, and ADO.NET if you’re to get the most out of this book, as it’s definitely
not for beginners. But it’s a no-nonsense, well-prepared look at leveraging .NET
Web technologies to your advantage.
There have been several books written to date profiling the design of an
enterprise-level solution, like Sams’ excellent “Building e-Commerce Sites with
the .NET Framework.” To cater to the masses, these books present a hypothetical
business model, usually based around an e-commerce framework, and feature
applications like shopping carts, inventory management utilities, etc. There
really haven’t been a whole lot of title that deal with simply-yet-prolific Web
features like mass e-mail list managers, advertising engines, user polls, and
article management – apps that are common to high-traffic Web sites.
On a personal level, I’m in charge of running several news-oriented Web sites,
so on a personal level this book had more direct appeal to me, demonstrating how
one could implement .NET technologies in efficiently managing content and
This is a very worthwhile buy (although Wrox apparently doesn’t differentiate
book length with book price, it being the typical US$59.95), and a great
addition to your library. You’ll read this one more than once for inspiration on
your own projects.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THE BOOK
- The approach to designing the app is very intuitive – from promoting code
reuse, object inheritance, modular component design in XML files, intelligent
administration files, and much more. The end result is a big app that performs
great and is largely self-sustaining.
- The authors were very honest. This is most notable in their revelation
that they didn’t care much for the dragging-and-dropping DataAdapters within
Visual Studio .NET, which leads to cumbersome code and a loss of control,
preferring to code it themselves. I thought I was the only one. They also
write THEPHILE.COM as if it were to be served on a commercial Web hosting
service, which is a nice break from the assumption that we’re all running
massive data centers completely under our control in our offices.
- The authors prominently cite Visual Studio .NET as their tool of choice
for coding THEPHILE.COM, but don’t neglect the text editor crowd, and present
their work in a neutral way that doesn’t alienate those choosing to stick to
NotePad. This is a big advantage.
- A best practices approach to enterprise application design is exhibited
throughout the book…and this is something the reader will pick up on, using a
consistent method that promotes code reuse, componentization,
interchangeability, separation of code from content, and modularity. I
particularly liked Marco and Kevin’s description of the design of their data
access tier for their poll feature.
- The book is succinct, to the point, and beautifully written. Unlike Wrox
titles in years past, the book is a very easy 518 pages (12 chapters, no
Although written 100% in C#, the code is quite easily transferable to VB.NET,
for those interested.
- Is it just me…or has Wrox changed the binding on its books? While Wrox
titles (at least in my library) have been the first to contract Broken Book
Spine Syndrome, the front and back covers seemed more durable, and the book
held very well. Which was a much-welcome change, I assure you. And this just
isn’t because this is a shorter title from Wrox…their entire .NET v1.0 line
seems to be better built.
- The code download is well-documented, and both Marco and Kevin make
themselves very accessible for feedback and help.
WHAT I FEEL NEEDS IMPROVEMENT
- Although it’s obvious in the book community that having documentation for
the two major .NET languages in a single title (Visual Basic .NET and C#) is a
tall order to fill (and most often doubles the size of a book), the fact that
the book is exclusively in C# may detract some of those developers partial to
VB.NET from partaking of what is a really good book. Perhaps the good folks at
Wrox are considering releasing a VB.NET version?
- THEPHIILE.COM at the time of this writing doesn’t exist on the Web…which
was a minor downer. I was hoping to see the app running full-speed prior to
trying the code out for myself, in the vein of the IBuySpy and ColdRooster
- While it’s unconscionable that each and every line of code would be put on
paper, the book highlights some of the more notable code constructs.