ASP.NET Website Programming – Problem, Design, Solution
by Wrox Press

by Jason Salas Sunday, May 19, 2002


OVERALL ASSESSMENT
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 interactives.

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 appendices).
    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 demo projects.
  • 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.
     
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