Be honest, those banks of Wrox Press books you have how often do you look at them? There’s a problem with most technical books, the nuggets of information you need right now are in the middle of some chapter somewhere and the words you’re looking for aren’t in the index.
A while back Phil, Jon, Jeff et al blogged about writing a book and in Phil’s great book giveaway I snagged a copy (I’m not feeling that guilty about shipping; I did send him some "cute" baby stuff when Phil 2.0 arrived). When the parcel arrived I pulled it open and dove in, presented with "The ASP.NET 2.0 Anthology; 101 Essential Tips, Tricks & Hacks".
And here’s the problem for a reviewer. The book isn’t linear like most, it’s hints and tips. Well organised hints and tips. Perfect for the book shelf, you can pull it off, look for what you need, get your answers neatly presented, self contained; but to review? Damn you guys.
So what can I say about it? Well the title lies; a lot of the hints and tips are applicable to earlier versions of ASP.NET as well, heck the first two chapters are applicable to anyone coding in .NET. So I picked something I was fiddling with, custom configuration sections and there was what I had spent half a day coding up neatly presented for me (ok, I wanted a little more detail, but what’s there covers the basics). It’s not a book for internal code masturbation samples; detail would spoil the entire thing, it simply provides quick, simple answers, for esoteric stuff there’s always google. Some chapters, like that on performance and scaling can be read straight through as at some stage you’ll need to know everything, others, like Rendering Binary Content will be there to rescue you when you need them. The book doesn’t chicken out on pointing you towards greater detail on the web, it doesn’t pretend to be the only book you need unlike some. Each tip I’ve read seems balanced, pointing out positives and negatives (for example, on attaching attachments to emails you’re warning about the drawbacks of attachments). The Ajax chapter could have done with presenting alternatives to the UpdatePanel as it’s hardly optimal a lot of time, and you may/will find things you want to argue with yourself as you learn the internals; but the book will always point you in the right direction if you encounter something you don’t know the answer to.
The publisher, Sitepoint describes themselves as
specialis(ing) in publishing fun, practical, and easy to understand content for web professional.
Fun of course is debatable; practical and easy to understand isn’t. It’s a useful book; because lets face it you can’t remember anything. The only problem? The pictures on the back of the book. Just what is Jeff Atwood wearing on his head? Really? It’s not the 80s any more. There’s that, and obviously Phil’s signature inside has lowered the Amazon resale value greatly.
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