A somewhat philosophical, somewhat technical introduction to Microsoft
- By Barry Kaufman
"What the heck is Microsoft .NET, anyway?" is the question this new book
by Harvard Professor David S. Platt attempts to answer. I personally had
been confused, particularly since the .NET name seems to be stuck on anything
coming out of Redmond these days. The author even coins a name for this
confusion: MINFU, or Microsoft Nomenclature Foul-Up. The book succinctly
covers the key components of Microsoft .NET, and how, in the author's
opinion, Microsoft has finally created the environment that will act as
a unified platform for distributed applications.
The book's stated target audiences are both developers and IT managers.
It would be a worthwhile read for anyone in a position of influencing
his or her company's e-business or intranet architecture. I'd also recommend
it as a way of becoming .NET-savvy in a relatively painless manner. One
advantage of the book's design is that you can customize your experience
by deciding how deeply you want to dig into the sample code. The book's
supporting website, www.introducingmicrosoft.net, provides access to the
code developed for the book. Developers should run through the samples
completely, while managers can keep their eyes on the big picture and
ignore the samples. Disappointingly, the web site is not a great source
for .NET information, lacking even a decent links page. I recommend Microsoft's
own .NET Framework Community website, www.gotdotnet.com, for serious developers.
Platt speaks with religious fervor about how the Microsoft .NET initiative
answers all developers' prayers. He almost equates the .NET Framework
with the salvation of a higher power: believe in .NET, and as a developer
you can focus on coding that makes money, instead of recreating the wheel
at every turn. The Common Language Runtime enables devotees of any pagan
programming language to develop code which leverages all that .NET has
to offer. And while his passion seems a bit overwrought for a beta product
with plenty of uncertainties, he makes a good case for .NET being truly
the "next big thing" in application programming.
The book is short (5 chapters) and each chapter uses a similar approach:
it states an architectural problem in software development, explains how
.NET solves the problem, and provides a simple example to illustrate the
After an introductory chapter, the book breaks Microsoft .NET down into
4 main components. Chapter 2 describes how the .NET Framework solves the
ever-present problem of memory leaks, and how it extends object-oriented
programming to multiple languages, providing sample code that gets the
concept across clearly. Chapter 3 focuses on how ASP.NET improves upon
the original ASP, and how it supports highly dynamic web sites with sophisticated
yet simple session state management. The author also looks skeptically
(much to his credit) at the Microsoft Passport authentication feature
supported by ASP.NET.
The last 2 chapters introduce the concepts of .NET Web Services and Windows
Forms. .NET Web Services takes into account the coming shift in Internet
client interfaces away from simple web browsers to dedicated user interfaces
that provide access to services on the Internet via XML and HTTP. Windows
Forms extends the functionality of the .NET framework's features to desktop
Should you buy this book? It depends. If you're itching for a high-level
look at this emerging technology, then it's worth the 30 bucks. If you're
an experienced developer and are expecting a technical challenge to boost
your skill set, look elsewhere. In either case, if you're in no rush,
wait for the revision, after .NET comes out of beta!
Barry Kaufman, MCSE, CCNA, MCT, MS in Education, is a founder and CTO
of Intense School. Barry has worked as a network consultant and trainer
since NT 3.51 and Netware 2.0. He honestly believes that things have gotten
better, even if it hasn't cut down on his workload in the least.