Beginning ASP Databases

Not for the certification-minded, this book teaches you the basics for building database-driven Web apps.

This book follows Beginning Active Server Pages, and is next in the Wrox learning path for Web application development. It isn't aimed at any particular Microsoft certification, although some of the material is applicable to InterDev or VB Enterprise exams because of the coverage given to ADO and components. The book's primary goal is to enable developers who have some programming, database, and ASP/HTML experience to begin building database-driven Web applications.

If you're looking for enterprise-development assistance, this isn't the appropriate book as neither Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS) nor data access component development are covered. For that type of development, I'd recommend a title, such as the Wrox publication Professional MTS and MSMQ Programming with VB and ASP. However, if you're just trying to get started on some basic intranet or Internet database applications that don't require a large degree of scalability or huge numbers of connections, this is your book. For someone like myself, experienced in traditional client-server databases but not with ASP-type development, this book was just the recipe I needed to begin developing an Intranet help-desk database application for my current workplace.

The author John Kauffman meets the goal he outlines in the beginning: To provide the information needed to build basic Web database applications without inundating the reader with non-essential details. Mr. Kauffman is an experienced teacher, which shows in his writing style. It was amazing, almost mystical, how questions that popped up in my mind while reading one section would be answered on the next page or in the next exercise. It was reminiscent of the old cartoons where the character hears an ad on the radio and then asks a question and the announcer proceeds to answer it. Each chapter builds methodically on the prior chapter, so I don't recommend skipping ahead unless you're looking for very specific technical information. I found several specific items particularly beneficial:

  1. Extensive coverage is given to the ADO errors collection. An entire chapter is devoted to this, along with numerous sample ASP pages for trapping and handling errors.

  2. The ADO tips and tricks saved me from writing a bunch of unnecessary code and saved a ton of time.

  3. Even though the book is aimed at beginners, examples of relevant, advanced topics were covered at an understandable level. This included utilization of stored procedures and working with irregular data (BLOBs, image, etc).

I always try to balance my reviews with negative as well as positive observations, but that's difficult in this case. For one thing, I didn't find any errors—that doesn't mean there aren't any, but I didn't find them. Regarding the technical content, I have only a couple of suggestions:

  • A disclaimer regarding how far to go with direct database access from ASP should be given. A reader could get a false sense of security that large database applications can be built entirely with ASP. Large Web database applications typically require a middle-tier, based on custom components written in C++ or VB to access the data.

  • The equating of parameterized MS Access queries with SQL stored procedures is a little tenuous. Although they may look the same from ADO, they're internally different. Stored procedures have more processing power and flexibility and can return output parameters as well as result sets.

Overall, I found this book extremely helpful and timely, and heartily recommend it to anyone who needs to get started on Web database application development. As with all Wrox books, you can get the sample code from its Web site (www.wrox.com) even if you don't buy the book.

About the Author

Robert Leithiser, MCDBA, MCSD, MCSE+I, MCT, OCP DBA is a database consultant/technical trainer currently residing in Montgomery, Alabama. In his spare time, he takes his family on outings to Barnes and Nobles to read books.

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