Monotheism DotNET

A somewhat philosophical, somewhat technical introduction to Microsoft .NET.

"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 technology.

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 application developers.

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!

About the Author

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.

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