Andrew's Blog

Random Thoughts of an ASP.Net Code Monkey

Book Review: SignalR Real-time Application Development

July 5, 2013 06:34 by Andrew Westgarth

I've been keeping an eye on and experimenting with SignalR for about 18 months now when I get some free time and recently finished reading this book by Einar Ingebrigtsen and published by Packt Publishing.  SignalR: Real-time Application Development is a very concise look at the key topics that you'd want to get up and running with SignalR.

 

The book covers topics such as Security and Scalability along with some simple step by step tutorials to help start using SignalR in a variety of scenarios - straight forward web apps, console apps, WinRT applications amongst others.  At just 124 pages long this book is not exhaustive and is a really useful start for someone who just wants to hit the ground running with SignalR fundamentals.

I found the book a really light read however personally I would have preferred a more detailed book with more discussion of the core technologies employed by SignalR and how they can be exploited to their full potential.  Unfortunately this book focuses on the typical Hello World SignalR application of a chat application a lot of examples of which can be found freely on the internet.

Book Review: MCTS 70-515 Web Applications Development with Microsoft .Net Framework 4 Self-Paced Training Kit

January 25, 2011 14:44 by Andrew Westgarth

For many reasons I haven’t had much time to blog in the last few months.  This is something with the coming of the New Year I’m aiming to rectify.  One of my other personal/work goals is to complete the Microsoft Professional Developer (Web Developer) Certification.  This requires me to site and pass four exams:

  1. 70-515: Web Application Development with Microsoft .Net Framework 4 (TS)
  2. 70-513: Windows Communication Foundation Development with Microsoft .Net Framework 4 (TS)
  3. 70-516: Accessing Data with Microsoft .Nest Framework 4 (TS)
  4. 70-519: Designing and Developing Web Applications with Microsoft .Net Framework 4

First on my list of exams to study for and complete was 70-515: Web Applications Development with Microsoft .Net Framework 4.  I had the exam booked for Tuesday 18th January 2011 and I’m pleased to say after a lot of intense and hard swotting I passed the exam.  Due to the severe disruption caused by the bad weather on both sides of the Atlantic it became very difficult to get hold of a printed copy of this book when it was due to be available in the UK.  There was a digital version available but I still like to read a physical book, although I am being tempted more and more of late by the Kindle.  Fortunately I was able to get a copy of the printed book prior to my exam, just!

WARNING: I don’t think this would be a useful review if I didn’t stress at the beginning that while this book covers the topics which the exam covers, it should not be your only resource of learning.  I made use of my attendance of relevant sessions at User Groups, real world experience on projects and additional reading, such as Steve Sanderson’s excellent Pro ASP.Net MVC 2 Framework, Second Edition which is an excellent book for getting to grips with ASP.Net MVC 2.

MCTS 70-515 Web Applications Development with Microsoft .Net Framework 4 Self-Paced training Kit CoverThe Self-Paced Training Kit

The Self-Paced Training kit is an excellent tool to help study for the exam.  They follow a standard package format of the

  • Self-paced study guide;
  • Practice Tests;
  • Over 300 practice and review questions;
  • Code Samples in VB.Net and C#;
  • eBook edition of the study guide.

The study guide is broken up into fourteen chapters, which breaks the curriculum into manageable segments of learning.  One technique for working through these guides is to take one chapter per night and work through each chapter covering the topic in great detail.  Planning to spend extra time when needed.  The chapters discuss the individual topics in some detail, have Labs to go through and get practice in implementing the topic discussed. At the end of each chapter there are Scenario based questions to guide you into choosing the right solutions for the problems faced and there are also review questions for each section.  The fourteen chapters combine to cover the objectives of the 70-515 Exam:

  • Developing Web Forms Pages;
  • Developing and Using Web Forms Controls;
  • Implementing Client-Side Scripting and AJAX;
  • Configuring and Extending a Web Application;
  • Displaying and Manipulating Data;
  • Developing a Web Application by Using ASP.Net MVC 2.

Verdict

This self-paced training guide was an invaluable tool for me in my preparation for the exam.  The guide breaks down the objectives into manageable chunks and highlight areas which need to be covered.  The Labs cover each topic as you progress through each chapter.  My one major criticism of the labs is that each lab often starts by setting up a new project/solution with the same name as the previous lab which is really frustrating.  Personally I would much rather have started a new solution per chapter and modified the solution/projects as I went through the labs in that chapter.  The review questions are a great way to review your knowledge and how much you’ve taken in after completing studying each chapter.  The Scenario based exercises are even better as they make you think how your knowledge would be applied in the real world.

I would recommend buying and working your way through the MCTS 70-515 Web Applications Development with Microsoft .Net Framework 4 Self-Paced Training Kit as part of your preparation for the 70-515 exam, however I would also recommend additional sources to compliment your learning.  For example the MVC area was easier for me to pick up as I have completed some projects using the Framework and have also read other books on the topic, whereas the Client-Side Scripting element was harder for me to pick up as I have had less exposure to that area of study.

If you’re studying for the 70-515 exam good luck and I hope you find this book and review useful!  I’m off to search for materials so I can prepare for my other exams as the equivalent training guides won’t be available for quite some time yet.

Book Review: Professional IIS 7 And ASP.NET Integrated Programming

March 3, 2008 15:38 by Andrew Westgarth

Professional IIS 7 and ASP.NET Integrated Programming by Dr. Shahram Khosravi - Book Cover

I managed to get hold of this book a few months ago, about the time I flew out to Tech Ed in Barcelona.  Unfortunately it's taken me till now to write up my impressions and views on this book.  Initially I was a little apprehensive about reading this book due to two particular reasons: firstly I don't generally get along with Wrox Press books and in the past have found them difficult to read compared to other titles from other publishing houses; secondly this book is a considerable size - totaling 670 pages!!  I was however eager to read it, as I am any new titles that appear on the subject of IIS 7.  This one had particularly grabbed my attention due to it's initial indications of specific relevance of how to exploit the power of IIS 7 in ASP.NET Applications and Programming.

In essence I would say that this book is a must have on the bookshelf of any serious ASP.NET developer who is looking to exploit and use the full power of IIS 7 in their applications.  As opposed to a previous title I reviewed - Book Review: IIS7 Implementation and Administration - this book is most definitely aimed at the Developer.  There are only 12 chapters in this title however they are very detailed chapters and really go into great detail.  Topics covered include using the integrated configuration system (<system.webserver>), how to extend the configuration system, extending the management interface, extending the request pipeline and it even has a great chapter on the integration of WCF in IIS 7 - something which I've been looking for good sources of information on.

What is great about this book is how in each element Dr. Khosravi has gone into immense detail and broke down each part of the object model and configuration model, explaining the effects of each option and the affect that can have on your application and the web server itself.  This is a feature which I and I would imagine many others will turn to over and over again as new requirements appear in my/their projects.  Although initially the content of this book can be daunting to a beginner in time they will grow in knowledge along side this book, and it is a title which can be constantly revisited and digested at the reader's own pace, this is a must for any IIS/ASP.NET Developer's bookshelf.

In response to my initial two concerns about this title, I've been convinced.  I enjoyed reading this book and possibly my reading style and ability has improved/changed since I last read a Wrox title, but I didn't have a lot of problems reading this book, although the content can be quite heavy going as it is so detailed, which I've already identified as a strength.  The size of the book is also of no problem and indeed is vindicated in the quality of the content.

Book Details:

Title: Professional IIS 7 and ASP.NET Integrated Programming

Author: Dr. Shahram Khosravi

Publisher: Wrox

Link to purchase on Computer Manuals : http://www.compman.co.uk/scripts/browse.asp?ref=852426

Book Review: IIS7 Implementation and Administration

November 1, 2007 04:15 by Andrew Westgarth

IIS7ImplementationAndAdministration This year I made my first steps on to the speaker circuit with a presentation on IIS7 for ASP.Net Developers.  IIS (Internet Information Server) is used the world over by many web developers on which to host their applications.  I have been dealing with IIS for a number of years, in both a Developer role but also as Administrator of a number of web servers and web farms.  This is where my interest in IIS has come from over the years.  IIS is a very stable platform and with IIS7 we know have, what Microsoft term as the most significant release of IIS since version 1.0, and I have to agree.

I recently got hold of a copy of this book: IIS7 Implementation and Administration written by John Paul Mueller.  This title appears to be very popular, and after speaking to Martin from Computer Manuals it would appear that is flying off the shelves. 

As stated earlier I am able to attack a review of this title from both an Administrators point of view and that of a developer.  The book is well structured and  at just over 360 pages in length it slotted nicely into my laptop backpack for carrying around with me on my recent engagements.  Split into three sections - Using IIS7; Configuring Older Applications; and Configuring Application Security  - the book is a great starting guide to using IIS7.  The first section gets the reader to grips with the basics of working with files and the new UI within IIS7 and gives enough information and detail with which to get up and running with IIS7.  In the Configuring Older Applications section, John Paul, guides the reader through working with ASP, IIS6 Manager and other application types such as PHP and ColdFusion.  This a key section for those looking to upgrade to IIS7 and take advantage of the new features and integrated pipeline but still running ASP/PHP/ColdFusion etc applications in addition/instead of ASP.Net Applications.

The final section of the book primarily covers Application Security, but also covers connecting to databases, globalization, application performance and application configuration.  This final section is goes into quite a high level of detail and although I have covered .Net Roles and Profiles quite extensively I still found this section very very useful.  In my presentations I cover the ApplicationHost.Config and Administration.Config files and this section covers the structure of the configuration files well and covers the question of administration delegation well and highlights the associated risks and benefits.

This book was a joy to read and I think that is suitable for beginners and experienced developers and administrators alike.  The book covers a lot of the new features which many developers are aware of, but now they are integrated into the pipeline, administrators can now read about and understand to help communicate with developers on an more level plain.  This book is a great guide to IIS7 and I would recommend it to anyone who has either previous experience with IIS or who are just getting into it and want to know more about IIS7 as a development and hosting platform.

Book Details:

Title: IIS7 Implementation and Administration

Author: John Paul Mueller

Publisher: Sybex

Link to purchase on Computer Manuals : http://www.compman.co.uk/scripts/browse.asp?ref=859158

Book Review: Web Accessibility - Web Standards and Regulatory Compliance

September 21, 2007 15:37 by Andrew Westgarth

One of the areas of Web Development and provisioning for the web that is of great interest to me is Accessibility and access to the same information across multiple technologies, devices and user capabilities.  This originally stems from research I undertook whilst completing my final year project for my degree at the University of Sunderland, but now has become of interest when developing solutions for the web in my daily career and life.

Earlier this year at WebDD, I had the great pleasure of attending Bruce Lawson's session, entitled "Web Accessibility: What, Why, How and Who Cares" and I recommend anyone who gets the opportunity to listen to this presentation by Bruce to do so.  I have been aware of a number of web standards and guidance relating how to build accessible sites and the whole subject of Accessibility for a while and still found some great information I can use to express to others why it is so important.  Indeed the key example I remember Bruce telling me was of a blind friend, who because of Tesco's Accessible Online Shopping System, was able to purchase a birthday present for her husband for the first time, and the joy of being able to have that great user experience. 

Whilst at this session, Bruce highlighted a book on which he was a Technical Reviewer, Web Accessibility: Web Standard and Regulatory Compliance published by friends of Ed.  We recently purchased a copy of this book at work, and I have just completed reading it for the first time and thought it was important to let you all know what a great resource and excellent addition to any Web Developers Library it is.  In the past and in my research at University I found it difficult to find good books on the subject and indeed still do.

This book is structured with chapters by leading experts in the individual fields, there are seventeen chapters in total, covering three distinct sections - "The Impact of Web Accessibility"; "Implementing Accessible Websites" and "Accessibility Law and Policy".  Each chapter concentrates on a specific area and gives and overview and clear examples to back up statements and arguments.  The book gives a great grounding to anyone who has questions about what accessibility it is, what it represents and how it can be implemented.

The large section on implementing accessible websites covers multiple pertinent issues which Web Developers, Architects and Designer face daily.  Covering content, navigation, data input, CSS, JavaScript, Flash, PDF each chapter raises issues with certain methods used by many with good clear examples of how to go from an inaccessible solution to a good accessible solution, and where there are a number of solutions gives clear arguments for an against each method.  There is also sections on automated testing, and retrofitting a website to be more accessible.  These are situations I have had to deal with heavily after working in the Public Sector for a period of time.  Often retrofitting a website can be increasingly frustrating and time consuming, but it can also be very rewarding to see the end results.  Automated machine testing is possible for certain sections of the standards guidance however it can never be the answer for all testing, this is highlighted and a selection of tests are critiqued and reasoned as to whether they are suitable for automated testing.  The book also covers an introduction to WCAG 2.0 and guidance on how to start understanding the changes that have been made.

A lot of concepts and ideas which I had gained were challenged by this book and it was very refreshing to find that I was completely engaged by it and couldn't put it down when I had the chance to read a little bit more.  I am involved in a project at present to provision multiple sites for publication in multiple countries and languages and part of the reasoning for purchasing this book was to complement my knowledge and raise that of my colleagues and employer.  The sections on implications and legal requirements gives a great entry point and overview, with links to further information, on how accessibility is treated by individual nations and governments, a great starting point in my work.

Overall this book represents excellent value for money, Computer Manuals are currently selling it for ?25.49!!!, and it is certainly a book I will be ordering another copy of for my personal library.  I recommend anyone involved in provisioning services, content, sites and applications for the web read it and take in the messages and guidance offered.

Apress Book Review - Microsoft SharePoint: Building Office 2007 Solutions in C# 2005

September 19, 2007 00:03 by Andrew Westgarth

My colleague Aidan Garnish has written a great review of the Scott Hillier's book, Microsoft SharePoint: Building Office 2007 Solutions in C# 2005.  It appears that this is a great book to get a good overview and grounding in the main concepts relating to Application Development using Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007.  Check out Aidan's review at http://aidangarnish.typepad.com/aidangarnish/2007/08/book-review---m.html and you can get the book at Computer Manuals - http://www.compman.co.uk/scripts/browse.asp?ref=814091

Aidan's blog is a great resource too for anyone getting into developing on MOSS2007.  Aidan has a lot of experience with SharePoint 2003 and is now along with the rest of the team working with MOSS 2007 to develop Internet Content Managed Sites.



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Disclaimer

The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in anyway.

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