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A Review of "ASP.NET Distributed Data Applications" from Wrox Press

by John Peterson
ASP.NET Distributed Data Applications

Why I'm Reviewing This Book

I was recently asked to review "ASP.NET Distributed Data Applications" from Wrox Press. Normally I tend to shy away from doing book reviews because in order to do it right, it usually means I have to read the book and that takes time! On this occasion, I decided to make an exception because the book is by Alex Homer and Dave Sussman. Both are excellent authors which bodes well for the book, but the real reason I'm going to spend the time is because I don't usually use a lot of books and yet I basically wore out my copy of the original "Professional Active Server Pages" which was written by none other then Alex Homer. Here's hoping this one will be just as good...

Are You Building A Distributed Data App?

This is as good a place to start as any... while this is not a shortcoming of the book by any means, before you buy it you need to make sure you're buying the right book! Just for the record... this is not a book about building a basic ASP.NET web site, nor is it a book designed to teach you about ASP.NET or SQL Server. This book is specifically targeted at the developer that needs to do something with their data on the client-side. That means dealing with data not at the server, which would explain the term distributed in the title and the fact that several chapters of the book examine dealing with different clients.

The Intro Chapters

Often when I get a book, I tend to breeze through the first couple chapters in order to get to the meatier parts quickly. Don't. The first couple chapters in this book are excellent. The first explains exactly what a distributed application is, the second covers ADO.NET and the components you'll be using, and the third gives you excellent coverage of XML as it relates to the topic (basically chapter two redone using XML).

Unlike some books, the introductory chapters in this book are important and lay the groundwork for what's to come... don't skip them or you probably won't get as much out of later ones.

Speaking of later chapter...

Chapter 12: Reconciling Update Errors

While the book has the standard chapter on updating remote cached data (Chapter 9), what it also covers, that most other books do not, is what to do when the update doesn't go smoothly. This topic is usually neglected or glazed over. That's not the case here. The coverage of how to deal with update errors when returning remote data back to the main data store is not only detailed, but also explained well.

Clients, Clients, and More Clients

This is more a warning to potential buyers then an actual complaint about the book, but I thought I should share anyway.

Because the book covers so many options for remote date clients, you might end up wanting more in-depth information on whatever client(s) you decide to use in your application. As I said, I'm not really faulting the book for it... after all, it would be HUGE book if it contained everything about every possible client, but if you start doing detailed work with a particular client you might need to buy a separate book to cover it.


Overall the book definitely gets a thumbs-up. While it's not for the ASP.NET newbie, it covers what it sets out to cover clearly and completely. The topics are introduced and explained well which helps eliminate the "when will I ever need to know this" feeling you can get from some of the other Wrox books.

Assuming you already know your .NET and are looking to build this type of application, this book is a must read. If your .NET skills aren't what they should be, throw an ASP.NET/.NET book into your cart along with this one.

In terms of the competition, another book that I've heard good things about is "Distributed .NET Programming in C#" from aPress. If you're really into C# give it a look, otherwise I'd stick with this one.

When all is said and done, unless you're a C# junkie, it's not really a question of which book to buy... this is the book. The question you need to ask yourself is: Am I building a distributed data app?

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