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Pro Silverlight 4 In VB 181

jddp writes "MacDonald is a programmer's programmer, and Pro Silverlight 4 in VB is a model of what a programmer's guide should be. He explains a mass of technical information in considerable detail without losing the big-picture. His clear and concise exposition of concepts and functionality is never confusing or needlessly repetitive. The book's organization is logical, yet the chapters can be read in isolation, as the need or interest arises." Keep reading for the rest of jddp's review.
Pro Silverlight 4 in VB
author Matthew MacDonald
pages 896
publisher Apress
rating 9/10
reviewer jddp
ISBN 1430235489
summary An invaluable reference for professional developers wanting to discover the new features of Silverlight
One thing this book doesn't provide is an overview of the subject for a novice trying to get the big-picture. After the briefest of introductions (10 pages), the author leaps right into building applications. Nor does it provide every technical detail you will need to complete your application. (That's why we have the web). However, if you want a book that can take you from having a rough map of the territory to being a self-sufficient Silverlight developer, I highly recommend this one.

Starting from the fundamentals of Silverlight such as XAML, Layout and Elements, McDonald rarely puts a step wrong as he winds through the technical details, progressing to specific functional areas such as such as Animation, Data Binding and Web services. Each chapter provides a brief overview of the functionality addressed before stepping through the programming details. His code examples are concise, but also convey the significance and use of the features very clearly. The examples do not sprawl across pages and pages, as in weaker tutorials, but they do build upon one another when necessary. Working code implementing the examples from the text is available at MacDonald's personal site for anyone to download — but apparently only in C# (as far as I could see. The VB version may be coming later, just as the VB book lagged the C# version). Due to the intelligent choice, structuring and clear implementation of his examples, I have found them a useful jumping-off point for "real-life" applications on several occasions. The author has gone beyond the scope of the book in at least one case, implemented an "advanced" capability (support for large file up/downloads via a Web Service) that I was specifically interested in.

As mentioned, the book does not contain an extensive technology overview and this is reflected by the absence of many of the buzzwords associated with Silverlight from the index. You will find no mention of RIA services. MVVM is only touched upon in the context of the new SL 4 support for the Command pattern. (Even so, his brief explanation is a great example of MacDonald's lucid and economical expository style. You could trawl the web for a long time without finding such a straightforward explanation.) However, while MacDonald does not attempt to convey any over-arching architectural vision, he is perfectly capable of clarifying some abstract design concepts. In Chapter 4 of the book he is already tackling the intimidating-sounding topics of Dependency Properties, Attached Properties and Routed Events. By the time you've read a few pages you're wondering what all the fuss was about. After less than six pages, MacDonald is working through a meaningful application of attached properties (a custom layout panel). Most of the chapter is devoted a detailed explanation and illustration of Mouse and Keyboard event handling, and to the new Commanding support in SL 4.

A final caveat: This is not a book for someone wanting to catch up on what's new in Silverlight 4. The information is there, but it is dispersed among the relevant sections of the old book, and there is no helpful index. Contrary to the impression given by the back-cover, the very occasional "What's New" boxes don't help much in homing in on new features. In fact, the organization of the material and most of the content is unchanged from the SL 3 edition, so I wouldn't buy this if you already have that book.

While reading this book, I sometimes wished for a wider view: discussions of the merits of different architectures; comparisons to design patterns used in other technologies, and so forth. This book will not be much help in defining the architecture for your next mega-app. This is a book to seize on when you need to get a handle on programming specific Silverlight features fast. You won't learn about every possible shortcut or dead-end on the trail, but you will never have to wonder where the heck you are.

While this book it isn't all things to all developers, it is hard to overstate its consistent intelligence and clarity, or its sheer usefulness (to programmers). Programmers just aren't supposed to be so articulate – are they?

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Pro Silverlight 4 In VB

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  • I dunno, I think Virginia Beach is a pretty nice place.
    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      I dunno, I think Virginia Beach is a pretty nice place.

      Have you actually been there? The place sucks donkey balls.

      • Stationed there for 3.5 years in the Marine Corps, so yeah, a few times. Been stationed in worse places, so I think it's pretty nice. YMMV.
        • Yes, it's a better place than Iraq and Afghanistan, but that's not saying much.

          VB is really a dump as far as US-based beach towns go. There's a billion draconian rules about what you can and can't do, there's cops everywhere (it's a virtual police state), and the beach is tiny and crowded. You're not allowed to throw frisbees on the beach for god's sake. The town is just a shitty tourist trap.

          Not only that, the surrounding cities in the Hampton-Roads area are shit too: Norfolk, Newport News, and worst of

          • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

            If you want beaches, there's dozens of better places in the US to go, including pretty much the entire state of Florida (which isn't exactly a great state either, but it's better than VB).

            You missed the obvious .. the Outer Banks

            • Of North Carolina? Yes, those are pretty nice, and a short distance from VB. But you do need to be very careful of the undertow there.

        • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

          Stationed there for 3.5 years

          As per Grishnakh .. VB sucks as a town and/or beach in general. If you were there for 3.5 years and didn't get to the outer banks then shame on you.

        • I was born in Chesapeake. The GP is correct: It sucks huge, throbbing, unwashed members.

  • This entire story is a troll.

  • is like a gourmand's gourmand eating at mcdonald's.
  • by sirdude ( 578412 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @04:16PM (#34931674)
    While I don't know if this review is a "paid" review or not, I do know (from personal experience) that a lot of them are. Could /. consider adding a rule or guideline requesting the reviewer to state if he/she was given the book for free or otherwise compensated for the review?
    • by jddp ( 1975404 )
      Great proposal. Here's my disclaimer. I was given the book for free. I forked out $50 for its predecessor (SL3). I thought the old book was great, and I loved the additions to the new one too. The main problems with it are those I identified in the review. My first para was probably too gushy, and who reads beyon the first para? I have easier ways to earn $60 (spare me the jokes), and were I paid in cash I wouldn't have spent it on an update to a book I already owned. Said that in the review too.
    • While I don't know if this review is a "paid" review or not, I do know (from personal experience) that a lot of them are. Could /. consider adding a rule or guideline requesting the reviewer to state if he/she was given the book for free or otherwise compensated for the review?

      Er, most proper book reviewers get their books for free.

      • by sirdude ( 578412 )
        It's not very *proper* of them if they do not disclose that fact, is it? Considering the fact that most of /. believes in openness, neutrality and transparency, I'd say that disclaimers are a necessary prerequisite.

        I can also tell you that it is often the case that authors are requested by the publisher to "recommend" reviewers for them to approach. If suitable targets are not acquired, they leverage their own private and consequently partisan fleet of buoyant yes-men to craft 1000-word critiques suitable

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      it's not only reviewer who is suspect but the guy who gets to plaster his amazon ref id on the link.. hint to slashdot: it's more credible if the reviews chosen actually tell something of the book and there are no ref id's.

  • Matthew MacDonald has been doing Silverlight books since version 1.0. I own his C# flavor of this 4.0 book. He's one of those authors that waits until a new technology has soaked in a bit, his book reflects that (as opposed to getting the book out their as soon as 4.0 was released). This book came out about 4 or 5 months after Silverlight 4.0 was released.
  • by mctee155 ( 862932 ) on Wednesday January 19, 2011 @06:55PM (#34933732)
    I promised myself that if I used the .net framework on a project again I would shoot myself in the leg.
    So after I post this I am going read my ruby on rails book.

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle