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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Microsoft ASP.NET Programming with Microsoft Visual C# .NET Version 2003 Step By Step
Publisher: Microsoft Press
Authors: G. Andrew Duthie
Rating: 2/5
Customer opinion - 2 stars out of 5
Could have been better

This book was rather hard to follow, and I think it was mostly because the author (G. Andrew Duthie) did not write clearly. For instance, in the debug chapter, he wanted you to view a document called 'trace.axd'. The author wrote, "Appending trace.axd to the base URL for the application will display the list..." I had to read that sentence about ten times and still did not know what it was asking me to do. The picture that followed helped me to figure it out. This is just one example, and since it was at the end of the book, the one most fresh in my mind.
If you are unfamiliar with ASP, I don't think the author had you in mind while writing this book. You can't read more than a couple of pages without it saying, "In classic ASP..." or "...unlike classic ASP, ASP.NET..." or something to those effects. This might confuse somebody who is new to ASP (and ASP.NET) as it provides more information that we really want to know about. At the beginning of the book he explains that ASP.NET is totally different from ASP. I think the author should have left it there and left ASP in the past (where I think it belongs). He did include an appendix on upgrading yor applciations from ASP to ASP.NET, which is good. But continuing to bring up "classic" ASP in the book I think is bad.
This book is divided into four parts. The first part is aimed at the beginner to help somebody new to ASP.NET start programming with the basic programming of VB.NET explained and what makes ASP.NET different from ASP. It also gives you a brief (too brief) introduction to the server components you can add to an ASP.NET web page.
For the final three parts the author really started losing me. It was like he was writing at level 3 and then shot up to level 8 between part 1 and part 2. He would casually write about topics and use terminology not defined earlier in the book. The only chapters I really got information out of was chapter 9 (Accessing and Binding Data, a brief inroduction to ADO.NET) and chapter 14 (Tracing and Debugging ASP.NET applications). Chapter 14 should have come MUCH earlier in the book. However, half of the examples provided did not teach me much, and often times did not work very well.
All in all, I would not recommend this book, and regret buyin it (and paying retail on top of that). There is much better out there.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Dynamic HTML: The Definitive Reference (2nd Edition)
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Danny Goodman
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
loved it, but a little dated now

In my opinion this is an awesome reference book for DHTML,HTML,CSS and the DOM. I have used this book so much that the cover is about to come off of it! The book is sectioned out by references (first HTML, then DOM, CSS, and Javascript). Each of the sections are then in alphabetical order. Also, each tag/function, etc has a compatibilty listed at the top showing what browsers and versions each command is compatible with. I use this book ALL the time.

Product: Book - CD-ROM
Title: CCNA Virtual Lab, Platinum Edition (640-801)
Publisher: Sybex Inc
Authors: Todd Lammle, William Tedder
Rating: 2/5
Customer opinion - 2 stars out of 5
Buy the CCNA Gold Edition Used.

This product offers nothing of value over the Gold edition except for drag and drop. Creating my first network, I was shocked that I was limited in adding only two switches and three routers. Not much playing around or building with that limitation!
Todd Lammle, the Gene Simmons of Cisco training material, forces you to upgrade for any additional functionality on this already extremily over priced, very basic program.
Do yourself a favor and save your money and buy the used Gold version.

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: MCAD/MCSD Self-Paced Training Kit: Developing XML Web Services and Server Components with Microsoft Visual Basic .NET and Microsoft Visual C# .NET
Publisher: Microsoft Press
Authors: Microsoft Corporation, Microsoft Corporation
Rating: 3/5
Customer opinion - 3 stars out of 5
Bought it, studied it, passed it.

Just like I did with the first two .NET exams, I am reviewing this book after taking the exam. I am pursuing the MCSD.NET to get proficient and comfortable with .NET as I can hardly discipline myself to study it on my own. For that purpose, this book was sufficient. I don't see why it shouldn't work for you as well. The book starts with a list of requirements for 70-320 and lists which chapters address them. Which is a good idea because it attempts to eliminate some of the discrepancies that I have encountered between what Microsoft lists as requirements, what curriculums and tutorials teach and what is actually tested on the exams. Ideally this list would serve as a checklist for my readiness for the exam but instead I used it to mark what this book covers thoroughly, just enough or poorly.
And there is plenty of poor coverage. The main fallback is that although the book covers most requirements it does not always go in depth. I had to pick up another book for a better idea on COM+. I think ADO.NET was best covered in the guides for Windows and Web Applications. The same applies for Tracing and Debugging. For these topics I found the above-mentioned literature and the MSDN library more effective. Some chapters provide only a summary of the topic but that seemed to be enough for my exam. For example, XML schema is a huge topic but this book only gives a definition of it, an example and how to validate an XML document against its schema. And on my exam nothing more was expected. The same goes for the chapter on Deployment and Installation.
I liked the chapters on Remoting, XSLT and the Advanced Web Services Programming. The topics themselves are interesting and I felt this book covered them quite well. I liked that the book was full of notes, summaries and chapter reviews. I went through them one hour before the exam.
The lab for chapter 5 on ADO.NET was cool. You're dealing with a database, you have to deploy two COM+ components, write a remotable object and configure all this via a windows service. Of course, my lab did not work by following the steps in the book. But once I understood the project, I studied all the concepts by themselves and then worked hard to get them to work together. You should practice such combinations! For e.g. calling one web service from another, writing SOAP extensions and using an XSD to validate the messages or trace them to the event log, etc.
Most other labs were satisfactory. I got more disappointed the more code the labs asked me to copy and paste and the less they explained what the code does and how it is written. I had to break down such code by myself.
Unlike the Web Applications guide, the sample tests in this book can be paused. I was also glad to see not only radio button questions but also checkbox ones too, just like in the real exam. Most questions do reinforce the lessons and labs; some however were just too simple and should have been combined with others or omitted altogether. The question that asks the URL to generate the WSDL for a web service is an example.
I took the sample exam without pausing and I failed miserably. Then I reviewed and practiced on the topics and tried again. I also took the exam with the book in my hand and paused after every question and researched the topic to find the answer. Finally, by the fifth time I passed the exam every time.