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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: A+ Certification for Dummies
Publisher: For Dummies
Authors: Ron Gilster
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Great Book / Lacking in Dos/Windows

This is a great book to study for the exam. Written in easily to remember english which is a rarity in computer certification books. I got 85-Core/90-DosWin, but I feel I would have got a lot lower on the DosWin section if not for my previous experience.
So plain and simple:
To pass Core - great
To pass DosWin - barely

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: ASP.NET for Dummies
Publisher: For Dummies
Authors: Bill Hatfield
Rating: 3/5
Customer opinion - 3 stars out of 5
Will help those wanting to transition from ASP to ASP.NET

I have developed using ASP for about a year, so I wasn't exactly "new" to the whole ASP thing. I already learned how to develop database-intensive websites using "Beginning ASP Databases," ISBN:1861002726 . When .NET became the new thing, I needed something to get me up to speed.

The whole reason I got this book was because I wasn't sure what was the difference between ASP classic and ASP.NET. I got the impression that this book might fill in some gaps. The gaps were created when I attempted to get started using the O'Reilly books but that didn't work. They were more reference-oriented, so I got lost.

This book did a fine job of making me feel comfortable in the transition to .NET by explaining what was the same or similar and what was different. After reading this book, I basically came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to have to learn a new syntax and that with almost no effort, I could write simple .NET pages immediately using my ASP classic foundation with any editor of my choice.

I also learned, to my surprise, that one can still use ASP classic techniques in ASP.NET pages. For example, if you still want to use the old way of form handling, you can.

The author explains common VB.NET syntax, which is great for those familiar with VBScript. Then the author talks very simply about objects, which you'll see in .NET. The author also does a good job explaining the differences between form handling in ASP classic and how it works in .NET. Form validation and server controls (form elements) are then explained.

Up to that point (ch17) in the book, things went well for me. However, I became disappointed when chapter 18 came along, which deals with working with databases.

Some of the previous comments indicated that the book is weak in its attempts to describe the database techniques. In all of my web design experience, databases are at the heart of everything I have done, so I was disappointed to not get the sense that I could handle all of the database tasks I will certainly run into.

For example, when I tried to connect to an MS Access database on my IIS server using the examples listed in the text, I got an error that the workgroup file is missing or locked, and was not able to connect to the database. The book doesn't address potential problems of this sort. I was able to use the book example and connect to a SQL server database just fine, but quickly discovered the book's lack of information beyond just displaying database data and making simple updates.

Also, you have to have access to Internet Information Server and a database and have permissions to set that stuff up if you want to try working with a database, so you may not be able to get your feet wet anyway.

I have found in my experience that the database stuff can get really complex when the task requires for example that the database display results must be broken down into a certain number of results-per-page, certain amounts of information displayed, sorting results, and of course formatting. As a result of this, I am hunting for a really good book focusing on databases with ASP.NET.

Additionally, I was disappointed with the author's web site. I visited it once hoping to find a lot more information. He lists a discussion forum, CD content download, and Book Corrections, which I thought would be useful. They were not at all useful to me. Especially disappointing is the online forum, which when I last counted, had less than 20 posts.

Overall, I think this book helped reduce the initial worries I had about making the transition. Yes I can now write a .NET page that can collect some information from a form, validate it, and operate on it. Yes I can write a page that can fetch and display some database content. Can I write a database driven website just like I did with ASP classic? No.

In my opinion, data driven websites are where the Internet has headed, and if I am to be a successful web application developer, I must be able to use different technologies (including .NET) to handle all of the data. This book has not given me the knowledge tools to do just that.

I give it 3 stars because it was useful in helping me see that a lot of what I already know can transfer over to .NET.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: User Interface Design for Programmers
Publisher: Apress
Authors: Joel Spolsky
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
A book to get you thinking

This book won't tell you everything to know about UI design, but what it does tell you will make your interfaces better. It's a quick but entirely worthwhile read if you're new to the topic.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Defensive Design for the Web : How to improve error messages, help, forms, and other crisis points (Voices That Matter)
Publisher: New Riders Press
Authors: 37signals, Matthew Linderman, Jason Fried
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Featuring 40 guidelines to prevent errors

Defensive Design For The Web: How To Improve Error Messages, Help, Forms, And Other Crisis Points by the "37 signals" team of Matthew Linderman and Jason Fried is a straightforward guide for web designers to creating sites that are less likely to encounter problems that give the browser errors such as "file not found" or worse. Black-and-white screenshots and highlighted tips add a strong visual and example component to the discussed principles. Featuring 40 guidelines to prevent errors, hundreds of real-world examples from companies like Amazon and Google, a simple test to evaluate one's own site, and much more, Defensive Design For The Web is a "must-have" resource for anyone charged with building or maintaining a website bigger than a digital breadbox.