Review: Essential .NET (Volume 1: The CLR)
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Published: 07 Oct 2003
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Abstract
A review of the book "Essential .NET, Volume 1, The Common Language Runtime," written by Don Box with Chris Sells
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Review

Review: Essential .NET (Volume 1: The CLR)

Book Written By Don Box, Chris Sells, published by Addison Wesley

Introduction

The book “Essential .NET, Volume 1, The Common Language Runtime,” written by Don Box with Chris Sells will take readers on an in-depth look at the CLR and the inner-workings of the .NET Framework in order to build better applications through a better understanding of how the CLR works.

Structure

The book’s table of contents is -

1. The CLR as a Better COM

2. Components

3. Type Basics

4. Programming with Type

5. Instances

6. Methods

7. Advanced Methods

8. Domains

9. Security

10. CLR Externals

There is also a list of figures and list of tables in the book, which was strange to see in a book of this nature (as they are usually seen in education textbooks and not development books). Just by looking at the contents, I can see that there may be some critical misses when it comes to exploring the CLR in depth (as it appears to be focusing on classes and methods), which is one of the places where the book may fall short.

Intended Audience

I got the feeling straight away that this book was designed for people with knowledge of COM and how it worked as the first chapter is almost nothing but COM terminology and a little history lesson (which seems to be de facto in all .NET books these days).

I was almost instantly blown away by the technical knowledge and assumptions made by the author. The book got into some deep territory in Chapter 1 with some detailed explanation of assemblies (perhaps a bit more than anybody should know).

Writing Style

In the Preface, it is stated that “[his] terse writing style tends to make a “Don Box book” a challenge to get through” and that “experience has shown [him] that [he is] horrible at writing tutorials and primers.” The first few chapters will tell you this very clearly (and I should thank him for the warning).

The author clearly has the knowledge, but (as I feel sometimes) has problems telling other people that knowledge. This creates a writing style that makes the book seem more complicated than it actually is and takes some getting used to.

Contained Information

I wasn’t too sure what kind of information to receive from the book. The blurb made it out to be an in-depth look at the CLR, but the actual contents made it out to be more of a C# programming guide.

That isn’t quite fair though. The book does give insight into the CLR, but it is more of a programming book. For example, in chapter 5 (Instances), the book goes very deep into reference types and value types and it goes pretty deep into their workings and examples of their uses.

That’s not to say that the book’s content isn’t great. The content is very in-depth and really describes the life-cycle and the integration of the key components of classes and CLR execution.

Educational Content

The book’s content is mixed in educational value. There are some very insightful looks into the CLR and the .NET Framework in general, but there are also some very basic examples of class declaration and instancing).

As the book progresses, it looks into some topics that are more specialized to certain applications (e.g. Security policies and application domains).

For You?

This book is definitely not a beginner's book and you should have some knowledge about C# and the .NET Framework’s workings before taking on this book.

Personally, the book has taught me things about the CLR that I didn’t know, but it hasn’t really changed the way that I code (apart from improved my C# skills and taught me more about AppDomains and security).

If you already know a lot about programming over the topics in the book, then you may not get much out of it as many of the concepts revolve around actual programming.

Summary

This book was an interesting read because of its look into the CLR and .NET Framework. Although the content seemed to be programming-focused (i.e. C#-code and not CLR-inner-workings), it is still a good and interesting look if you want to know.

 

Content : 6.5 / 10

Layout : 8.5 / 10

Overall : 7.5 / 10

Total : 75%

 

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