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REVIEW: A First Look at ADO.NET and System.Xml v. 2.0
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by Teemu Keiski
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Overview

A First Look at ADO.NET and System.Xml v. 2.0 is the latest book about data access in version 2.0 of the .NET Framework (Whidbey). The book was released to the public at the same time at PDC conference in October 2003 as its companion book, A First Look at ASP.NET v2.0 which I reviewed in my previous article.

The aim of the book is, as its name implies, to provide the first view to the new features of ADO.NET and XML in .NET Framework v2.0. The reader is supposed to have a peek at the directions, intentions and driving requirements that have been the basis for the development of the next version as well as get some "hands on" view of what's coming so that he or she is ready when .NET v2.0 arrives and is able to design applications to suit this evolution.

The book starts with an overview chapter that provides the roadmap for the rest of the book. All the new features that will be covered are briefly summarized so that the reader can have a solid picture of what's included in following chapters. Without hesitating the discussion starts right after this chapter, as you can see at the next paragraph, with a look at the major new features of ADO.NET v.2.0 and continues to provide the XML view of the aspect.  The next version of SQL Server "Yukon" is introduced in the context as an RDBMS for the next generation of .NET applications.

It is assumed that the reader has previous knowledge of ADO.NET and XML in .NET Framework. To try out the code examples the reader needs to have Technology Preview version of .NET Framework and Visual Studio.NET (Whidbey). This version is available for MSDN Universal subscribers and PDC conference attendees as well as for Whidbey alpha testers. Also note that this book is about Technology Preview of the product and therefore there's high probability that some implementations will change.

Basic Information

ISBN: 0-321-22839-1
The book has 297 pages in 8 chapters including the index.

Chapters

1. ADO.NET and System.Xml Version 2.0
2. Bulk Loading, Batch Execution and Paging
3. MARS, Asynchronous Commands and ObjectSpaces
4. ADO.NET and SQL Server "Yukon"
5. New Features of System.Xml
6. The XPathDocument2 Class
7. The XmlAdapter and SqlXml Classes
8. XQuery and SQL Server

The publisher, Addison-Wesley maintains a web site for the book at:
http://www.awprofessional.com/isapi/product_id~{6C3101B3-118F-4042-891B-650111A29D6E}/catalog/product.asp At the site you can download two sample chapters for the book as well as have a look at the other related information.

The authors have also a web site for the book at http://www.alanddave.com/books/8391/
The site provides code downloads both in VB and in C#.  There's also an errata as well as a more detailed table of contents included for the book and you can try out the sample code at online. It also worth to note that if there is going to be any updates or any new information related to the book, that is most probably going to be published at the authors' web site.

Pros

The book starts with a good overview chapter and it gives a feeling that there is a lot of interesting information provided and it got me excited. The first three chapters go through the main new features of ADO.NET by using basic terminology and simplified view to the things so that beginners are easily able to get the subject. Language used is clear and if you've ever read previous books of Alex Homer and David Sussman, you are probably very familiar with the style.

There's no doubt that absolutely the best part of this book is the information about the new XML features. These sections just rock! The reader is given great background discussion about things that have had impact on the evolution of XML generally, design of XML classes in .NET Framework v 1.0 and again to the design of XML classes in .NET Framework v 2.0. Reader gets solid understanding what have been the driving requirements and what the results are and how they are of benefit.

What's so special is the obvious insight and great expressing capabilities of the author that I haven’t seen such in XML books before! The XML books I’ve read have usually been either very boring by making repetition of the documentation or written with so incomprehensible logic that it makes it extremely hard or impossible to read but this book really is an exception.  The text is very rich and informative but still brief which makes it a pleasure to read. I just hope I can read complete books about XML which are as good as this is.

Cons

Unfortunately this book has a bit of the same problems in the ADO.NET v2.0 sections as its companion book had generally. As I said, ADO.NET v2.0 chapters were written using a simplified view to the things and I think it perhaps goes too far in this book. The content is OK from beginner standpoint but for more experienced reader it is just quick read through and then waiting for the next, more detailed book about the subject. The major disappointment and almost unpardonable thing was that ObjectSpaces were covered in only 6 pages!

With this book the lack of space is not any explanation as the book has only 297 pages so thinking reasonably there would have been at least 200 pages space for more detailed discussion about ADO.NET v2.0 (especially ObjectSpaces) even if the writing style generally would have been the same. Even though subjects are different, it looks bit odd as the book is written using two different styles. The other style is to give oversimplified view and the other gives relatively so much more information. It just disturbs as I would have wanted to know at least as much about ADO.NET as I got information about XML.

Conclusion
I'm going to be brief. If you want to know about new ADO.NET v2.0 features, get this book if you need to know the simple things and the very basics, but if you look for more detailed discussion I recommend you to reconsider. If you want to know about new XML features in the context, just get it!

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