Posted by: rcosic | 20/02/2008

Book Review: MCPD Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-548): Designing and Developing Windows-Based Applications Using the Microsoft .NET Framework

Title of the book: MCPD Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-548): Designing and Developing Windows-Based Applications Using the Microsoft .NET Framework
Authors: Bruce Johnson and Mike Snell of GrandMasters, with Shawn Wildermuth
Publisher: Microsoft Press
Pages: 704
Links: http://www.microsoft.com/MSPress/books/10093.aspx

Overall mark: C

I remember my first passed exam in ‘ancient’ year 2001. It was the exam named 70-100: Analyzing Requirements & Defining Solution Architectures on that time, more recent, Visual Studio 6.0 platform.
That exam was alfa and omega of the Microsoft’s thinking on how to architect the theoretical basis on which it should be built everything regarding development, in time of class modules, COM, DLL hell, MTS, and distributed applications. It that time, when first that I’ve read on theoretical basis was Projecting the information systems by prof. Brumec (jeez, those melancolic informbiro times), and for the first time I’ve heard about some ‘white papers’ of MSF (Microsoft Solutions Framework).
If I would grading the book for preparation of that exam, it would probably get the worst mark. It was, on my pers opinion, the worst book I’ve ever read – what because of MSF concept by itself, which was everything but the praxis, what because of that fact that the answer for everything was – use Microsoft’s stuff, whatever solution you need. Just imagine: the solution was to use InterDev or FrontPage for web application! (instead of, of course, PHP, or at least DHTML).

In this book, and the book is especially considering Microsoft Press, the reflection of official thinking inside the Microsoft Envisioning team, it was made the important step forward and advancement toward the reality in development of IT projects (do not say, solutions).
In fact, there are no more draws of unnecesary and almost everytime questionable graphicons and ‘mind flows’ as waterfall idea, except in the second chapter. Why then is that advancement is in that that the terminology more ‘natural’ and clearer, the topics are more concrete, and not so much ‘conceptual’, but that’s unfortunatelly everything.

On the other side, I like the chapter lineage.

First chapter (Application Requirements and Design) has nice title, good firm developed subject and lots of good advices. For example, philosophy of ‘proof-of-concept’ projects is very good known for me because I meet it in everyday work, also the suggestions about buying or developing the parts ourselves.

The chapter that follows, which I rather jump over, but it’s there is: Decomposing Specifications for Developers.
Promising title, but it’s unfortunatelly nothing new. We are again guided to a logical model, and then logical architecture, and then on their evaluation (reading the third chapter continuously).
Jeez, Object Role Modelling is still there! It’s just like mother-in-law that just won’t go! It’s unbeliveable on how this concept is still pushed which generally doesn’t make sense and nobody uses (at least, nobody I know). Who uses it, people? In modern era of class diagrams, database diagrams, not to mention Workflow Foundation, who on earth would use ORM? Application layers are also there, phisical models, blah blah …

Next conclusion crosses my mind: as long as the technology, that means, development tools, do not get to the level of interpreting the theory, it doesn’t make sense to use this theory.

Example on that? Class Diagram.
How many of you created and worked with schemas of classes and components (not on paper, we still all do that), and maintained them and kept it actualized until the end of a project? I don’t think many of you. The reason for that: lack of technology, i.e. tools which would do the ‘hard work’ for us. Then comes class diagram in great style, and as a consequence – we use it. Collaboration diagram? Pseudo-code? No, thanks! I’ll use it when VS generates by itself the lifecycle of my class and when based on that I conclude that something is wrong and afterwards reingeneer that myself.

More about the evaluation and markings of application…

Now it’s called Design Evaluation (performance, maintainability, extensibility, scalability, availability, recovery, data integrity, use case correctness), but before, it was PASS ME analysis (acronym from: performance, availability, scalability, security, maintenance, extensibility). Moreover, there is also QoS (Quality-of-Service), Agile Development with all those Sprint phases, and so on.. Gosh, man just really starts to believe that someone really sits upon that and cares that nothing evil doesn’t happen. Well, that usually doesn’t happen. If this really is the case, still the errors might occur.

Chapters 4 and 5, which concern the visual appearance, i.e. GUI, will be soon (if not already) ‘swallowed’ by the WPF or Silberlait (and btw, don’t work for web). Chapter no. 6 is for children (I’ve just rest my underlining marker for a while), and for chapter no. 7 I’ve sturdly spent it (because it’s for the experts). Why splitting it because it is about the same subject? Why can we say instead: Component Design and Development?

Rest of the chapters until the chapter 12 follow the same premise as the previous booklets for such an exam; nothing new, nothing spectacular, nothing special to lament about. Besides, this ‘meat’ is probably very good ‘chewed up’ inside at least two exams (70-536, 526..). I’d say – redundant in this book and exam, but, once again – never too much to know too much (I hope).

Testing is something new what Microsoft has included in their philosophy of thinking, so the chapters 12 and 13 give somewhat refreshment to the story. Unit tests, integration and stress tests and explained, and more.
It’s interesting that company Ekobit has one good solution for working with the tests, so feel free to examine it a little bit more (free trial):

Test Manager

Also, code review, refactor code, triage of bugs – all the things used already (I hope you do), have their place in the book and also in MCPD certificate. About deployment and maintenance not to speak – by default included. It should be and it’s there.

And now: surprise!
Multimedia inside Microsoft’s applications! Hurray!
Naturally, don’t you evey think that new DirectX 10 is explained alltheway instead. It’s in fact about audio (wav, wma, mp3) and video (wmw, mpeg4) formats. Simpaticaly explained sampling, compression, streaming, and even Digital Rights Management (bah, we’re afraid of piracy, or what!).

And that’s all folks!

P.S. Don’t you worry, in exam there are again all-in-the-earth-known Contoso, Woodgrove Bank and Worldwide Importers. In other words, nothing new under the sun.

Kind regards,
Ratko.

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