Learn the Kinect API – New Microsoft ‘Start Here!’ guide shows how – #bookreview

Learn the Kinect™ API
Rob Miles
(Microsoft Press, paperback, Kindle)

The Kinect sensor  is a popular peripheral for Microsoft’s XBox 360 video game systems and Windows PCs. The device contains a video camera, a directional microphone system, and a depth sensor.

Software developers are using the device “to advance the field of computer interaction in all kinds of exciting ways,” the author notes. “It is now possible to create programs that use the Kinect sensor to create a computer interface with the ability to recognize users and understand their intentions using a ‘natural’ user interface consisting of gestures and spoken commands. In addition, the device’s capabilities have a huge range of possible applications, from burglar alarms to robot controllers.”

If you want to learn how to program with the Kinect application programming interface (API), this new book in the popular Microsoft “Start Here!” series can get you moving along the right path toward becoming a developer.

But there are three key assumptions that may slow your start. You are expected to “have a reasonable understanding of .NET development using the C# programming language.” And: “You should be familiar with the Visual Studio 2010 development environment and object-oriented programming development.”

Also, “if you are a C++ developer who wishes to learn how to interact with the Kinect sensor from unmanaged C++ programs, you will find that the code samples supplied will not [emphasis added] provide this information.” All of the code samples are written in C#.

Rob Miles, a programming professor at the United Kingdom’s University of Hull, has organized his well-written, 250-page book into four parts:

  • Part I: Getting Started – Provides an overview of the Kinect and how to hook it up and get it working with your PC.
  • Part II: Using the Kinect Sensor – Covers sensor initialization and introduces each of Kinect’s data sources –video, depth, and sound – and how to use them in programs.
  • Part III: Creating Advanced User Interfaces – Illustrates how the Kinect SDK performs body tracking and how programs can use this information. Also shows how Kinect data can be combined to create augmented-reality applications.
  • Part IV: Kinect in the Real World – Focuses on how the Kinect can interact with external devices, such as MIDI devices and robots.

Learn the Kinect™ API offers several ideas for how you can use the Kinect’s video, sound, and depth-response capabilities in your own programs. One example is using the Kinect’s directional microphone feature so that a spoken password “only works when you say it in one part of [a] room, or you could have different [spoken] passwords for different parts of the room,” Miles points out.

It’s a bit of understatement to say that Rob Miles enjoys working with the Kinect device. “I’ve had,” he writes, “more wow moments with this little sensor bar than I’ve had with much more expensive toys that I’ve played with over time.”

Si Dunn

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Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual, Lion Edition – #bookreview #in #mac #windows

Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual, Lion Edition
By David Pogue
(O’Reilly,
paperback, list price $29.99; Kindle edition, list price $23.99)

I own and use three Windows PCs during a typical day. But sometimes (don’t ask why), I find myself forced – forced – to use my wife’s Macintosh.

Grrrr. Where do I click? Where are the other mouse buttons? And what do these geeky, alien icons actually mean?

Frankly, I’ve hated Macs for a long, long time. And I’ve especially hated the smug, “Everything’s simpler on a Mac!” attitude that peppy Mac users seem to radiate whenever they are around us gray-haired Windows types who  have been messing with command prompts, anti-virus software, and the Blue Screen of Death since (seemingly) the War of 1812.

That being said, I am a big fan of New York Times tech columnist David Pogue and “The Missing Manual” book series he created.  I use several of O’Reilly’s “Missing” manuals on a frequent basis.

Pogue’s new book is now proving useful for me as a sort of Klingon-to-English translation guide when I am forced – forced –to use my beloved’s dearly beloved Mac.

But in all seriousness, if you are contemplating making the switch or have already switched from Windows to Mac (traitor!), you need this book. It is a well-written, nicely illustrated user’s guide with a strong focus on how to transfer documents and other files from Windows machines to Macs. Often, the transfers go smoothly. “It turns out that communicating with a Windows PC is one of the Mac’s most polished talents,” Pogue notes.

Sometimes, however, the transfers do not go well. Pogue’s huge book (691 pages) also points out some potential pitfalls and remedies, such as possibly losing “memorized transactions, customized report designs, and reconciliations” when transferring from QuickBooks for Windows to QuickBooks to Mac.

Switching to the Mac is organized into five parts:

  • Part 1, Welcome to the Macintosh – Covers the essentials of “everything you see onscreen when you turn on the machine.”
  • Part 2, Making the Move – Covers “the actual process of hauling your software, settings, and even peripherals (like printers and monitors) across the chasm from the PC to the Mac.” Includes steps for running Windows on Macs, “an extremely attractive option.”
  • Part 3, Making Connections – Shows how to set up an Internet connection on a Mac and use Apple’s Internet software suite.
  • Part 4, Putting Down Roots – Gets into more advanced topics “to turn you into a Macintosh power user.”
  • Part 5, Appendixes – Two of the four appendixes cover installation and troubleshooting. One is the “Where’d It Go?” Dictionary for those trying to find familiar Windows controls “in the new, alien Macintosh environment.” And the fourth appendix offers “a master keyboard-shortcut list for the entire Mac OS X universe.”  

Switching to the Mac offers sound reasons (1) why you may prefer to stick with certain Windows for Mac programs on your new Mac and (2) why you may want to abandon certain Windows programs written for Macs and learn to use the Mac programs that are better than, say, PowerPoint or Notepad, for example.

If you happen to be addicted to Microsoft Access and Microsoft Visio, you have a separate choice. You can either switch to FileMaker and OmniGraffle or keep a Windows machine sitting close to your new Mac.

You won’t be alone as a user caught between two different worlds. Writes Pogue: “A huge percentage of ‘switchers’ do not, in fact, switch.  Often, they just add.  They may get a Macintosh (and get into the Macintosh), but they keep the old Windows PC around, at least for a while.”

In my case, you’ll have to pry the Windows keyboard and mouse from my cold, dead fingers. But I’ll keep this hefty book with me, to use both as a how-to guide and as a bludgeon, each time I have to go into the Macintosh wilds and battle the Lion.

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Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, freelance book reviewer, and former software technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist. He also is a former newspaper and magazine photojournalist. His latest book is Dark Signals, a Vietnam War memoir available now in paperback. He is the author of a detective novel, Erwin’s Law, a novella, Jump, and several other books and short stories.

 

Programming Perl, 4th Ed. – The long-awaited update has arrived – #bookreview #programming #in #perl

Programming Perl, 4th Edition
By Tom Christiansen, brian d foy and Larry Wall, with Jon Orwant
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $54.99)

Since 1991, Programming Perl has been considered both the Bible of Perl and the go-to reference guide for those who use this popular “mixed heritage” programming language.

Publication of this newly updated edition is good news for the legions of programmers who use Perl every day or are in the process of learning it.

Programming Perl last was updated 12 years ago, just when Perl v5.6 was being released. The current Perl release is v5.14, and, as the authors note, “Perl v5.16 is coming out soon.” This 4th edition focuses on v5.14 and its major new features and improvements. But it also previews features that will be offered in v5.16.

The new edition (1130 pages) has several new chapters for Perl programmers, and a few now-out-of-date chapters and experiments have been removed. Among the updates are “greatly improved” Unicode support, “even better” regular expressions, and more emphasis on CPAN (the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network), to highlight just a few.

This is not a guide for programmers planning to tinker Perl 6. The authors contend: “Perl 6 is really a ‘kid sister’ language to Perl 5, and not just a major update to Perl 5 that version numbers have trained you to expect. This book isn’t about that other language. It’s still about Perl 5, the version that most people in the world (even the Perl 6 folks) are still using quite productively.”

Perl was “[i]nitially designed as a glue language for Unix,” they add. So there is a distinct Unix bias even at the “Hello World” level in this book, and this may leave some Windows-centric beginners lost, puzzled and turning to the web for basic tips on how to program in Perl on Windows machines.

Perl novices, in fact, should not start just with this book but add it once they know they plan to stick with Perl programming. The authors recommend beginning first with Learning Perl by Randal Schwartz, brian d foy, and Tom Phoenix. They also provide an extensive list of other documents and resources for beginning, intermediate and expert Perl programmers.

Nonetheless, the authors states that “Perl is an easy language to learn and use, and we hope to convince you that we’re right. One thing that’s easy about Perl is that you don’t have to say much before you say what you want to say.”

Easy to learn, yes. But there’s also a lot to learn, as this well-written, hefty book shows and illustrates.

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Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, freelance book reviewer, and former software technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist. He also is a former newspaper and magazine photojournalist. His latest book is Dark Signals, a Vietnam War memoir available soon in paperback. He is the author of a detective novel, Erwin’s Law, a novella, Jump, and several other books and short stories.

Node for Front-End Developers – Writing server-side JavaScript applications – #bookreview #in

Node for Front-End Developers
By Garann Means
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $14.99; Kindle edition, list price $7.99)

Node is a JavaScript platform used to create server-side applications, communicate with the client, work with data, create dynamic web pages, and handle other tasks.

According to the Joyent Incorporated’s nodejs website: “Node.js is a platform built on Chrome’s JavaScript runtime for easily building fast, scalable network applications. Node.js uses an event-driven, non-blocking I/O model that makes it lightweight and efficient, perfect for data-intensive real-time applications that run across distributed devices.”

Node’s library has many modules created by developers who have focused on automating server-side development. But Garann Means’ new, 45-page book shows how you can get started programming for back-end servers using Node and JavaScript.  

Node.js is easy to download.  And, according to Node for Front-End Developers: “Node is easy to set up or very easy to set up. Node runs on Unix-compatible systems and, more recently, Windows.”

The how-to-get-started instructions, however, are a bit sparse in this thin book, and virtually nonexistent for Windows. Beginners who don’t have much experience with JavaScript may puzzle over a number of basic “What now?” and “WTF?” issues. 

Sparse information for Node beginners, however, is not limited to Node for Front-End Developers. I checked several other sources of  Node documentation and found similar problems. You’re just supposed to know this stuff, I guess. 

As one example, I followed the book’s instructions to create Node’s important package.json file, then discovered that what I had downloaded from Nodejs already contained a package.json file. In fact, it was now in several subdirectories. Was I supposed to edit it, instead? Delete it and replace it with my file? Had I just screwed up the installation by creating my own file?

After a lot of horsing around with node and npm at the command line and getting strange results at the not-quite “Hello World” level, I happened across a small note on the GitHub.com website. It stated that Node’s “Windows builds are not yet satisfactorily stable but it is possible to get something running.”

Especially if you resort to package managers to help you out.  And maybe get assistance from a Node guru. [See UPDATE below.]

Yes, I was indeed attempting a Windows setup, and I did get Node to partially work. But after several tries at reinstalling, rebooting, debugging, and attempting to supplement the book with conflicting bits of  information downloaded from the web, I gave up having “fun” with Node. (UPDATE: Recently, I reviewed my command line procedures a bit, looked again at my files and subdirectory structure and tried again. This time, Node works fine at the “Hello, World” level and beyond. I stand by my criticism that this book’s how-to-get-started instructions should be made clearer for Windows users. But I am at fault, too, for not figuring out what I was doing wrong much sooner.)  

Your results likely will be much better than mine, especially if you have more than novice experience with JavaScript.  and are using something other than (and better than?) a Windows machine. 

As for Node for Front-End Developers, the rest of the book appears to be an easy-to-use guide to getting a basic understanding of the Node platform. The code examples look good and are preceded by well-written explanations. I have now tested some of them successfully and plan to try a few of the longer, more-complex examples soon. wish I could have tested more of them. But I intend to keep this book and try Node again once easier and more stable Windows options are available.

The book’s chapters are:

  • Chapter 1, Getting Node Set Up
  • Chapter 2, Serving Simple Content
  • Chapter 3, Interaction with the Client
  • Chapter 4, Server-Side Templates
  • Chapter 5, Data Sources and Flow Control
  • Chapter 6, Model-View-Controller and Sharing Code

How-to-get-started instructions are vital in any programming and developer’s book, in my view. And they need careful preparation and presentation for every major operating system that is supported.

Countless beginners are looking for new programming and development paths and challenges, and many of them will buy books that are beyond their experience level so they can try to learn faster and backfill as they go. Most of them also won’t have the latest-and-greatest hardware and software. Therefore, minimum requirements need to be spelled out clearly, as well.

Don’t let my blunderings with Windows dissuade you from considering this book. Node has been hot, and if you have JavaScript experience at the browser level, Node for Front-End Developers can help you learn how to work on back-end servers, too.

It pays to be versatile in today’s fast-paced tech world.

But yeah, I probably do need a Mac and a Linux machine flanking my Windows PC.

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Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, freelance book reviewer, and former software technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist. His latest book is Dark Signals, a Vietnam War memoir available soon in paperback. He also is the author of a detective novel, Erwin’s Law, a novella, Jump, and several other books and short stories.

Using Microsoft InfoPath 2010 with Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Step by Step – #bookreview

Using Microsoft InfoPath 2010 with Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Step by Step
By Darvish Shadravan and Laura Rogers
(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $34.99; Kindle edition, list price $31.99)

A 21st century Shakespeare might write: “All the world’s a form, and we are just filling it in.”

One of this book’s authors contends (not completely in jest) that “forms run the world. Imagine modern life without forms, both paper and digital–it’s not possible! Everything that is known and recorded about you, from your birth city to your magazine subscriptions, to  your preference of aisle or window seats–yes, all of this information was entered in a form at some point in time.”

Microsoft InfoPath 2010 is used to design and build electronic forms, as well as gather data, without writing code. Meanwhile, SharePoint Server 2010 “offers a robust architecture for managing access to data connections and external systems.” SharePoint is Microsoft’s suite of software tools aimed at making it “easier for people work together,” whether in the same office or scattered around the planet.

This well-written and nicely illustrated book shows how to bring the two products together in powerful ways that (1) enable InfoPath forms to be created and formatted and (2) integrate data from SharePoint and other company systems. InfoPath forms also can be hosted on SharePoint.

The book is aimed at “any information worker that needs to build and use electronic forms that will be stored in SharePoint.” Its goal is to “teach you the basics of building and using InfoPath 2010 forms in a SharePoint 2010 environment.”

The writers assume you are at least a “savvy Office and Windows user.” It is helpful, but not mandatory, to also have at least some basic familiarity with SharePoint Server 2010. “However, even if you’re not a SharePoint guru, most topics in this book should be within your grasp,” they point out.

If you do not have a SharePoint environment in your company, “InfoPath 2010 supports the creation of forms in Microsoft Office 365,” the two authors note. Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud product that provides online access to a variety of programs for communicating and collaborating.

InfoPath has been around for a few years and recently was given a significant update. But many businesses and computer users do not have it.

That’s not show-stopper when InfoPath and SharePoint work together, the authors point out. “If you create your forms as browser-enabled form templates, users who don’t have InfoPath installed on their computer can still work with the form in a browser. This lets you share business forms with a variety of users, including employees, customers, and vendors.”

The 446-page book has 14 chapters. The first four chapters show how to create and format forms using InfoPath. The remaining chapters focus on using InfoPath with SharePoint.

According to the two authors, “the mission of this book is to help you understand how to create business forms that provide a pleasant, reliable, and intuitive experience for your users and customers,” they write.

The process of creating, formatting and publishing forms is shown and described in clear, succinct how-to steps. Practice files can be downloaded from a Microsoft site, and the exercise topics range from the basics of form design to building an approval process and working with SharePoint views and dashboards, to (1) “control what fields are displayed at any given time” and (2) “generate reports from any information in SharePoint lists and libraries.”

The authors add: “SharePoint libraries, specifically form libraries, are well suited for storing and managing InfoPath forms.”

InfoPath’s native language is XML, “perhaps the single most powerful method of storing and sharing structured data to come along since the advent of digital computing.” Creating electronic forms has long been a code-intensive process.

InfoPath hides most of the XML behind an easy-to-use interface. And XSLT (Extensible Style Sheet Language) style sheets also “‘sit in front of’ the underlying XML and transform it into the rich and easy-to-use forms that InfoPath can create.”

The book’s illustrations, short paragraphs, step-by-step lists and example files can all help readers get up to speed quickly, whether Microsoft InfoPath 2010 is used with Microsoft SharePoint on a company network or via the cloud, by way of Office 365.

Si Dunn‘s latest book is a novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry and several short stories, all available on Kindle. He previously worked in the telecommunications industry as a software and hardware tester and technical writer.

Send in the Clouds: 2 New SharePoint 2010 Books from Microsoft Press – #bookreview

Microsoft Press recently has released two new books intended to help attract and train more users of  its SharePoint 2010 software and services. 

SharePoint is Microsoft’s suite of software tools designed to help “make it easier for people work together,” whether they are in the same office or scattered around the planet.

One of the new books focuses on SharePoint Foundation 2010, “the software that will get organizations started using SharePoint.” It is aimed at readers who “need to understand how to accomplish what they need to do.”

The other book is intended “primarily for IT professionals, IT architects, and IT decisions makers who want to understand the capabilities of SharePoint in the cloud….”

Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010 Inside Out
By Errin O’Connor, Penelope Coventry, Tony Lanphier, Jonathan Lightfoot,
Thomas Resing and Michael Doyle

(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $49.99; Kindle edition, list price $39.99)

Microsoft SharePoint is a suite of tools that enables an organization or business to “share, exchange, and distribute information to their employees, partners, shareholders, and customers.” The software “is designed around an easy-to-use web-based interface that is fully integrated with Microsoft Office,” the six authors say.

If you are completely new to SharePoint Foundation 2010, read two easier books first,  Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Plain & Simple and Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010 Step-by-Step. Then tackle this “Inside Out” book.

This new “Inside Out” edition is intended “for readers who have some experience with SharePoint Foundation 2010 and are fairly comfortable finding their way around the product,” the authors emphasize.

SharePoint 2010 has been termed a significant improvement over earlier versions, and the “entry-level component,” SharePoint Foundation 2010, can be downloaded free from Microsoft.

The authors point out that “[y]ou don’t need to be a programmer (although it is helpful) to use the building blocks in SharePoint 2010. Even without using code, you can create highly customized business solutions in a matter of minutes.”

SharePoint Foundation 2010 “provides a robust collection of services that can be used to build powerful web solutions.” And: “It forms the basis for a number of other SharePoint products such as SharePoint Server 2010 and Office 365,which incorporates Microsoft’s SharePoint 2010 cloud-based solution, called SharePoint Online.”

Microsoft hopes, of course, that you will move up from “free” to “paying customer” once you begin to understand SharePoint’s many possibilities beyond Foundation.

The 760-page book is well-written, adequately illustrated, and follows a progression where “the early chapters concentrate on what you can achieve by using the browser; later chapters detail features from the perspective of the power-end user, administrator, and developer.”

The 16 chapters are:

  1. Introduction to Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010
  2. Administration for Business Users
  3. End-User Features and Experience
  4. Creating Sites and Workspaces by Using the Browser
  5. Designing Lists and Libraries
  6. Creating and Formatting Webpages
  7. Adding, Editing, Connecting, and Managing Web Parts on the Page
  8. Managing Site Content
  9. Working with External Content
  10. Using and Creating Workflows
  11. Integrating SharePoint with Microsoft Office 2010
  12. Taking Lists and Libraries Offline
  13. Managing Site Settings
  14. Creating, Managing, and Designing Sites by Using SharePoint Designer 2010
  15. Customizing the User Interface
  16. Developing SharePoint Solutions by Using Visual Studio 2010

The “Web Parts” in the Chapter 7 title refer to “a key component of any SharePoint installation.” A Web Part either receives input or displays content or sometimes does both. One example given is a module that displays weather information. A user can change the weather display’s city or ZIP code without affecting any other users visiting the site.

If you buy the paperback, you are also given a link where you can download a “fully searchable companion ebook” in PDF format, and the ebook periodically is updated.

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Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Deploying Cloud-Based Solutions
By Phillip Wicklund
(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $34.99)

“Of all the great benefits of SharePoint in the cloud…business agility may be the most compelling cloud driver yet,” writes Phillip Wicklund in his new book.

“Consider time-to-market. With SharePoint in the cloud, you can literally have a cloud-based collaboration site spun up and ready for use within an hour of reading this sentence.”

This book should be on your reading list if you are helping a company decide whether – and how – to migrate to the public cloud, or a private cloud, or a hybrid cloud, using SharePoint 2010.

In some business settings, Wicklund notes, “SharePoint can be tough to deploy and maintain, primarily because significant expertise and experience is required to do so successfully. Many companies can’t afford or (for other reasons) are unable to recruit the necessary talent. Because of this, taking SharePoint to the cloud is especially appealing to them. When in the cloud, they can essentially outsource that costly, time-consuming administrative overhead.”

Part of Wicklund’s book is devoted to introducing – and, no surprise, touting — Office 365.

A Microsoft website describes that company’s new Office 365 service as “familiar Microsoft Office collaboration and productivity tools delivered through the cloud. Everyone can work together easily with anywhere access to email, web conferencing, documents, and calendars. It includes business-class security and is backed by Microsoft.”

SharePoint Online, of course, is one of the services available through Office 365.

But, while costs go down when you migrate to the cloud, so do your levels of control and flexibility.

Yet, as this book notes, there are at least two types of cloud: public and private (where you can hold onto more control). And it is possible, using SharePoint 2010, to work in both clouds.

“By creating your own private cloud,” the author says, “you benefit from all the automation, scalability, reliability, and self-healing that any great cloud ought to provide.”

Wicklund’s book is divided into three major parts and 11 chapters.

Part 1 is “Introducing SharePoint in the Cloud.” The chapters are:

  • Chapter 1: Introducing Microsoft SharePoint Online
  • Chapter 2: Office 365 Feature Overview
  • Chapter 3: Planning for SharePoint Online

Part 2 is “Deploying SharePoint in the Public Cloud.” Its chapters are:

  • Chapter 4: Administering SharePoint Online
  • Chapter 5: Identity Management and Authentication
  • Chapter 6: Migrating to SharePoint Online
  • Chapter 7: Introduction to Customizing and Developing in SharePoint Online

Part 3 is “Deploying SharePoint in the Private Cloud.” The chapters are:

  • Chapter 8: Introduction to Creating a Private Cloud
  • Chapter 9: Introducing Multitenancy in SharePoint 2010
  • Chapter 10: Configuring Tenant-Aware Service Applications
  • Chapter 11: Configuring Tenant-Aware Site Collections

The term “multitenancy” in Chapter 9 is definined first in terms of an apartment complex where individuals live in private spaces but share the complex’s resources. In SharePoint, the term relates to “data isolation, delegated aministration, and delegated configuration.” You can “‘host’ multiple department or customer sites, for example, within the same infrastructure and farm, whereby you can guarantee autonomy and isolation among those ‘tenants’ of your SharePoint farm,” Wicklund writes.

“Each department has its own set of site collections that they can centrally manage and administrate.”

The 448-page book has one appendix titled “Server, Online SharePoint, and Online Dedicated Compared.” It has a well-detailed index. And the code samples can be downloaded from a Microsoft site.

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SharePoint is not a product that fits conveniently into one big how-to manual. If you are thinking of adding SharePoint to your business, or expanding how you use it, be prepared to consider getting several books, these two included.

Si Dunn

Learn Microsoft Visual C# 2010 with ‘Start Here!’ Book for Beginners – #programming #bookreview

Learn Microsoft Visual C# 2010
By John Paul Mueller
(Microsoft Press, paperback, list price $34.99; Kindle edition, list price $27.99)

I like the “Start Here!” series from Microsoft Press. The books, in my view, provide a convenient, affordable and approachable way to develop some new skills in a hurry, without having to take classes.

There is nothing wrong with taking classes, of course. Most of us in America’s workforce (working or unemployed) need all of the new skills and education we can get. But if, like me, you’ve checked the prices of online classes lately and also looked at your checking account, you likely need some affordable alternatives.

If you are ready to tackle Microsoft Visual C# 2010,  you definitely can “Start Here!”, with John Paul Muller’s well-written new book.

Learn Microsoft Visual C# 2010 has been “conceived and created for the complete novice–someone who has no programming experience at all.” And it uses a hands-on approach to learning. It is not recommended for experienced programmers seeking to pick up another language.

But if you are, indeed, a complete novice to computer programming, you probably should read another “Start Here!” book first: Fundamentals of Microsoft .NET Programming by Rod Stephens. Or, at least have that book handy to read in conjunction with Learn Microsoft Visual C# 2010.

The “Fundamentals” book explains and illustrates many essential terms and concepts, such as routines, call stacks, and passing parameters. And sometimes, in Learn Microsoft Visual C# 2010, you will be referred to some of the definitions and examples found in Fundamentals of Microsoft .NET Programming.

The software download section of Learn Microsoft Visual C# 2010 may be a bit confusing for some beginners. Some of the screens and choices have changed somewhat and some have been combined since the book was published.

And while the author says “you don’t need a copy of SQL Server to work through the examples in this book,” the “Code Samples” discussion in the book’s introduction says otherwise.: “…your system should have Visual Studio 2010 and SQL Server 2008 installed.”

I left an SQL option box unchecked when setting up for my download, but I still received all of the SQL files. And, altogether, I spent a ridiculous 14 hours going through (and sometimes sleeping through) the download and installation process on a somewhat aging PC running Windows XP and a not-so-blazing wi-fi connection.

Your results will vary. So do not be in a hurry, even with a fast system. Set aside plenty of time to do things right once you start the process.

But at least all of the software tools used in this book are free. And once things are up and running, the author takes you right into the process of learning how to develop applications using C#.

His book is divided into 12 chapters:

  • Chapter 1: Getting to Know C# – Includes the Integrated Development Environment (IDE), creating and testing a Windows Forms application project, viewing its code, using Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), creating and testing a WPF project, and viewing the code produced.
  • Chapter 2: Developing a Web Project – Focuses on developing two web applications using C#. Also shows how to download and install tools used to develop web applications.
  • Chapter 3: Using Simple Data Manipulation Techniques – Introduces data manipulation and shows how to use Language Integrated Inquiry (LINQ) to manipulate data.
  • Chapter 4: Using Collections to Store Data – Shows how to create containers to store similar data together, and explains three different types of data storage.
  • Chapter 5: Working with XML – Shows how to use eXtensible Markup Language (XML) in tasks such as saving applications settings and working with web services.
  • Chapter 6: Accessing a Web Service – Shows how to access free web services using two techniques that C# provides: Representational State Transfer (REST) and Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP).
  • Chapter 7: Using the Windows Presentation Foundation – Focuses on using WPF to “help you create applications with impressive interfaces and new features that aren’t available using older C# development techniques.”
  • Chapter 8: Working with Libraries – Programmers try to reuse code as much as possible, to speed up the development process. This chapter shows how to create and use a library as part of  an application.
  • Chapter 9: Creating Utility Applications – “…shows how to create applications that have a command-line interface so that you can work with them quickly and automate them in various ways.”
  • Chapter 10: Using LINQ in Web Applications – Shows how to use LINQ to ask an application to supply certain types of data.
  • Chapter 11: Working with Silverlight Applications – Silverlight “works with multiple browsers and on multiple platforms”  and “can transform your C# application into something that works everywhere.” This chapter focuses on understanding “the basics of Silverlight development using C#.”
  • Chapter 12: Debugging Applications – Shows how to apply tracing techniques learned in this book to the process of finding and fixing errors.

The code samples used in the learning exercises can be downloaded from a Microsoft site. And, once you work your way through the book, the author says you may want to move up to another book, Microsoft Visual C# Step by Step.

You also may be eager to take a C# class, online or on campus, where you can learn from an instructor and fellow students.

It all depends on your resources and how committed you are to programming in C# after you “Start Here!”

Si Dunn