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4.1 out of 5 stars
Essential .NET, Volume I: The Common Language Runtime
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71 of 86 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
I have read Don's Essential COM and was really looking forward to this one, having read the reviews.
While "E COM" covers things you must know about COM, "E .NET" often tells "deductions" about things you aren't supposed to know.
Writing style: how would you like "Having said that" and "To that end" in every other paragraph? Also Don spends 3 sentences where 1 would suffice and doesn't spend enough were it's needed. And I thought I knew his style.
First 1/3 is quite a waste if you already have spent a few month working with .NET and digging MSDN. And if you haven't the last 2/3 aren't for you.
If you expect insights into .NET technologies, such as ASP.NET, Forms or ADO.NET, pass it by. This book as title claims is just that - CLR. It tells you too much about CLR if you just want to use it and not enough if you want to port it to another platform.
There was pretty good explanation of COM-.NET relationships, well, to be expected. If it was up to Mr. Box he wouldn't let COM go, even though he sympatizes MTS team that had problems employing it for AOP introduction.
If you expect to do a lot of porting/plumbing this book is for you.
I'm giving it 3 points and I will leave it to dust until I come across a problem that's been addressed in the book.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
When Microsoft introduced COM to the development community, many developers became utterly confused. It was not uncommon for developers to say things like "What is COM?". In late 1997, Don Box taught all who read "Essential COM" the intricacies of COM. Don convinced many of us that COM really could be a better C++. Also in "Essential COM", Don distilled the "meat" of COM when he covered Intefaces, IUnkown, QueryInterface, Classes, Objects, and more.
Well, Microsoft released the first version of .NET (place your own definition here) including the Common Language Runtime almost a year ago. In Don's latest book "Essential .NET, Volume 1: The Common Language Runtime", he does it again. Yes, Don, with the help of Chris Sells, has extrapolated the key parts of the Common Language Runtime (CLR) or what Don might call a better COM.
Before I get into the meat of the review, I want to say that, in my opinion, this book is not for a beginning programmer and not necessarily even a beginning .NET programmer. If you are a beginning programmer and want an understandable, but not as deep, technical explanation of the CLR then I recommend you read "Applied Microsoft .NET Framework Programming" by Jeffrey Richter. If you are an experienced COM developer or you have spent some quality time programming in the .NET environment then I think this title ("Essential .NET, Volume 1: The Common Language Runtime") will be a great addition to your library.
As the title ("The CLR as a Better COM") suggests, the first chapter takes a look at the origins of COM and provides the reader with the problem that the CLR is supposed to correct. This chapter is moderately useful to the experienced COM developer as it does set the intent, tone, and style of the chapters that follow. To the development newbie (who I wouldn't recommend read this book), this chapter will be less useful as the newbie is less concerned with where we came from and more concerned with they can live in the environment. I found the first chapter kind of fluffy.
The second chapter, "Components", is where the reading gets good and meaty. When Don and Chris say "Components" they mean every little bit and byte that makes up the component. As a result, chapter two covers Modules, Assemblies, Public Keys, the CLR Loader, Resolving Names to Locations, and Versioning. It is in this chapter that, among other things, I learned that of the four assembly types the Module type is the only one that does not contain an assembly manifest. I loved the graphic illustrations in this chapter and the detailed description of what is *really* in an assembly.
The third chapter, "Type Basics", covers all things type. The Common Type System (CTS) is another of the many acronyms introduced by .NET. The CTS is, essentially, what guarantees us that a String in Visual Basic .NET is a String in C#. Well, the String type can further be defined with all of the technical makeup of a Type in the CLR. Don and Chris bust open the Type shell and describe what's inside. There are lots of little code snippets in this chapter and more great illustrations. I'm a very visual person so the code snippets really put many of the concepts into perspective for me. They also give me a head start when I head to notepad, a compiler, Anakrino, and ildasm to start doing some investigation of my own.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2003
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Don't let the first few chapters of this book fool you: this is a book for hardcore .NET developers. It shouldn't be the first book you buy about .NET, as it goes into incredible detail about the fundamentals of the .NET platform. For example, when you learn about using types on the platform, it's not just a pragmatic approach to writing code: it shows underneath how the system does what it does. This gives you a fuller view of the system, and lets some of the mystery disappear. The knowledge makes you a better "big picture" developer.
Don thinks at a high level, and writes very concisely as a result. By any other author, this book might've been a 1400 page mammoth; I'm amazed at the valuable data he's packed into just over 400 pages.
Some developers may the material in this book unattainable because of the concise and in-depth technical material. Those who do grok it will find it invaluable. This book was well worth the wait for me.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2002
Format: Paperback
I disagree with some of the poor reviews, because as the author states in the foreword: This is not a tutorial. So if you are new to the CLR read another book prior to reading this book.
That said, I find must of the book to qualify for a 5-star review. The chapters 6-10 are great! Also I like the discussion of the CLR loader in chapter 2. But most of the stuff in chapter 1-5 should be known to the reader of a book like this one, and I found the chapters a bit boring (this is why I only give the book a 4-star review).
I especially liked the discussion of the message based architecture in the CLR dealing with context, attributes, properties and message sink chains. This is used by the CLR during Cross-context, Cross-AppDomain and Cross-Machine method invocations and can be freely extended by anyone to implement interception based aspects/services.
The author explains very well the fact that the CLR defines a new managed execution model for managed code that you are encouraged to use to your benefit, but free to leave at any time. Don Box gives you the feeling that there is an OS underneath the CLR managed execution model, and that the CLR v1.0 ultimately will execute platform specific machine code. He is great at explaining the difference between the type information rich, "virtualized" world of the CLR and the type information poor, physical world of the OS and JIT compiler generated machine code.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book. Richter's "Applied .NET Framework Programing" covers the CLR from the programmers point of view. Lidin's "Inside Microsoft .NET IL Assembler" is a detailed guide to IL, ilasm and the managed PE file format. Don Box's excellent "Essential .NET Volume 1" bridges the gap-- leveraging your knowledge of the CLS to present interesting internal, runtime aspects of the CLR.
Some reviewers have complained that this is "yet another" introduction to .NET. The first couple of chapters do rehash the metadata structure (that is, assemblies, modules and members). These may prove tedious if you are already familiar with them, however they are probably too terse to serve as a useful introduction.
However the latter two thirds of the book are excellent. I particularly enjoyed the precise, informative discussion of contexts, MarshalByRefObject, ContextBoundObject and method call interception. The book occasionally delves into implementation details of the Microsoft's CLR 1.0. These are extremely interesting and practically useful insights.
That said, there are occasionally annoying typographical mistakes in the figures.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
This book is worth reading if you keep in mind that its main purpose is to uncover the little quirks and secrets of the CLR. As the author states, it isn't intended to be a tutorial and shouldn't be your first choice if you are new to .NET programming (I'd recommend the excellent Applied .NET Framework Programming by Jeffrey Richter as a good starter book). However, reading Essential .NET could potentially save you lots of time sifting through the MSDN documentation to find out why your program is not behaving exactly the way you think it should (you know, those little, tiny, nasty bugs that prove to be the hardest to find).
As with any book that tries to cover such an extensive ground as the .NET CLR is, there are tradeoffs in the depth and extent with which the author describes each subject. In this case, Box chose to highlight the details of the inner workings of the CLR that we, as programmers, must have present to make efficient and appropriate use of the runtime facilities. Chapters one through five deal with basic concepts that, in my opinion, are best left to an introductory book and are not worth more than skimming through them, although you could always find a golden needle hidden in the haystack. However, on chapters six and after, the book really takes off and you'll probably find new things to learn page after page.
Although the crucial details are clearly exposed, this book is by no means exhaustive, I believe it can be considered more as a base from where you can start researching further about the subject of your interest. For example chapter seven, "Advanced Methods", deals with stack/message transitions, proxies, sinks and contexts. All these concepts are very well covered but I didn't get the eureka! feeling until I read Ingo Rammer's Advanced .NET Remoting and could see those concepts in action and realize their importance.
All in all, a book that deserves a slot in your .NET library (a slot somewhere in between a pair of good tutorials and the in-detail books about the areas of the framework that draw your interest). I would consider it a good investment of your time and money and I also see myself coming back to it (specially back to chapter 6-10) as a refresher. -- Review by Julio G.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is hands-down the most valuable material I have read on the CLR or, for that matter, any .NET Framework topic. Period. With Don's legendary clarity and excellent ability to get to the core issues quickly, this book covers a lot of ground, covers it deeply and covers it well. The CLR is a huge topic, and as the title promises, this book deals with those features that are essential to mastering this technology.
Frankly, I fail to understand previous reviewers who disparage because they find the book lacks organization or is hard to follow. Like other books of this genre, such as Scott Meyers seminal book Essential C++, and Don's classic Essential COM, this book is not intended for the beginner, and it will probably require more than one reading to get the most out of it. That is by design. It is not a tutorial and it say so. If you have any concerns whether this is the right book for you, read the section "About This Book" in the Preface, page xx, (sample page 17 in Amazon's "Look Inside This Book").
If you have already gotten your feet wet in .NET and want to really understand the core technology that makes it all work, then I whole-heartedly recommend Essential .NET, Volume 1.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
There are like a zillion CLR books out there and overall, it's not the type of subject that normally keeps you glued to it. When I got Jeffrey Richther's Microsoft .NET Framework book, I was convinced no one was going to outdo him. Well, it's a close call, but I think they are both Superb books by excellent authors. I've purchased Don's stuff before and really liked it. This book lived up to its expectations.
I think his ability to communicate some of the more obscure areas of the CLR in a very clear matter is what makes this book shine. This book can be understood by anyone because of the writer's gift for writing...but that's not to say it's a novice's book. Wherever you are in the .NET learning curve, there's something for you in this book.
If you really want to learn the CLR, this is a great place to start.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
I ordered this book 3 months ahead of the publish time. It arrived this morning and I just got some time to go through a few pages. It definitely worths the long waiting.
I turned to the last chapter CLR Externals right after read the preface. It focuses on the boundary activities between CLR and the legacy world. And it turned out that this is the *ONLY* place I found so far that clearly demostrates such concepts like managed/unmanaged pointers, stack transition between managed/unmanged world, COM Interop, CLR Hosting ect. (Of course, there is always the spec, which is everything but human readable).
Most other books only have a 100-feet above ground view of CLR. While Applied .NET Programming makes you stand right on the ground. Finally, with this one, you can dig underground and see what's going on there. And more important, why.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
Excellent piece of work. Like Essential COM, Essential .NET is essential reading for a fundamental understanding of not just the hows but the whys of .NET. Box moves easily from high level explanations of the motivations behind key architectural/design issues (like how the CLR emerged as an answer to the shortcomings of COM and MTS), to lower level pragmatic nuts-and-bolts stuff (like just how exactly are assemblies located). Nice thick cover too to stand up to ongoing use as a reference.
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