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Recommended readings for:

Beginning VB Programmers
Intermediate VB Programmers
Advanced VB Programmers

For Beginning VB Programmers


(4 planets out of 5)

Learn to Program with Visual Basic
by John Smiley

Fantastic training for programming newbies related in an intresting and conversational style.


    I have to admit that I approached this book with skepticism.  In his summary of this book, the author claims that he believs that he can teach anyone to program.  I've seen too many books that fall short of this lofty goal, but within just a few minutes of picking up this book, I became a convert.

     This book is less like a programming manual and more like a novel.  In an interesting and refreshingly different style, Smiley teaches the reader programming development skills using an unusual conceit.  Narrating from the first person, he tells the story of how he and the students in his Visual Basic class developed an application for the Bullina China shop.  Doing so, they 'coincidentally' learn the in's and out's of developing programs in Visual Basic!

    Don't be fooled by the fact that this book is a narrative, into thinking that it couldn't possibly cover anything substantial.   Quite the opposite is true, because by the time the reader is finished, he or she will have progressed from a completely cluless amateur to having a very solid grasp of programming fundamentals.

    The book also comes with a complete working version of Microsoft Visual Basic 6 Working Model Edition and is very reasonably priced.  I heartily recommend it.


(3 planets out of 5)

Step by Step Microsoft Visual Basic 6
by Microsoft Press

Solid hands-on instruction for the complete programming neophyte.

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    If you have experience programming in other computer languages, this book will be a little too slow for you.  However, if you have absolutely never programmed before in your entire life and are looking for a book that is easy to understand and takes you through programming using a step-by-step approach, this is a good book. 

     The book is as hands-on as every beginner's book should be.  After the first few chapters you'll already be using Visual Basic to create simple programs.  More advanced structured programming concepts such as FOR NEXT loops, variables, and IF-THEN processing follow in the next few chapters.  By the end of the book, you'll be able to write fairly sophisticated programs that display multiple dialog boxes and access input via databases or text files.

     If you are looking to cut your programming teeth on VB, this book is a solid choice.

For Intermediate VB Programmers
learning Object Oriented Development


(4 planets out of 5)

Beginning Objects with Visual Basic 6
by Peter Wright

A thorough tour de force on object oriented design and programming fundamentals.

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     You are familiar with VB, and structured programming, and maybe you are so good that you can almost create apps in your sleep.  But you keep hearing about object-oriented programming...supposedly you can cut your development time with it, and create more reliable apps.  You know the features are all built into VB, but nothing in the VB tutorials lay out exactly how it should be done.  What do you do?

     If you fall into this situation, this book is the perfect answer for you.  Wright takes you from designing objects using the basics of Unified Modeling Language (UML) to actual object implementation (using classes) to creating reusable components (ActiveX servers and controls).  He uses easy to read language and an engaging conversational style.

     I have read quite a few books on Object Oriented Programming, but for learning OO fundamentals, I have not read any books better than this one.


(4 planets out of 5)

Visual Basic Source Code Library
by Brian Shea et al.

Planet Source Code on the go!


     Ever wish you could get to Planet Source Code while you're away from the Internet?  If so, this book is the next best thing to connecting online!  Frequest visitors of Planet Source Code will recognize the names of the many co-authors of this book, because they are mostly Planet Source Code contributors! (including yours truly) 

     This book is an invaluable resource with hundreds of pages of raw source code, collected from all over the world.  The source code ranges from string parsing routines to managing Windows NT PDC groups and users.  This book is easily worth it's weight in gold!

     ...And lest you think I'm just pushing my own book, you should know that neither myself nor any of the other authors get any royalties from this book...we've already been paid.

For Advanced VB Programmers


(4 planets out of 5)

Wrox Professional Series

Great in-depth summary of using MTS and MSMQ.

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     Personally, I feel that the Microsoft Trasaction Server product has some serious flaws. The lack of handling of state-full objects breaks the object-oriented paradigm, making it cumbersome to utilize in object oriented apps.  Add to that the lack of implentation of resource sharing in this version of MTS, and the result is a package that (to me) adds little real value to any OO project.   However, if you purchase this book, you are probably already committed to this technology and have only one requirement--you need to understand how to use

    If you fall into this category or are implementing Microsoft Message Queue (which I DO recommend) to create a fault tolerant system, I heartily recommend this book.

     Microsoft is promoting their Distributed interNet Architecture (DNA) as a platform for developing fully distributed applications, but they don't seem to be having to much success at getting DNA adopted. The fault lies in trying to push DNA as a solution in itself, rather that pushing the ideas that make it good, i.e.:n-tier client/server applications, Client transparency, Distributed applications, etec. 

     The core of DNA is the use of business objects in a middle tier of the application, and this is 'supported' by two new technologies: Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS), which is a component manager offering full transaction support; and Microsoft Message Queue Server (MSMQ), which provides the fault-tolerance required in distributed application. Together, these make it simple to build into the DNA dream.

     This book gets straight down to basics, introducing the concept of DNA and showing it in action. It allows developers to grasp the whole structure of distributed and web-based applications, and then see how the various parts and built and how they interact. There is also  a case study around which the book is organized, giving a logical progression through the principles and implementation of the design, development, and final result.

If you're serious about using MSMQ and MTS, then this book is for you.


(5 planets out of 5)

Building Object Applications That Work
by Scott W. Ambler, Richard S. Wiener

Absolutley brilliant tutorial on creating Object Oriented Systems.

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    All of the books in the Planet Source Code 'recommended readings' are best-of-breed tomes.  However, I am not exagerating in any way when I say that this book blows every other book I've read in the past 2 years completely away.

      Let me first warn you that this book is NOT a Visual Basic oriented book--it is an OO book.  So if you still get confused when you hear the word 'method' instead of 'sub' or 'function',  or if you think 'inheritance' only refers to how much you can expect to receive from your favorite aunt when she dies, you are probably not ready for this one yet.  However, if you have a solid understanding of OO concepts and the experience to match, then this book can take your object designs, frameworks and implentations from the advanced level into the rarified air of the top 10% of all OO system designers and builders.

      Am I gushing about this book?  I probably am, but I feel it deserves it.  A reviewer from echoes my sentiment when he says, " When it comes to actually designing and implementing object technology, the second volume of Ambler's trilogy is undoubtedly the best book so far in the software development business."

   If you're a frequent reader of OO texts, you'll find that most are more like religious treatises on the benefits of OO, rather than pragmatic instruction on how to build real-world systems.  This book strikes a defiant stand against that trend.  From topics like 'How to build an A-class object framework' to 'Constructing superior diagrams', to "How to persist objects', this book delivers invaluable information that would take a new OO developer years to discover on his/her own.

   If there is anything bad to say about this book, it is that occasionally the reader is forced to endure a little bit more of Ambler's ego than would be desired.  (Let's put it this way...the guy created his own modeling notation and named it after himself)  However, in a genre where egos seem to run more rampant than rednecks do in the country-side, Ambler is hardly the worst offender (...right away, Booch comes to mind right away as being much worse...).

     So to summarize, this book is fantastic, and I heartily recommend it.  It will help almost every developer do his/her job much better than they are now.



(3 1/2 planets out of 5)

Visual Basic 6 Business Objects
by Rocky Lhotka

Thorough tutorial on enterprise-wide and n-tier system design using VB.

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      Enterprise-wide and n-tier system design is the hottest rage now.  But even many experienced developers find it difficult to sort through and tackle all of the design issues required to implement a successful n-tier system.  Even more programmers are confused as to why n-tier systems are even necessary.  If you fall into either of these categories, this book is an absolute must read.  The author assumes an understanding of basic object oriented concepts, so if you are new to or uncomfortable with OO programming concepts, a better book to start with would be Beginning Objects with Visual Basic 6. However, if you have a rudimentary foundation in OO, Lhotka presents all of the information that you need to take your apps from the single-user level to the Enterprise level, in a simple and easy-to-read writing style.

      Lhotka starts his book with a history lesson on traditional 2 tier systems (also called client server systems), explains their limitations and shows why Enterprise-wide applications could not be built on such a framework.  He then goes on to explain exactly what an n-tier system is, and how separating out the business-logic from an application GUI can result in increased code reuse and dramatically reduce development time.

     While concepts are great, the devil is always in the details.  Here Lhotka comes through well by actually providing working code which substantiate his ideas.  Since n-tier GUI clients have the flexibility of being implemented in many ways, Lhotka demonstrates how to create GUI clients in VB, Excel, and even on the Internet using Visual Interdev and Active Server Pages (ASP).   He also gives sample code of a traditional 2-tier database system, a 3-tier system using Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM) object an an application server, and a 3-tier system using Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS) the reader can appreciate the differences between them.

    If you are serious about learning the basics of building Enterprise wide n-tier applications, then I heartily recommend this book.


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