This book provides a fairly broad treatment of Visual Studio and SQL Server. That's been my specialty for some time. When working at Microsoft University and over the last 20 years interacting with developers and other resources, I accumulated a wealth of information that's nowhere to be found in the documentation. When MSU folded, I moved to the Visual Basic documentation team where I was "permitted" to document Visual Basic but not SQL Serverthe documentation had to be "generic" and apply equally to all database backends. My books have tried to fill this gap between the language (Visual Basic) and the various versions of SQL Server.
In all of my books, I've tried to provide up-to-the-moment information, but this is really an impossible task, as Microsoft is constantly updating, fixing, and tuning the released products. I don't see an end to this constant cycle of early release, repair, and planned obsolescence as Microsoft attempts to maximize their profits by forcing development shops (and users) to buy their latest whiz-bang versions. It seems there is never enough time to get a product done right the first time and (sadly) never enough time to fix it once it ships.
So what have you learned from this book and its examples? That's a question only you can answer. What I've tried to do by writing this book is to make your work (and life) as a developer easier by passing on what I and others have learned over the years from working with and managing developers and other technical resources. No, I'm not the only expert out there, as well you know. There are many, many people that want to share what they know in an effort to help othersor simply try to make a buck. And yes, I have included their insights here as wellat least, the tips and techniques I endorse. I encourage you to continue to research and dig into other resources in your field and constantly hunt for other respected sources of information.
By experience, we've all found that Microsoft is not always (and, lately, not usually) the best source of information on its own products. It's ironic that in order to discover how a new Microsoft product or tool works, one has to find sources other than the Microsoft documentation. As a result, you and I spend countless hours scouring the Internet for the details of the basic functionality of the Framework(s) and the tools used to build Framework applications. We've also have to wade through far too many dated articles that apply to obsolete or beta versions. As a result, I asked Microsoft, SQL Server Magazine, and other folks that publish my work to purge their libraries of these dated articles. We've also found articles whose author is either ignorant, misguided, or misinformed, or simply has an alternate agenda. Knowing which articles contain valid, peer-reviewed, and technically sound information and which do not is not always easy.
I spoke to a senior staff member on the Microsoft Learning teamthe people responsible for writing the documentationasking why the help topics are in their current (pitiful) shape. She said their staff had been cut every quarter for the last few years and more cuts are planned. Microsoft had outsourced some of the work and was considering outsourcing more. Clearly, this strategy is not working. I certainly hope this trend can be reversedespecially since the list of new "features" being added to the technology keeps growing.
Just as clearly, Microsoft is not done. They seem to believe that it's their responsibility to constantly innovate and "update" the tools and platforms, servers, and infrastructure they expect you to use to design, code, debug, test, and deploy the applications you build. This is being done despite the reality that they don't have the people or resources needed to adequately test or document it. I'm of the opinion that there are just so many ways one can improve a hammer. So, many of our applications are fairly simple and need simpler, more easily understood tools to build them. We don't necessarily need all of the features they keep adding to their products. It seems that these easy-to-use "RAD" tools have gone the way of Visual Basic 6.0. Visual Studio and the Framework have grown progressively more complex. Given the upcoming changes to the fundamental way that applications are built (the Windows Foundation Classes), all I can see in the future is more and more "disruption in service" (as Ray Ozzie warned the attendees at TechEd Boston in June 2006).
In the coming months and years, I expect to see a fairly radical change in how Microsoft wants developers to address data access issues. We'll see DLINQ and Entity Data Modeling or EDM (another term for Object Spaces or Object Relational Modeling) make waves and attempt to win the interest of the development community. I don't plan to start writing in earnest about this technology until Microsoft decides to ship itbetter yet, consume it themselves. This means I encourage Microsoft to actually implement something (serious) with EDM or their new technology, and take it to the field as a real application before telling the world that Microsoft is ready for them to bet their own companies on the success and viability of the new and improved versions of the Framework, SQL Server, and Visual Studio.
If I've learned anything over the last 20 years working at or with Microsoft, it is that they are not going to stop changing as much as they can as quickly as they can. They seem to think it makes good business sense. So where does that leave you the developer trying to keep your skills up to date? Can you no longer depend on authors writing printed books? Perhaps not. As for me, I plan to switch my focus to EBooks (as I mentioned in the Introduction)at least for the foreseeable future. By publishing EBooks (or simply writing them), I think I can provide my insights and tips more quickly than if I have to wait for the paper books to grind their way out to your local bookstores. Frankly, this is an experiment. If I find that those who don't respect others' intellectual property (IP) rights tend to steal my content faster that I can write it, I'll find another way. Remember, much of the success of EBooks and the benefits they can provide hinges on you. If you seek out and download illegal copies of a book (or any media), you're contributing to the problem. Yes, I would really like to know if you think EBooks are a good idea or if you find someone stealing content. I also encourage you to provide feedback on this book and take advantage of the website setup to support it. Be sure to visit www.hitchhikerguides.net to ask questions, provide feedback, and interact with me and the others that provide support in that forum.