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Review Review: Head First C#

Discussion in 'Articles, Reviews and Interviews' started by tripwire45, Mar 18, 2008.

  1. tripwire45
    Honorary Member

    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    Authors: Andrew Stellman and Jennifer Greene
    Format: Paperback, 778 pages
    Publisher: O'Reilly Media, Inc. (November 26, 2007)
    ISBN-10: 0596514824
    ISBN-13: 978-0596514822

    Review by James Pyles
    March 18, 2008

    Like all the other books written for the "Head First" series, this one is "built for your brain". What that's supposed to mean is that it's written in a way that emphasizes different methods of learning. According to the back cover, "Using the latest research in cognitive science and learning theory to craft a multi-sensory learning experience Head First C# uses a visually rich format designed for the way your brain works..." Trouble is, different people learn in different ways. In other words, not all brains work alike. I'm an extremely visual learner. Will this book work for me?

    What is actually being said here is that the book isn't a "text-only" book but instead, it uses different presentation methods to get its point across. One look at the "cartoons" on the back cover will give you a clue as to what you can expect when you actually open up the book.

    Since I'm something of a traditionalist, my first glance inside the book had me a little confused. All of the little figures, word balloons, and such were kind of distracting. When I write a review, I'm looking for key pieces of information including who the target audience is, what major points are to be covered in the book, and so on. I had to try and tame my "ADHD-side" in order to focus enough to find what I was looking for.

    Actually, once you get used to how the book is styled, it's not so bad. In fact, if you're the right kind of reader (one who gets bored with the standard textbook format), you'll probably really appreciate how this series presents information. Of course, I've spent the entire review thus far reviewing the "Head Start" series rather than this book in particular. Let's see what it has to say about learning C#.

    Fortunately, there's a "What you need for this book" section which basically says you need Visual Studio 2008 Express Edition (which is free). There's no "Who Should Read this Book" section in the Intro and you don't find out "Why you should learn C#" until the first chapter. I suppose the authors assume that you wouldn't buy the book if you didn't want to learn the language. Despite the fact that the book seems huge, the stated purpose is to get you writing code fast. They even explain that IDE means "Integrated Development Environment", so you aren't presumed to know a lot on the topic to get started.

    The first chapter is something of a "build up" to what you can expect to learn and to do relative to C#, but then again, it's called "Visual Applications, in 10 minutes or less". That's a powerful promise to someone who not only has never written in C# before, but to those out there who may not have much of a programming background at all. Just how "newbie" can you be and still learn from this book?

    The "there are no Dumb Questions" FAQ section answered that for me. It's sort of obvious by the title, but going through the actual Qs and As, you see that they're written for someone who doesn't have to have seen Visual Studio before and maybe has never coded before. I must say that continuing to move through the book, I was impressed on not only how detailed the information was but how "readable" it was. When a book and book series makes the promises "Head First" does, I'm naturally skeptical. The "hype" presented by Head First C# isn't hype, it's promises that they can keep.

    If you want to learn C#, aren't sure what you're doing in the first place (the typical feeling a newbie gets), and are willing to see this book through, I highly recommend Head First C# as the C# tutorial of choice. Even if you are an experienced programmer, there's plenty of content within these pages to keep you interested. Buy the book, have at it, and have fun.
     
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  2. Mitzs
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    Mitzs Ducktape Goddess

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    Jesus trip, how do you keep all this different stuff straight in your head? Studying python and reading about C# and no telling what else your fingers are in. My head would have blown up by now. Nice review though.
     
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  3. dmarsh

    dmarsh Terabyte Poster

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    I'd prob reccomend one language at a time until you feel comfortable with at least one language..:biggrin

    The head first series seemed to start with java and Kathy Sierra and Bert Bates, its a good series and well respected for beginners.

    Impressive to see you take on C# and Python both at once as a beginner, goodluck !
     
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  4. Mathematix

    Mathematix Megabyte Poster

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    Never heard of the Head First Series. Haven't read the entire review (because I'm tired from work, bth), but is this book in keeping with the latest VS 2008?

    No more books for me right now, though.
     
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  5. tripwire45
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    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    You need Visual Studio 2008 Express Edition (as it says in the review) to be able to code in C#. I'm not suggesting that I try to learn two programming languages at once, but I *can* look at this book from the beginner's point of view and see how easy (or not) it might be to learn C# with this book.

    This actually leads me to a question that I was going to ask in the Programming forum when I got to it...with an eye on developing (but not limited to) web applications, after Python, what language(s) would be best to learn? I was thinking (eventually) of PHP because it's used so frequently on the server-side, but there might be a more logical progression (and I may ask this question in the Programming forum anyway, just because people who frequent that forum may not all read this review).
     
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  6. Phoenix
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    Phoenix 53656e696f7220 4d6f64

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    James

    Is the book theory regurgitation or does it walk the newbie through some actual projects pretty early on?
    I'm sick of tired of books that just go into the first ten chapters explaining what an array is, enough that it's turned me off the programming books I have to hand, I've been keen to learn a language, C# is high on my list but wasn't sure it was the best fit for a first language

    Can i hit the ground running with this book? (I learn by doing) :)
     
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  7. dmarsh

    dmarsh Terabyte Poster

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    Depends what you wanna do really, they are probably about the same difficulty wise.

    PHP is more of a narutal progession from perl or python I think but i've never touched it so don't quote me.

    C# would be a more natural fit for your sharepoint experience, so it really depends where you wanna take this...

    I believe the easiest comparison is with ASP .Net or JSP for most people, but it can also be used for pure scripting taking the role of the MVC Model and Controller like C# or Java.
     
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  8. tripwire45
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    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    The first chapter really is called "Visual Applications, in 10 minutes or less" and you are starting out in "doing stuff" right away. What you might want to do is hop by your local library or bookstore and thumb through a copy to see for yourself. If this particular book isn't available, try any "Head First" book, since they're all formatted pretty much the same way.

    Thanks for the advice, dmarsh26. I'm still a loooooooooooong way from learning Python with any level of competence to be taking up a second language (well, JavaScript maybe), but it's nice to plan ahead.
     
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  9. Mathematix

    Mathematix Megabyte Poster

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    Sounds like they're saying that the book was written for the latest iteration of visual Studio. C# exists for VS 2005 for instance as well. :)
     
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  10. tripwire45
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    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    True. They mentioned that you can use older versions, but you wouldn't be able to take advantage of all of the book's content.

    I was about to edit my prior post, since I've been writing about what languages I might pursue after Python (or at least when I get a lot more comfortable with Python...which'll be awhile). I forgot to mention that I'm also reading:
    Information Architecture for the World Wide Web and The Principles of Beautiful Web Design (having finished HTML Dog: The Best-Practice Guide to XHTML and CSS), so I am pursuing multiple learning streams at the same time.
     
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  11. Mathematix

    Mathematix Megabyte Poster

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    The reason why books are eager to teach you about arrays is because the concept of a finite number of indexed elements of the same type is critical to the solution of many problems. The most immediate that comes to mind are strings; the very text that you are now reading is a two-dimensional array of characters used to form words and sentences. Can you think of a better way of representing this text in a program? :biggrin
     
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