So last month Packt Publishing contacted me regarding sending me a promotional copy of C# 2008 and 2005 Threaded Programming to review. This is the first time I have been asked to do a book review and decided to take them up on the offer.
Now I have been using ASP.Net for around three years now but I've never had to or decided to look into writing multi-threaded apps so the fact that this book was aimed at beginners meant that I was an ideal target audience for this book.
Packt shortly sent me the book and upon first looking at it thought it looked a bit ugly! I know you can't tell a book by its cover but this cover did put me off, the green and picture didn't do it for me but alas I carried on anyway.
The book is organised into several chapters and is example driven. What I mean by this is that it doesn't give you bags of theory and then an example, it takes the approach of you following along the code examples and then it has gaps explaining bits and pieces. More on this later.
The chapters within the book are organised in a way that as you progress each chapter delves into multi threading more. First of all it explains what multi threading is, then it looks as basic thread techniques, background workers, debugging multi threaded apps, thread pools all the way up to exploring the new future of multi threaded apps and new framework extensions to help with this. On the whole the chapter organisation made a lot of sense to me and allowed you to use what you had learnt before and build upon it. The one thing that struck me was that I expected ThreadPools to be talked about way before chapter 9 but that’s a minor thing.
One of the things I especially liked about this book is that at the end of each chapter you are given a quick pop quiz on the chapters content, this for me at least provided a quick way of ensuring I had understood the chapter and if I hadn't to go back and re read it, so this was good.
As I mentioned earlier the book is based on learning using examples and less about theory. Personally I'm not a huge fan of this technique; the writer Gastón C. Hillar does try to provide examples that are practical however I find that by simply following these you don't really learn what is going on; you learn how threading roughly works and that it’s there but when you need to use it in a real life application or you need to work out why something isn't working as expected you are left without the knowledge to solve these issues.
I do realise that this book is for beginners and is meant to get developers to look into and start writing multi-threaded apps and not be a complete resource, but personally I would prefer a touch more theory. In particular locking is over looked, what setting a WinForms app to [MTAThread] really means (you can't use dialogues for example). This was probably left out to try and keep things simple for beginners but not discussing locking or exceptions could mean bad practices are picked up and carried into production code.
It is worth mentioning that his book solely focuses on WinForm apps, it doesn't look into WPF or WebForms, and this is both a blessing and a curse in my eyes. With that said WinForms is simple to learn and the examples really do cover everything you need to get them working so if you have never used WinForms don't be put off reading this book, by the end of it you will not only know more about multi-threading but also how to write simple WinForm apps.
Also the book says that you can use Visual Studio 2008 Standard edition to debug multi threaded apps, I found out that sadly this isn't the case. In order to have the threads debug window you need the Pro edition or above version of Visual Studio.
Overall I find the book alright, personally the presentation of the book, colour schemes, internal typography could do with an improvement, the headings look like they are in Impact which is wrong on so many levels, and the examples can seem slightly farfetched but the book does cover a lot. As someone new to multi-threading by the end of it I felt confident enough in what I had learnt to write a simple multi threaded WinForm app for work to perform some tests.
Presentation - 6 / 10 - Although it’s clear to read the bulk of the content, the cover and headings for me let it down.
Code Examples – 7/10 – The code examples are clearly written and cover all the detail you need I feel that they aren’t as real life as they could be which hinders taking what they are meant to show you and apply it to real life scenarios.
Quality of Content – 7/10 – Overall I felt the quality content was quite good, potentially a bit over the top in places about being a “multi threaded guru” but overall OK. One down fall was to say that Visual Studio Standard edition can be used to debug multi threaded apps when it can’t.
Overall - 6.5 / 10
In light of everything I'm not going to suggest this is a book that everyone should read / own unlike over books like the pragmatic programmer etc. However if you are looking at learning about multi-threading and want something to ease you into it then this is for you, it will cover the basics of everything you need to know and what to expect in the future.