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Microsoft Silverlight 4 Data and Services Cookbook is Out - Interview with Author Gill Cleeren

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Svetla Stoycheva
Svetla Stoycheva
Joined Sep 25, 2009
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3 comments   /   posted on Apr 27, 2010
Tags:   gill-cleeren
Categories:   Interviews

As we have recently announced, a hot book on data-driven applications with Silverlight - Microsoft Silverlight 4 Data and Services Cookbook was expected to hit the market. The book is now out and there is a 20% price discount available exclusively for SilverlightShow community with promo code SShow20Net.

We are talking to one of the book authors - Gill Cleeren, Microsoft Regional Director for Belgium - on what we should expect from the book and how it will help you build better and faster data-driven Silverlight solutions.

Q. Gill - could you briefly introduce the book - who is it for, main differences from other similar books on the market, give a brief overview of the major topics covered?
Absolutely! After spending so many hours behind my laptop with Word and Visual Studio open, I’m really happy that the book is ready now. The book is titled Silverlight 4 Data and services cookbook. That title says 3 important things about the book: it targets Silverlight 4, it talks about working with data and services in your applications and it’s in a cookbook/recipe format.

Targeting Silverlight 4 was not easy since new versions of the platform are coming quite closely after one another. However, we (Kevin and I) were convinced that we had to work hard to make the book cover the latest version and we succeeded in this. While our book is aimed at Silverlight 4, at least 80% of the content will also work if you’re building Silverlight 3 applications. That’s a great thing with Silverlight: new features are added into the platform, but the “old” features keep on working.

The main focus of course is working with data and services in Silverlight apps. Data is the heart for most business applications; the way that we work with data however is somewhat specific in Silverlight applications. For example, Silverlight 4 features an extensive data binding engine, making business app development much easier. Accessing data is certainly a point worth spending some thought as well. Since Silverlight apps run client-side, they need to access data over services. The choices here are numerous. In the book, we go through all options we identified and show some best practices on these as well.

As said, we created the book in a cookbook format: that means the book contains all its contents in a recipe format. There are over 85 recipes that tackle the real world problems and questions that developers may have when working with data or services in their business applications.

All this puts, I hope at least, our book in a rater unique position: at this point, there are not many Silverlight 4 books released. The content makes it no regular Silverlight book: we only cover the topics that are relevant in line-of-business app development (there’s not a single line on how to create an animation in there!) and not many do this. This way, I believe the book is aimed at developers building data-driven applications that are ready for the enterprise. If you want to start learning Silverlight, we have included the basics as well, needed to follow along with the rest of the book. So, no developer is left behind!

Q. What stage of development of Silverlight technology or what business needs made it necessary to release a book on this topic?
I see in my daily work that the demand for Silverlight applications is really climbing. More and more businesses are looking at Silverlight as the technology to build their next business application, where Silverlight apps are taking the place of traditional desktop apps or even regular web applications. The time to invest as a developer in Silverlight is now: it’s easy to see that Microsoft is focusing heavily on LOB applications with Silverlight. With Silverlight 4, quite some new LOB-oriented additions have been made, such as new data controls, more data-binding features, the addition of WCF RIA services etc. That’s what drove us both into writing this book.

There are quite a lot of things to consider when building data-intensive Silverlight apps: you’re not building a traditional application anymore. We looked at the problems and questions developers had in this area and created our book based on this.
Q. Undoubtedly, this book is based on your and Kevin Docxs huge experience with Silverlight and data-driven applications. What would you name as the most-frequent and also most complex problems one may face while developing a data-driven Silverlight solution?
I think there are a few problems. First, as I already mentioned, working with data is not like you are used to from other platforms. You are creating client-side applications that run in the browser. These apps don’t have direct access to the data living in a database on a server nor on the local system. That requires a different architecture for your apps.

The second problem I see is the number of choices and options developers get when working with data and services. Silverlight offers many choices but the main question of course is: which to use in what situation. We try to give an answer to this, by walking the reader through all options offered by Silverlight 4.
Q. What are the major improvements in Silverlight 4 that contribute to creating fast and efficient data-driven applications with Silverlight?

A. Silverlight 4 is indeed released in the same timeframe as Visual Studio 2010. The first set of enhancements therefore can be identified in this corner: with Visual Studio 2010, as Silverlight developers, we finally get a design interface within the IDE. This IDE contains several data binding dialogs that help building a data intensive interface for your app. Blend 4 also contains several enhancements to make it easier to build data forms.

Another big enhancement can be found in the addition of WCF RIA Services (previously known as .NET RIA Services). While already in beta for some time, this framework will now be integrated in Silverlight 4. RIA Services brings to Silverlight an end-to-end story for the use of data, like we are used from ASP.NET: things like data sources now come to Silverlight as well. We take a deep look at RIA Services in our book as well.
Q. Why did you decide to go for a recipe-like approach with this book? What are the benefits from it?
I think that using the recipe approach has a great benefit: when during your work, you face a specific problem, you can search for the recipe that matches your issue. This way, you have an instant solution. Of course, the book can also be read from cover to cover. In this case, I believe that splitting the content in recipes gives a very practical approach that readers can follow step by step, resulting in a real good, lab-style hands-on experience with Silverlight.

Q. Where and how may SilverlightShow community members send feedback on your book?

I welcome feedback, absolutely. I have a few blog posts on my blog related to the publication of the book, where people can post their feedback. And of course, everybody is welcome to send me a mail (silverlight@snowball.be).

Thanks, Gill, for this interview. We are looking forward to getting our hands on this book!

Next week we'll also be discussing the book with your co-author Kevin Docks who is solution manager for Rich Applications at RealDolmen, one of Belgium's biggest ICT companies.



  • joeyd03

    RE: Microsoft Silverlight 4 Data and Services Cookbook is Out - Interview with Author Gill Cleeren

    posted by joeyd03 on May 12, 2010 22:52
    The promo code does not appear to work on Packt's site.
  • joeyd03

    RE: Microsoft Silverlight 4 Data and Services Cookbook is Out - Interview with Author Gill Cleeren

    posted by joeyd03 on May 13, 2010 05:09
    Disregard... need to log in to Packt's site for the promo code to work.
  • iiordanov

    RE: Microsoft Silverlight 4 Data and Services Cookbook is Out - Interview with Author Gill Cleeren

    posted by iiordanov on May 13, 2010 09:50

    hi joeyd03,

    Thanks for the feedback :)

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