Sunday, March 13, 2011

MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-511)

book coverMCTS Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-511): Windows Application Development with Microsoft .NET Framework 4 is a terrible book. It tries to cover the entire subject of Windows application development, so that means it must explain both Windows Forms and Windows Presentation Foundation concepts. Not only that, but it must do it in a consistent, comprehensible way, avoiding confusion between similar ideas that often overlap. It fails miserably on all counts, probably because it can't be done in a single book, but also because it is a jumbled mess that no one that is unfamiliar with the concepts there can actually learn from. I wonder, was poor Matthew Stoecker presented with the questions in the exam and asked to write a book to cover them? Because that would explain a lot. The 70-511 test itself it not much smarter.

The book starts with Chapter 1: Building a User Interface, in which it presents some basic WPF concepts like controls, resources, styles and triggers. If well written, this could have been a good start. It then continues with Chapter 2: Working with Events and Commands, containing stuff about events and commands, obviously, but then animations! So a novice at desktop applications now has to suddenly contend with animation. Maybe it was a slip up, so let's try Chapter 3: Adding and Managing Content, talking about brushes and the visual tree, even transformations, but then it goes into using MediaElement and MediaPlayer to play sounds and video.

Chapter 4: Windows Forms and Windows Forms Controls starts talking about Windows Forms, but in a completely new way and structure than the WPF part. It talks about modifying properties in Visual Studio, it describes the controls, one by one, with properties and all. It's like a completely new book. Chapter 5: Working with User-Defined Controls starts with Windows Forms, then it tries to explain Control Templates in WPF, then jumps back to user controls, this time in WPF.

The book switches to data in Chapter 6: Working with Data Binding, explaining the WPF Binding mechanisms including validation, and in Chapter 7: Configuring Data Binding it talks about various data sources and DataTemplates, also for WPF. Then it moves back to Windows Forms, Chapter 8: Working with Data Grids and Validating User Input, which starts talking about data bound controls in Windows Forms, but then it goes on and on about the DataGridView. It goes on by combining in a single subchapter Windows Forms validation and IDataErrorInfo in WPF.

Before you know it, in this whole confusing bunch of thrown facts, with no structure or plan, you go through Asynchronous Processing (using BackgroundWorker and delegates, but not Tasks!), Globalization and Localization (yeah, that is the important part) and integrating Windows Forms and WPF together, all in Chapter 9: Enhancing Usability. Chapter 10: Advanced Topics manages to mix together security, application settings and Drag and Drop. Chapter 11: Testing and Debugging WPF Applications was, I think, the most decent chapter, but still kind of frankesteined together from different sources, while Chapter 12: Deployment, talked a bit about Windows Installer and ClickOnce.

Conclusion: messed up as a whole, messed up in each small part, it's a fractally messed up book! You even get "chapter summary" points that were not covered in the actual chapter. I couldn't wait for the book to end, but I've managed to read it all. On Monday I am taking a test on this, for the 70-511 exam and I am really not sure how it's going to work out. Luckily for me I knew most of the concepts covered in the book from personal experience so we'll see how it goes.


Tosha said...

How did the test go? did you self study for it? any other good source? I'm so stressed,writing in a few days(monday,and it's thursday now) and almost no experience on VS2010,i'm good with vB,but used vs2008 throughout college....I'm cramming anything i can

Siderite said...

All these Microsoft exams are just testing if you have carefully read their books. I've known really god programmers going to take the tests without reading anything and getting very low grades, as the questions are very specific for what is written in their material.

Practically, the only "good" way to take the exams is to get the braindumps for it, which are the actual tests with most of the actual questions, and take the exam at home until you nail it. While you are doing this, take each answer and document yourself on why that answer is correct. If Microsoft does release material on the test, download and read it.

In the end, you will pass the exam and you will be slightly smarter, assuming you get to use that technology. Otherwise you will just forget about it in a few weeks.