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Mike Riley

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

LiveLessons Enterprise Ajax Review

April 22, 2009

Here is another LiveLessons review, this one covering the topic of Asynchronous JavaScript and XML - Ajax .  This is also the first LiveLessons product I have seen that features more than one presenter.  Read on to find out how it compares to the other offerings in the LiveLessons series.

Having seen and reviewed both LiveLessons Perl Fundamentals and Python Fundamentals, I found Enterprise Ajax: Building Robust Ajax Applications by David R. Johnson, Alexei White and Andre Charland to be a refreshing change.  Not only is it on a more advanced and relatively modern topic but the three presenters help keep the subject matter fresh while each contributor has obviously been selected to focus on their deep working knowledge of the topics being presented.

This single DVD-ROM product contains 10 lessons, ranging from JavaScript basics and Ajax debugging to security, usability and UI patterns, each with a high degree of professionalism and excellent insight.  This topic was made for the screencast format due to the more advanced levels of detail and occasional fire hose of information presented.  I could pause and occasionally replay an entire topic to really help the finer details sink in.  There were also a few occasions when I coded along with the playback to see what would happen when I changed certain DOM attributes.  This self-paced learning approach did wonders for my deeper understanding of Ajax events and even why certain Ajax frameworks are better than others.  I also found the test-driven Ajax development and offline Ajax lessons to be very relevant and timely.

Unfortunately, a few problems exist with this title.  First, as I mentioned in my LiveLesssons Python Fundamentals review, Prentice Hall has incorporated the distasteful practice of appending a minute long video promo for their LiveLessons series after every video clip.  In the case of Enterprise Ajax, several of the clips are shorter than the promo itself, making an impatient reviewer like me highly agitated.  To counter this assault, I've trained myself to proceed to the next video as soon as the screen fades out.  Message to the LiveLessons folks: Please stop this practice.  Whoever in your marketing department decided to decree this obviously never actually sat through and watched the final product.  It's just plain obnoxious.

Another problem I encountered was several screencasts were recorded with poor quality audio narration, as if it were recorded through a tin can.  I was surprised by this since previous LiveLessons videos I've watched have emphasized high-quality audio reproduction.  The publisher's QA department should have requested these be re-recorded or dubbed over with better audio fidelity.

Lastly, the frame rate of these screencasts were non-standard, requiring me to once again transcode the FLV files to be able to play them back independently with a FLV-capable player outside of the LiveLesson's player container.

These issues aside, I found Enterprise Ajax to be a highly educational, engaging tutorial on Ajax development.  While the introductory material could have been shortened in exchange for more presentation time on deeper technical topics, it still remained a valuable learning experience and one I recommend.  This is a valuable educational multimedia learning experience for any web developer wrestling with the subtleties of Ajax.



Title: LiveLessons Enterprise Ajax: Building Robust Ajax Applications
Author:  David R. Johnson, Alexei White, Andre Charland
ISBN: 978-0137132607
Cost: $69.99

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