AJAX Starter Kit

Author: Phil Ballard
Publisher: Sams, 2007
Pages: 224
ISBN: 978-0672329609
Aimed at: Beginner AJAX developers
Rating 3
Pros: Very basic; Collection of relevant PDF books on CD
Cons: Lessons are not clear
Reviewed by: Dave Wheeler

The AJAX Starter Kit is a book/CD collection designed to teach AJAX to beginner developers. The book is presented as a series of lessons, starting from the most basic aspects of HTML and HTTP, but which unfortunately are of very mixed quality. Rather than providing a series of step-by-step instructions, they are a mixture of discussions and background material combined with code examples.
I felt that some of these might leave the new developer somewhat confused, simply because they don’t clearly explain what is happening or what the reader is actually supposed to type/do. A case in point is the lesson on using RESTful Web Services, which suddenly flips into writing PHP code without warning; or indeed any explanation of why writing a server-side proxy is actually important.
Experienced developers who are new to AJAX will find many better sources of information than this book, and should definitely steer clear of it. Similarly, .NET developers working with the ASP.NET AJAX Extensions will find little to stimulate them in this book.
The challenge for such an entry-level book is that the information it provides is freely available from sources on the Web. What distinguishes this book is the collection of other starter books included on the CD. There’s a lot of additional value in the collection of five additional PDF books on the disk; all of these are from the Sams Teach Yourself range and cover PHP, HTML, CSS, XML and JavaScript: and all for less than £30. Consequently, a developer who’s completely new to web development might find this a useful resource.
To conclude, this book/set offers a very basic introduction to programming the Web, but the chances are that you’ll find the information contained within it online, and for free.