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Keywords: J2EE, Java, EJB, JSP, JMS, JNDI, XML
Title: Teach Yourself J2EE In 21 Days
Author: Bond, Law, Longshaw, Haywood, Roxburgh
Publisher: SAMS Publishing
Verdict: A solid, traditional tutorial style introduction to J2EE
Whenever we see a 'Widgets in 24 Minutes' title we're reminded of Peter Norvig's essay 'Teach Yourself Programming In 10 Years', (usefully reprinted recently in a number of books, including Linux Programming By Example). So forget the promise of instant enlightenment, no book, no matter how good, is going to give it to you. Having shattered your illusions, we can now actually take a look at the book and see what it really delivers.
This new (second) edition of the book updates the contents to cover J2EE 1.4. As the title implies this is very much an introductory text which aims to cover the full range of technologies that make up the J2EE platform. While the book assumes little prior knowledge of J2EE, it does assume some knowledge of Java (in other words knowledge of J2SE).
The book opens with a scene setting chapter which surveys the landscape of n-tier development and gives a birds-eye view of what J2EE is and what it's supposed to do. This is followed up with a more detailed view of the different technologies and components (from Enterprise Java Beans to servlets to JSP, from HTTP to XML and more) which are included and finishes with a walk-through of the installation and configuration of Sun's J2EE reference installation. The book is largely structured around a single worked example project, and this is introduced and discussed as well.
Having introduced the platform, the tools and the project the book starts to go into more detail. Naming and directory services (JNDI), Enterprise JavaBeans, Session EJBs, Entity EJBs and contained managed persistence follow on in quick succession. By chapter eight, (the start of Week 2 according to the 21 day program), the focus has moved on to transactions and persistence, which includes material on JDBC, SQLj and Java Data Objects. Messaging (JMS) also warrants a chapter, as do message-driven beans. The chapter on JavaMail does a good job, and pretty much stands alone as an introduction to the topic outside of the J2EE context. The final three chapters of the week 2 section look at Servlets, JavaServer Pages and JSP tag libraries.
The first 14 chapters really cover the major areas of J2EE, and the final seven chapters move on to additional material that strays outside of what is strictly part of the J2EE spec. For example the two XML chapters, (integrating XML with J2EE and a chapter on XSLT transformations), don't really add much to the understanding of the platform. Similarly the chapter on patterns doesn't do much to add to the understanding of the core platform. It feels like filler material to take the book up to the required number of chapters (another reason for objecting to the '21 days' structure).
Despite these caveats, the book does cover the core material in a reasonable straight-forward way. The approach is fairly traditional, and while there is a reasonable amount of code the fact that much of it is tied to a single projects means there isn't always room for experimentation and play. It should be noted that while the project imposes a structure on the book, this doesn't necessarily mean that it always needs to be read sequentially. Some chapters, such as the one that looks at JavaMail, have enough additional material that they can be read independently of the others.
To conclude, if you're looking for a traditional, straightforward J2EE tutorial then this is certainly one worth considering. It's not the most exciting read in the world, but then again most J2EE books seem to be on the sober side.