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In February, I followed Dan Appleman's advice and bought both a CD-ROM drive and the second pre-release CD, "CD2". CD2 has easily answered more tough questions than I have room to even mention here. It's fun, too: As with a dictionary or encyclopedia, you can open it to answer one question, and end up reading about two or three others that sound interesting or that might be useful someday.
The whole CD has been exhaustively indexed, so you can search for any word or phrase, or logical combinations thereof. While CD2's performance was on the sluggish edge of tolerable, CD3 indexs and stores everything more efficiently, so that searches and loads are much faster. Fast enough, in fact, that you can do many searches without losing your patience - and I haven't encountered many questions that couldn't be answered after only a few searches. Whether it's one of those off-hand references to seemingly tangential topics scattered throughout the SDK or a whole white paper on just your question, search will find it and let you move on, with your problem solved.
There's no doubt, though, that the CD is both cheaper and uses a lot fewer resources than a shelf full of books that you only read once - if at all. While Microsoft quite sensibly puts the content ahead of the UI, I'm sure that both will continue to improve, even if the CD may never be as delightfully usable as, say, Word for Windows.
Usability and environmental issues aside, there's at least one way in which the DevNet CD is not going to totally replace the various book-and-disk Development Kits. While there is a vast wealth of sample code and executable utilities on the CD, some of the specialized Development Kits are present only as manuals: No utilities, no sample code, no header files.
Finally, the last thing the CD is not is ... not available except by subscription. At nearly two hundred dollars for four quarterly updates! I wish I could like the subscription plan as much as I like the CD, but I can't. I'm sure I'd rather pay $75 or even $100 a disk - when I feel like it - than two hundred a year.
It's a total joy to use, and will answer just about any question. Get it.
Copyright © 1993, Jon Shemitz -
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