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Ajax Hacks

I was disappointed in this book. Whilst it contains many worthy examples, it is repetitive and tedious. Of course, it's true that this reflects the problem domain: writing Javascript is pretty mind-numbing; yet, I feel the author could have improved the content with some more lively examples. Unfortuately for a book titled "Ajax Hacks", many of the "hacks" are nothing of the sort: they are just examples -- and simplistic ones at that.

The book starts well: Chapter 1 briefly sets the scene and establishes the context for Ajax, then shows how to make an XMLHttp request object (one of the twin pillars of Ajax technology). In 50 pages we cover the XMLHttp object, DOM XML parsing in Javascript and JSON. If I had the benefit of hindsight I would have stopped there.

The whole of Chapter 2 has to do with dynamically modifying HTML forms: one hack for each sort of component you might want to change. Maybe the author's target audience are gibbering idiots but I would have expected reders who have read "Hack 15: Dynamically Generate a Selection List using Server Data" to be able to work out how to "Dynamically Generate a new Checkbox Group using Server Data".

At the risk of repeating myself repeating myself, Chapter 3 (Validating forms) is similarly lacklustre. By this point, you get the feeling that the author would have liked to write a textbook instead of a series of cut'n'paste worked examples.

For a brief spell, the author regained my interest: "Chapter 4: Power Hacks for Web Developers", containing an example mashup which shows how to control both Google Maps and Yahoo Maps widgets in sync, then the rest of the book deals with yet more dull content. There are gobs of server-side Java that we are treated to, two chapters describing various freely available Ajax libraries (Rico and script.aculo.us) and there's a 30-page chapter about Ruby on Rails.

Inside this book there's a useful ten-page pamphlet desperate to burst out. Pity it -- or save your pity and buy a different book.

Score: 5 out of 10

Andrew Stribblehill

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