A couple months ago the guys at Wrox released the specs on a BlackBerry book called 'Professional BlackBerry', It was aimed squarely at administrators and corporate developers authors. Craig Johnston, the author, sent me a review copy a couple weeks ago, which I didn't have time to read until a couple days ago which is why this review is a little bit late, but better late than never right?
The book is split into two logical parts: administration and programming. I'm a programmer so naturally I glossed over most of the administration sections but I took some notes for all you readers out there.
Chapter 1 is an introduction to the handheld architecture (the device itself) and the system architecture, which is the magic behind the scenes. The guys do a good job of diagramming out how things work, it's well worth it to read this to get a better understanding of how messages get around your system, both from an administration standpoint and from a low level technical standoint. If the editors didn't get in the way, I'm sure he would have named it "How the hell does an email get from Exchange to my BlackBerry in 3 seconds?"
Chapter 2 talks about planning a BlackBerry installation: how many machines am I gonna need? where do they need to be located on my network? what hardware specs do I need? do I need to know anything special if I'm going to install on Exchange? Notes? etc..
Chapter 3, titled 'Deploying the Desktop Software' is an in-depth discussion of the various pieces of software that a BlackBerry device comes with: the Desktop Manager, Application Loader, and Handheld Manager (which I learned is the software that allows for charging via usb, you did know that you can charge your BlackBerry from your computer right?), but more from the standpoint of a BlackBerry Enterprise Server administrator, it's less about what those pieces of software do but more about how you can manage the deployment of said software.
Chapter 4, Upgrading Your BlackBerry Environment. The book is $26 on Amazon, if you run an upgrade without reading the book and the upgrade fails, you'll be left with a couple hundred BlackBerry addicts who can't get their email. Just buy the book.
Chapter 5 talks about installing handheld software, again from the standpoint of an administrator, not an end user. Version 4 of the server software allows you to setup distributable software configurations based on the type of handheld your users have. This functionality probably saves server admins hours and hours of time. Again, I believe this chapter alone is worth way more than $26.
Chapter 6 is about monitoring. It in they discuss BESAlert, SNMP, perfmon, web-based MDS monitoring and Syslog.
Chapter 7 shows how you can manage your BlackBerry users. I especially liked the part where he shows how you can remotely disable a BlackBerry and then ERASE all the users data. Note to self: never piss off your BlackBerry administrator. It also talks about the ability administrators have to configure email filters for users and to determine which websites users can visit using MDS.
Chapter 8: disaster recovery planning. I won't talk about how this book is only $26. Three solutions are discussed: backup/restore, cold standby, knife-edge cutover. You should read this chapter. Twice.
Chapter 9: The chapter is the halfway point: the rest of the book is about how you can make stuff for the BlackBerry. Chapter 9 is an introduction to MDS, mentions a couple sample applications, and talks about the simulators.
Chapter 10 is a tutorial on how to make a web portal specifically for your BlackBerry users. It talks briefly about image scaling, has a sample app called the cafeteria portal and is all WAP / WML.
Chapter 11 talks about the BlackBerry Channel functionality, which is basically the ability to send an icon to the ribbon of your users. The icon represents either a link to a website or an actual cached webpage that you can push to your users.
Chapter 12 discusses the creation and delivery of BlackBerry Web Messages and Cache Content. A web message is like a channel that shows up in the ribbon only it shows up as a message in the email box.
Chapter 13 is a really brief introduction to developing BlackBerry Java applications, which is really about J2ME, which is really a book of it's own. This chapter runs through an introduction to the JDE, the JDE Debugger, Profiler, Simulator and shows how you can deploy the application using the JDE. A simple application (called Cafeteria) is created.
Chapter 14 is all about the Plazmic media engine, which I believe is effectively BlackBerry version of Macromedia Flash. Plazmic content is developed using the Plazmic CDK (like Flash it requires an IDE), uses vector based images instead of bitmaps (just like Flash) and is all about 'animating' and 'spicing up content' (eww, just like Flash).
The book ends with a WML language reference and a couple articles on writing J2ME software that you can find on the BlackBerry Developer Journal site (java low memory manager, writing efficient j2me software, user interface coding tips, storing data persistently).
Overall, I'd give it eight stars out of ten. The BlackBerry device has become so critical to so many people that it's continous, non-interrupted service is almost a requirement for any large organization. Every BlackBerry administrator should have a copy of this book if for no other reason than they can show it to their boss if something goes wrong ("blame Craig! I used the knife-edge cutover just like he said I should!"). From a development standpoint, the J2ME applications are where you're really going to get some innovative applications: WML is tired, slow and cumbersome. I would have liked to have seen more J2ME content, but like I mentioned above, writing J2ME software is really a book of it's own.
Buy it now:
In a weird sequence of events I noticed Phil's post about the new BlackBerry Hacks book via bloglines.com and then the very next day I got an email from Dave Mabe (the author) asking if I'd be willing to review it. I'm a fan of both the BlackBerry and the Hacks series so it was a no brainer for me. Stay tuned for more information or if you can't contain yourself, go and preorder it on Amazon.
Reader Craig Johnston (he spells his name weird, drop the t Craig!) wrote in to let me know about his new book titled Professional BlackBerry. The Amazon listing doesn't have all the juicy bits though.. go check it out on the publisher's site (wrox.com), where you can read a couple sample chapters and the table of contents, which I've reproduced here for you:
- System Architecture.
- Planning Your First BlackBerry Installation.
- Deploying the Desktop Software.
- Upgrading Your BlackBerry Environment.
- Upgrading the Handheld Software.
- Monitoring and Enhancing Your BlackBerry Environment.
- Managing Your BlackBerry User.
- Disaster-Recovery Planning.
- Introduction to Mobile Data Services (MDS) and Simulators.
- BlackBerry Web Portal.
- The BlackBerry Channel.
- The BlackBerry Web Message and Cache Content.
- Developing BlackBerry Java Applications.
- The Plazmic Media Engine.
Reader (and author) Craig Johnston sent in news that he is writing a BlackBerry book to be published by Wiley Publishing under their Wrox line. According to Craig it deals with support and development for the BlackBerry; according to Amazon is should be available on 08/17/2005. You can't buy it on Amazon yet, but you can add it to your wishlist.
Bill Foust (of the website rimdev.com) mentioned on the bbusers Yahoo! group that he is writing a book called "Mobile PC Guide to BlackBerry" and that it should be released in April of 2005. You can pre-order it on Amazon.com.