Review: BlackBerry Development Fundamentals Book by John M. Wargo

BlackBerryDev-fundamentals Review: BlackBerry Development Fundamentals
Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆
Cost:
~$35 preorder @ Amazon

John was kind enough to send over a prerelease manuscript of his upcoming book called “BlackBerry Development Fundamentals.” Personally I have been reading this book like a page turner. Originally I thought the book was a guide for developing but it really is more of a primer on what it means to develop on the BlackBerry platform. It intended audience is mobile developers who want to enter the BlackBerry market or application developers who want to enter the mobile market and are interested in what the BlackBerry has to offer. This means that it is less of a development guide and more of a BlackBerry Platform 101 to bring new developers up to speed on the capabilities of the BlackBerry platform.

What really amazed me about this book was that I learned quite a few things I never knew about the BlackBerry platform and I am not even a developer. Wargo does a brilliant job of explaining the whole infrastructure behind the BlackBerry ranging from BIS to BES to MDS to Push Services to all the different BlackBerry browsers.

For example:

  • Did you know that WAP and TCP connections do not automatically switch to Wi-Fi when it is available unless the developer codes specifically to allow that? For some reason BIS-B and MDS connections automatically detect the availability of Wi-Fi and switch over.
  • There are multiple different ways that content can be pushed to a BlackBerry including 3 different ways for BES and another 2 ways for BIS.
  • I know this is more because I am not a BES admin but I totally did not know that BES requires only one OUTGOING port open on your firewall to connect to RIM. That means that you do not need any open incoming ports for BES.
  • RIM charges for its new Push API which is why you are not seeing any push 3rd party applications.
  • John alluded to the fact that RIM might be working on offering single sign on for Windows Domains which will let you login to Active Directory once and persist that login across the session to other machines. I also learned that RIM annoyingly stopped allowing us to save the password for authenticated sites because a new security certification they wanted required it.
  • It is possible to still recognize a BlackBerry browser as a BlackBerry even if you set emulation to Internet Explorer or Firefox. Pretty cool!
  • There is no reliable way to see if tables or CSS are enabled on older BlackBerry devices. Bummer.
  • There is a cool little trick to prompt users with BlackBerry OS 4.2.1+ to turn on JavaScript if you need it in your application.
  • There is a difference between a MIDlet and a RIMlet… Who knew?

The book does what it sets out to do and gives you a crash course on the BlackBerry platform. It is also a great guide for certain tips and tricks like how to create a homescreen website launcher (called a Web Icon BTW) and how to create icons. It even has guides from RIM’s websites that have been improved with better examples and explanations. For example he has great explanations on the difference between the different standards and tools you can use to develop for the BlackBerry platform. For example it will take you from the API’s to explaining code signing keys to deploying your application over the air. It also covers browser development alongside JAVA development so that all aspects are covered.

Sadly the book has been released just on the cusp of BlackBerry OS 5.0 being released to newer devices which makes some of the content a little dated. For example, there is not much coverage on Widgets and the new Google Gears support along with the new API’s coming in OS 5.0. This is a shame but Wargo promises to keep up to date on his website for the book at www.bbdevfundamentals.com. I did catch a few small errors in the book but nothing major and this was a manuscript. Still the documentation is much better than what is provided from RIM and will really help new BlackBerry developers to hit the ground running.

I cannot speak for how good the JAVA development section is since I am not a JAVA developer myself but I was impressed with the breadth and content of the book. If you are interested in developing for the BlackBerry platform I would highly recommend picking up this book. I already have it all earmarked with sections that I plan on returning to once I get up to speed on JAVA development. Personally I think RIM should be handing the book out to everybody at the BlackBerry Developer Conference who wants a copy.

The book also helped me with quite a few new questions I will be asking while I am at the Conference this month. If you happen to be there let me know!

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