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Book Review: Inside Windows Debugging: Practical Debugging and Tracing Strategies by Tarik Soulami

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For the millions of people around the world who use Windows on a daily basis, the expectation is for the various features to function with a simple click of the mouse. For most of us, the world of programming seems an arcane, almost mystical art, far beyond “mere mortal” capabilities. While I in no way consider myself a programmer, I have experimented a bit, not only for my own edification, but also as something of a challenge. Now I certainly do not expect Bill Gates to come knocking at my door offering a wheel-barrow full of cash for my services, it has been an enlightening experience for me nontheless.

The new Inside Windows Debugging: Practical Debugging and Tracing Strategies from Microsoft Press is not really intended for me, however. As author Tarik Soulami notes in his Introduction; “This book is intended for software engineers who desire to take their game to the next level, so to speak, and perfect their mastery of Windows as a development platform through the use of debugging and tracing tools. Readers should have basic familiarity with the C/C ++ and C# programming languages.”

Clearly, the book is intended for those who know much more about programming than I do. The old saying “A little bit of knowledge can be dangerous,” certainly applies to me. But this book actually had quite a bit to offer a novice such as myself. Even though the disclaimers are offered right up front, I found a great deal of useful information in it.

In fact, for the careful reader, the book explains a number of scenarios and fixes that greatly helped me in understand the topic. Inside Windows Debugging is meant to be a technical manual, yet it is written in a way which sheds a lot of light on the “big picture” of programming as a whole. I may not represent the specific audience this book is intended for, but I think I can speak for those like myself, who are curious, but not (yet) proficient.

The 560-page (including index) Inside Windows Debugging: Practical Debugging and Tracing Strategies is separated into three sections. Part I is “A Bit of Background,” Part II is “Debugging for Fun and Profit,” and Part III is “Observing and Analyzing Software Behavior.” As one might infer, the deeper we go, the more technical the text becomes. The background information was quite intriguing for me, and I was even able to keep up (sort of) with much of “Debugging for Fun and Profit.” By the time I reached Part III though, I was definitely in over my head.

For those who program in Windows professionally, however, this Microsoft Press book seems like an invaluable tool.

As I have made abundantly clear, I am something of a layman in terms of programming, so I can only report on the aspects of the book that I understand. And one thing I can say without question is that the author’s writing style is extremely inviting. Even when he was discussing programming points that I was not really familiar with, the writing style was most inviting. Inside Windows Debugging: Practical Debugging and Tracing Strategies may have been written for a very specific audience in mind. But I have to hand it to Tarik Soulami for never “talking down” to the reader.

Far from being off-putting, the feeling I had after reading this book was inspiration. While I am quite certain that it was never Mr. Soulami’s intention to get novices more interested in learning the art form of computer programming, that is exactly the effect it had on me. This in itself says a lot regarding the quality of this “technical” manual. If a novice like me found so much useful information here, imagine what it will mean for those who actually program in Windows for a living. Inside Windows Debugging is an excellent addition to the Microsoft Press library.

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