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Learning PHP and MySQL

Michele Davis and Jon Phillips
Published by O'Reilly Media
376 pages
£ 20.99
Published: 16 Jun 2006
reviewed by Lindsay Marshall

Another LAMP book. It starts with how to install Apache 2.0 -- 2.2 is the current version, then PHP (no version here) and then MySQL 4.1 -- 5.0 is the recommended version now and has been for a while. This is a short chapter, but it is already out of date and all the information in it is on the web so why bother? The book is aimed at people who have never programmed before, so I think that it's quite a step up to expect people to install all that software, especially since we all know that it never goes that smoothly. And I have to confess that I think a lot of the rest of the book is a little too hard for novices. It goes at a fair speed through the details of PHP, particularly the section on object oriented ideas and then gets into using MySQL. No mention of exception handling of course. *sigh* The database material is covered rather fast as well - I am not really convinced that you can explain databases in enough detail to let beginners create genuinely useful website backends in the small number of pages devoted to it in this book. Later on there's material about using PEAR and a little on JavaScript -- everything that you do need to know to use PHP and MySQL effectively but I am not convinced that the intended audience will really benefit from it all. I reckon that this book is much more useful for people with a programming and database background who want to pick up PHP. Yes, there's a lot of stuff they would just skim over but they would be less intimidated by the speed of progress. Another book that I'll try out on project students and see how they get on.

Much more useful for someone wanting to build databases is the second book (SQL Pocket Guide) which is now the second edition -- the first edition that lives on my desk has now been demoted and this has taken its place. This is a genuinely useful book if you have to dip in and out of using SQL and can never quite remember the horrible syntax of the commands or have to use PostgresSQL rather than MySQL say. I really couldn't live without it, and probably neither can you.

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