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Web Site Cookbook

Doug Addison
Published by O'Reilly Media
ISBN:0-596-10109-0
280 pages
£ 28.50
Published: February 24, 2006
reviewed by Lindsay Marshall
   in the June 2006 issue (pdf), (html)
bookcover  

Why cookbook and not website? Who can tell. I like the cookbook series. Which is slightly odd, because it is quite like the Hacks series which I pretty much loathe. For a start, the presentation isn't an annoying numbered list of short snippets, instead, its a set of chapters (made up of numbered sections, some of which are really long). There is also a feeling of solidity about the ideas presented, not like some ephemeral Amazon API thing that might stop working tomorrow. There's also proper PHP code, not that Perl nonsense.

There are some cracking ideas in the web book: adding watermarking to images on the fly is a neat trick. There are some rubbish ones: disabling right click to prevent image downloading is a) stupid, b) irritating, and c) just asking for people to work round it. There are also rather too many obvious ones: adding a doctype to your document and validating it, using basic CSS etc. This one is a difficult call. For experienced and knowledgeable users there is probably too much ``how to boil an egg'' material, but for people needing a leg up it's a good collection of ideas and pointers. (If you value your eyesight avoid some of the illustrations which feature amazingly tiny text)

The SQL book is twice the thickness of the web one, though I suspect that is because there are lots of examples of query results which take up a lot of space, rather than there being more information. (Also, the vagaries of all the popular database systems (you know who I mean) also contribute to the bulk). Regular readers will know of my woeful ignorance of databases and how to use them to best effect, so I had high hopes for this one. Especially the mystery of joins. As yet however I am still disappointed. The layout is not fantastic and great swathes of SQL are not attractive. And like all SQL books there seems to me to be some essential explanatory thread missing: I understand the examples, I see what's going on, but it doesn't connect. The terminology bogs me down too. What the hell is a correlated subquery? In amongst all the stuff I don't understand, there's also a lot of ``boil an egg'' stuff here too: use an ORDER BY to sort your results, use INSERT to insert a new record! Much the same as the web book really.

So, both books, probably not for the 42 degree thetans, but useful for the rest of us.

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