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PHP and MySQL for Dummies

By   |  April 20, 2007


PHP and MySQL for Dummies, third edition
Author: Janet Valade
Publisher: Wiley
ISBN: 0-4700-9600-4
Suggested Price: R260
Supplied by: Intersoft

PHP and MySQL for Dummies offers a good introduction to these two popular open source languages. Using this book, a reader is given a sufficient grounding to build their own database driven web sites and applications.

A basic knowledge of HTML and some experience in web design is assumed. It could be possible to work through the book without this, just by learning from the examples and seeing how the HTML sections effect the output, but it is unlikely that anyone wanting to learn either PHP or MySQL would not already know at least some HTML.

The book begins quite slowly, spoon feeding the reader in a ‘for dummies’ style. Much of the beginning is spent arguing the benefits of the two programs, with a fair amount of repetition. Before getting into the actual coding, much emphasis is placed on the importance of designing and planning the database and the required functions.

Both programs are looked at individually at first, giving a reader a basic understanding and working knowledge of each. Thereafter the integration of the two is covered in detail. At this point the pace picks up rapidly, shedding the book’s ‘for dummies’ approach that it begins with.

Two examples are covered through the book’s course: a catalogue for a pet shop’s website and a password protected members only site. The code for progressive examples given in the book is available at the author’s website, janet.valade.com.

These downloadable bits of code, as I discovered, are not all exactly as they appear in the book. A few minor changes are needed to get everything working as it should. While this a little irritating, there is the benefit that it forces the reader to actually look at and interact with the code rather than merely downloading and running the programs. While it is unlikely that this was intentional, it was actually a fairly effective teaching method.

What was a refreshing change from most introductory books of this nature was that there was not an automatic assumption that the reader was operating Windows. Both Mac and Linux are covered too. Wherever there are differences in how PHP and MySQL work with the various operating systems, these are clearly detailed.

The end of the book, “the part of tens”, gives 10 ideas for using PHP functions and 10 PHP ‘gotchas”, which covers the most common mistakes made in compiling PHP statements. An important inclusion for the beginner is an appendix which guides the reader through the installation of PHP, MySQL and Apache.

For anyone looking to go beyond basic HTML Web design, this is an intimidating and comprehensive way to learn these two powerful open source programs for the Web and take advantage of some of the potential of dynamic Web pages.

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