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South African authors latest book on MySQL 4

By   |  January 27, 2003

With MySQL 4.1 in alpha release and the first stable version expected to be released within days, Tectonic caught up with Ian Gilfillan author of “Mastering MySQL 4”, published by Sybex last month.

Ian Gilfillan, author of “Mastering MySQL 4”


Lead developer, IOL. I also regularly write for Database Journal a fairly new portal from Jupiter Media.

Country, town of residence:

Cape Town, South Africa.

What prompted you to write a book on MySQL?

I’ve been working with MySQL since 1997, and we use it extensively at IOL. When I took over, the database was highly inefficient, and I’ve spent quite a lot of time at IOL tweaking the nuts and bolts to get it able to handle the load. When the early versions of MySQL 4 arrived on the scene, I saw a gap for a thorough coverage of MySQL 4.

The new features potentially open MySQL to a whole new market, extending it from its core strength of fast websites. Also, open source is gaining momentum here in South Africa, and I’d like to contribute to that development. Databases are often one of the most expensive and critical pieces of software, and in many cases MySQL would be a better choice (not just for cost reasons). I’d like South Africans to be aware of this choice – and PostgreSQL as well – and be able to make an informed decision.

Did you approach Sybex or did they approach you?

I approached about 4 big publishers with the idea, and Sybex were the first to bite. I’d written numerous articles on the topic before (listed at, and came to them with a fairly complete outline. With MySQL 4 due to be released as stable about the same time as the book would be published, they accepted quite quickly.

How long did it take you to write the book and how much research is involved in a project like this?

I worked from March to November 2002. I have a streak where my brown hair turns noticeably more grey, starting from around that time. I was working at IOL fulltime as well, so my sleep patterns are still recovering.

MySQL’s documentation (both official and unofficial) is of good quality, and it’s easy to get help when you need it. Support in the open-source world is definitely of a higher quality! Most of my research was “on the job” battling with overworked database servers at IOL, which had long been a bottleneck. They’re no longer the bottleneck, so I feel I’ve done something right, and can pass some of that experience on. Of course writing a book you get to explore all sorts of obscure facets you never encounter ordinarily, so my knowledge of MySQL grew substantially over the period. In short, it’s a lot of work, and I probably won’t do it again while working fulltime.

More books planned for the near future?

I’m still recovering. I’m hoping my next book will be a collection of poetry, or something creative, but we’ll have to see.

Email address:

More information on “Mastering MySQL 4” can be found at Sybex and at Amazon.


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