norburym (Mary Norbury-Glaser) writes "The third edition of Build Your Own Database Driven Website Using PHP & MySQL is written by Kevin Yank, Technical Business Director for sitepoint.com, a popular online resource for Web development. Updated for PHP 5 and MySQL 4 in this edition, Yank has put together an easy-to-follow, hands-on tutorial using the tools and techniques necessary to build a functional database-driven Web site. Many Web designers don't have deep knowledge and experience in data coding but want to get started serving up dynamic Web pages. This book gives designers and beginning coders a concise introduction to PHP and MySQL and quickly brings the reader to the page-creation stage." Read on for the rest of Norbury-Glaser's review.
Yank starts with the basics of MySQL and PHP installation on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X systems (he notes PHP 4.3 differences as well), and walks the reader through his first PHP script (no, not "Hello World!"). This first chapter is well written, with step-by-step instructions and shell script examples. It will help even a newbie feel comfortable with the process, and encourage him or her to move on to the rest of the book.
Chapter 2 focuses on relational databases and SQL queries. This chapter is not an in-depth study of RDBMs, but rather an extremely brief overview of the concepts involved in order to introduce the reader to command line interaction with MySQL. A simple database is begun that will be used in later chapters.
Basic syntax and commands of PHP are covered in Chapter 3 (statements, variables, operators). There are a lot of simple examples here that clearly demonstrate the elemental concepts of PHP. Yank uses forms, user interaction and control structures (if-else, while loop, for loop) to illustrate some easy methods of data access and user interaction with PHP.
Chapter 4 combines the two previous chapters' concepts into the beginnings of a working data-driven Web site. Yank shows the reader how to use PHP to connect to a sample MySQL joke database ("A man walks into a bar....Ouch."). He introduces sending SQL queries with PHP (mysql_query, delete, insert, update), handling SELECT result sets and inserting data into the sample ijdb (Internet Joke) database.
Chapter 5 is devoted to relational database design, and expands the one-to-one relationship to many-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-many relationships, this chapter teaches the reader how to join data spread between tables into one resultant set. This chapter is not meant to deal comprehensively with the complexities of relational database design. Indeed, the author gives an extremely brief nod to the inherent informality of his approach and references other resources for deeper study. Yank's intention here, as with the entire book, is to use relevant real-world examples to illustrate the simpler types of relationships a beginner will experiment with and how to deal with complex data and table issues with good design practice.
The next chapter presents content management and restricted-access database administration without relying on the command line (a few hints on protecting pages with appropriate access restrictions are in the introduction to this chapter but aren't dealt with in any depth until Chapter 12). Chapter 4's mention of forms is revisited here, and forms are used to manage, add, search for, edit and delete data.
At this point, the reader will have designed a database, organized the data into categories, created Web pages to display the data to site visitors, and prepared pages for administration of the data. The HTML is separate from the data, thereby relieving the Webmaster from the onerous and constant task of having to refresh pages with content. Here, in Chapter 7, the reader learns to format and submit content without resorting to hand-written HTML by using PHP functions (Yank covers the more standardized POSIX regular expressions, not PCRE). Code examples for string replacement, boldface and italic text, paragraphs, hyperlinks and splitting text into pages are included. The last bit of this chapter is dedicated to automatic content submission and has a nice design note about creating a visible column to the joke table where newly submitted jokes are handled as a No value, which allows review by a content manager before being posted.
This leads well into Chapter 8, "MySQL Administration (backing up, access control, checking and repairing data files)." Yank explains mysqldump and the use of update logs to create a practical backup-management scheme. He also covers using the myisamchk utility to check and repair MySQL data files. Basic MySQL access control using GRANT (creates new users, assigns passwords and adds user privileges) and REVOKE (the reverse of those functions) is included in this chapter as well, along with some tips and tricks to prevent access control problems.
Chapter 9 "gets back to the fun stuff" with Advanced SQL Queries (sorting and GROUPing SELECT results, setting LIMITs, LOCKing TABLES, aliases, LEFT JOINs and Limiting results with HAVING) giving the reader a well rounded sense of the versatility and scope of SQL in general and the SELECT command in particular.
Yank veers from textual data in Chapter 10, "Binary Data" (image files, encryption keys, programs for download) and shows the reader how to deal with working with files in PHP, handling uploaded files in PHP, storing and retrieving binary data in MySQL and learning when to use semi-dynamic pages to lighten the load on server performance in the process.
Chapter 11 deals with creating persistent variables, and offers an excellent description of cookies and sessions in PHP. I like Yank's figure "the life cycle of a cookie," which shows a graphical representation of a PHP-generated cookie. Yank rounds out the chapter with a simple shopping-cart example that consists of PHP scripts handling a product catalog and a checkout page (very real world).
The final chapter of the book is titled "Structured PHP Programming," and focuses on techniques for organizing code in order to simplify management (using include files, writing your own functions and streamlining code within Web pages). Yank gives a lot of sensible advice here, and his approach is not preachy. He brings up many important pitfalls that developers fall into: too much code, difficulty of finding what you need, understanding how it works. As this is a beginner's book, I would say that good design, good technique and good sense go a long way and should be stressed at the start of anyone's career in coding.
Build Your Own Database Driven Website Using PHP & MySQL, 3rd Edition runs only about 350 pages with a clean, easy-to-read page design, comfortable typography, lots of script boxes and screen shots. The appendices cover MySQL syntax, functions and column types and PHP functions for working with MySQL. Errata can be found at sitepoint's Web site, and I can't stress enough the value of checking these out before delving into any technical or instructional book: the frustration level goes way down if you know in advance that there's a typo, or a step missing!
This is a beginner's book with the essential tools and techniques that will get anyone started with serving up their first dynamic Web site. The tutorial approach of this book makes it easy for any reader to follow the step by step instructions. Yank manages to cover pretty much every topic necessary to provide the reader with a clean overview of the topic. It's a quick read and gives the reader encouragement and enough knowledge to move on to more complex volumes on the subject. This book provides a great first step for the beginner."
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