|Core Web Application Development with PHP & MySQL|
|summary||Fine strategic overview|
The author is an open-source platform expert and software developer. He comes from a background of working with standard desktop Windows-based applications and made the transition to building dynamic web applications. His experience in making the transition informs this book as a comprehensive explanation of how to use the various technologies that go into writing web applications. For those making similar transitions, this is a very fine presentation done by a thoughtful, systematic designer. For those already busy in the PHP/MySQL area, the advanced level of instruction is likely to be valuable.
There are 33 chapters in five parts - basics of PHP, database basics, planning web applications, implementation, and sample projects. There are three appendices covering installation and configuration of PHP, MySQL, and other related open-source applications like Apache, a set of charts of database function equivalents among the leading database types - MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL, Microsoft SQL Server, and a short list of recommended reading.
This is a large format book of 912 pages, including index. My reviewer's copy is a prepublication version containing grayscale graphics and much white space, especially around the code snippets, making reading easy and comfortable. Although the material is high-level and technical, the writing seems light and casual. Wandschneider's writing style flows easily, never bogs down even with technical details, and the book reads much faster than one might expect.
Although the best part of the book contains the three start-to-finish sample projects at the end - a calendar system, weblog engine, and e-commerce store, the lead-in chapters are nicely done, too. Chapters 1 and 2 are about getting started in PHP. There is a brief comparison to perl and C++, but the bulk is about PHP terminology and programming concepts. Much is made of PHP5's new object-oriented features, but the discussions of that here (and in Chapter 4) was about the only parts which I feel needed more clarity - the rest of the chapters are very clearly stated and contain plenty of good examples.
Chapters 3 - 7 continue with scripting concepts like functions, classes, arrays, strings and characters. The discussion is not designed to instruct comprehensively about PHP itself but works on a higher level of showing how PHP interacts with MySQL and other technologies on an overall basis. You can get detailed PHP coding instructions elsewhere. Chapter 6 contains an unusually good discussion of character sets, usable for global applications, and provides instructions on configuring Unicode and multi-byte support for high-level applications.
Part 2, Chapters 8 - 12, take the same approach to MySQL and databases in general. They include discussion of basic terminology and concepts, designing and creating databases, storing and retrieving data, PHP-to-database connectivity, and advanced topics, like use of "transactions" and advanced querying.
Part 3, Chapters 13 - 17, deal with the server-side matters. Again, the level of presentation is not on comprehensive details of PHP, MySQL, and web services, but present a comprehensive overview to guide planning, design, and implementation. Here the author states overall design considerations of a website noting how to incorporate CSS, HTML, code libraries, user interfaces, and web services into a working dynamic website.
User management and security concerns are noted throughout the book and Chapters 14 - 17 deal specifically with validation, and software and hardware security, including tips on how to secure your server. These passages on security are some of the better and clearest written I've experienced in this area.
Part IV continues the systematic approach to website construction discussing error handling, debugging, cookies, and sessions (again some of the clearest explanations I've read), authorization, and data validation with regular expressions. Chapter 21 is entirely about globalization and localization that is, dealing with the fact that the Internet is global and that there is a need to deal with foreign language sets. There are tips on how to determine users' locations and how to script to account for different language sets, including Unicode.
Chapters 23 and 27 are about XML and are especially useful now that XML and XHTML are becoming the reigning protocols of dynamic web activity. There is an extensive sample of using XML to work with the Google API. Using XML with PHP is an advanced topic and it is only generally covered here, together with XML web services and SOAP. Other chapters cover the use of extensions to PHP, like PEAR, developing a coding "style", creating test suites, configuring PHP.ini, and more. The three working examples are extensively commented and contain complete code examples.
The book comes with a comparison CD-ROM containing all of the sample code, and versions of PHP5, MySQL, and Apache HTTP server."
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