Customer Reviews: Web Database Applications with PHP & MySQL, 2nd Edition
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on October 14, 2002
I have just started learning some PHP & MySQL development using "PHP & MySQL Web Development" published by Sams and "Web Database Applications with PHP & MySQL" from O'Reilly. Prospective readers might be wondering the difference between the two in deciding which one to buy, so I hope to shed some light on the issue.
Sams: The Welling and Thomson book is more "hands-on" in that it takes the reader step-by-step in developing an e-commerce website. The chapters are organized in a goal-oriented manner: PHP, MySQL, the basics of e-commerce, security, and design of the site.
O'Reilly: The Williams and Lane book is structured in a similar way by showing readers PHP and then MySQL. Examples to reinforce concepts are also provided. While the O'Reilly book also tries to take the reader in developing an e-commerce site, it is a bit more theoretical. Also, there are some differences in focus: the O'Reilly book has a section on using JavaScript while the Sams book has a final chapter on creating PDF files using PHP.
If I had to choose just one book, I would go with the Sams book due to its more gentle learning curve. However, I believe that the O'Reilly book is no slouch, and I will probably come to appreciate it more once I gain more experience in PHP and MySQL development.
One last word about my programming background: I knew a bit of Perl, Java, HTML, and JavaScript before tackling PHP and MySQL. I consider myself to be an "advanced beginner" (an oxymoron, of course). To get the most out of these two books, you should know HTML well enough to read it (you should at least recognize some tags) and it would definitely be helpful if you have some programming experience. You could very well make PHP your first programming language, but I would advise against it. Start with something like Perl (whose syntax is very similar to PHP's).
I highly recommend both books to prospective PHP and MySQL developers who are willing to spend some time and effort.
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on April 11, 2002
I've been entrenched with JSP heavily for the last couple of years, so I haven't familiarised myself with PHP yet. I needed a book that would show me a larger picture than I got in a web developer's job, and showed me how to put it together with more modern techniques.
This book is a perfect example of why I choose O'Reilly whenever in doubt. Chapter 1 is an overview of how web applications are put together. Chapter 2 goes through all the basic PHP syntax (stuff that would take other books several fluffy dry chapters to process). Chapter 3 gets you through all the mySQL and sql basics so you feel comfortable with that, too.
There's no 4 page tutotial entitled: "Using a text editor: Wordpad" There's also no kitch "Employee Database" example cop-out. Instead, Hugh and Dave give a realistic and usable storefront application. This book alone is probably enough for the independent web developer to get a functional site up for her/himself or a client.
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on October 1, 2003
As the title indicates, this book is all about building websites powered by database applications. The book uses PHP and MySQL for a scripting language and a database technology respectively. Familiarity with programming and computers is assumed but other than that, not much else is assumed. The authors do an excellent job of explaining some of the fundamental concepts underlying database driven websites. All this is done in simple terms without too much jargon. To top it all off, a tutorial style approach is taken to illustrate how all these concepts come together. The tutorial is on building an online retail site that sells wines. The sample code used in the book can be downloaded from the publisher's website.
PHP is a powerful language that is open source and that can be used in lieu of Java and .NET technologies for many web applications that aren't too complex. For most small business owners, this should suffice. I am not too sure about using it in large corporations. This is one of the most popular open source technology along with Linux and MySQL.
MySQL is an open source database that can be used instead of SQL Server, Access, or Oracle. Once again, when the database application gets complex, I am not confident of its ability to handle the complexity. This is also excellent for small businesses but not large corporations.
There are about 13 chapters and 5 appendices spanning 550 pages starting with an introduction to database applications and the web, continuing with an intro to PHP and MySQL, covering the main concepts behind web technologies and ending with the sample wine store application. The main concepts discussed are querying databases, writing to databases, validations on the server and client, session management, user authentication and security. The appendices handle installation, modeling and designing relational databases, managing sessions in the database tier, etc.
Overall, the selection of topics is perfect for Intermediate programmers and the explanations are very detailed yet simple. This is probably one of the reasons this book is so popular. I have thoroughly enjoyed using this book and I am not surprised to see such a high quality book from this publisher. I am not familiar with the authors but I am going to keep an eye open in the future for other books by them.
I felt it was a bit pricey for a book of this nature but this is the only one I could find that covered these specific topics so I am not going to complain. Enjoy creating your own database driven website!
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on November 4, 2002
I recently began a web database project and had to self-teach myself PHP and MySQL, therefore I bought several books from Amazon looking to cover the bases. I disagree with some other reviews posted here, the text IS AN INTRODUCTION but this is not obvious from the title or the editorial reviews on Amazon. The review referring to editing errors I COULD NOT AGREE WITH, I did not find "errors" or typos, maybe I'm not very observant or don't know the subject well enough yet.
Anyway ... the text does a good job at presenting the PHP language and how to operate on MySQL database back-ends, that is the purpose of the book. The sections on PHP are introductory, but well done. Comprehensive descriptions of string and reg-exp functions are provided. A good section for beginners is titled "Common Mistakes" that describe why you get a blank browser screen or what those darned header messages are about. The MySQL section is well done, providing ample samples of the different query types and advanced joins and keys. I also liked the portion that describes using PHP with other RDMS systems via ODBC and to Oracle. Linking PHP and MySQL is well handled and sections on authentication and session management are practical and real-world. The text ONLY includes one overall application system, a psuedo online winestore that includes a shopping cart and purchasing concept. The appendix include a really good treatise on HTTP and describing how Requests and Responses are handled and the status codes.
I had great expectations for this O'Reilly text as many of their critter-adorned texts are in my library. I expected the text to be more advanced than it is. The lack of other sample applications is a weakness, for the price you can get other texts with more comprehensive samples. Afterall, many of us buy these books to try and help us quickly solve "Our Immediate Problem", more samples would have helped this effort better.
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on March 19, 2003
Web Database Applications by H.E. Williams and D. Lane is a truly wonderful book if you are looking to learn how to get an online database application up and running fast. The book eases you into PHP with a decent length chapter on the basic syntax of the language, followed by an introduction of MySQL.
After that, each chapter will teach you new techniques which are instantly applicable to a real-world online database system. Among others this book will teach you how to: write scripts that interact with MySQL, deal with security issues, handle sessions, handle shopping carts and lots lots more.
The book was written before the introduction of PHP 4.2, so certain 4.2 (and up) specific issues are not covered. However, most of the examples in the book have been re-written for use with 4.2 and can be downloaded freely. On top of this the authors supply a level of support that is all but unheard of. Every question that I asked was answered within 1 day if not within the same day.
All in all this book is at the top of it's league, I can highly recommend it!
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on January 17, 2005
I've found Web Database Applications with Php and MySql to be an excellent book. It is an excellent book for learning from scratch as well as a useful reference. For the projects I've done I've only occasionally looked elsewhere (online) for technical references.

My style for doing a project using a new language or development environment is to learn just enough to do the project. It is not my goal to become an expert in the system or language at hand, in this case Php and MySql. I just want to get the project done in fairly efficient and practical manner.

After having decided that Php and some open source database such as MySql is what I wanted to use for my project (an online testing system) I read through the book to get an overall understanding of these tools. I then designed the system for my project and began coding. At the coding stage I would go back to the book to get the syntax and details of coding. I rely on sample code a lot, one of the principal strengths of this book.

The authors have implemented a complete online store. The code is well written and the application exercises many features of Php and MySql. That the sample code is from the application or based on the application makes it eminently practical. Perhaps more importantly the fact that the book is grounded in a complete application means many details concerning issues such as security and user interface are covered which might easily have been overlooked.

The book, however, is not a regurgitation of the application code nor a tour of the creation of the online store. The book is a well thought out development of the tools and ideas for web database applications. It begins with typical details of the Php language and object oriented programming, database basics and queries with MySql and proceeds with features and ideas useful in web database applications culminating in the case study of the online store.

Except for an initial glitch in getting setup on my OS X system everything worked out well. We switched our online testing system from FileMaker Pro, QuidProQuo and Frontier to Apache, Php and MySql. Similarly our placement test system has been converted. I switched our department's web site to one which dynamically creates interlocking web pages. I added a password protected system for staff to update text and calculator reference webpages and a simple means to create and edit our online schedule of classes. I built a similar system for instructors to access records of student use of tutor facilities for their classes.

I am very impressed by this book. I have not had a book which has been so thoroughly practical, complete and easy to use.
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on April 27, 2006
I bought this book with the hope I could learn just enought to get me started with web application development. I only had little programming experience at that time, I I didn't even have any experience with databases. Well. This book was the perfect introduction to web applications. From security to authentication, from php basics to multi-table join sql queries, this book got me into this world, and I appreciate it so much because I am working now in web development, thanks to what I learned from here.

Altough this book is not for the absolute beginner, it teaches you just what you need to know to get you started, and even more. It lacks some subjects, like caching, or some advanced php 5 language constructs. Its focus is in real world development, without too much emphasis in application design or php/mysql internals. It teaches you just what you really need to know, and it teaches you that extremely well. You will learn php, from its basic syntax and usage, to object oriented programming basics. Then the book takes you to mysql, with a great introduction to sql, and how to use mysql from php. The following chapters deal with typical database concepts you must grasp, like concurrency issues and even performance tunning. It doesn't get too deep in php as a language, rather it focuses on php and mysql interaction, with an eye towards constructing a real world web application (which finally gets its parts joined in the final chapter).

Things I dislike are its use of templating systems over many chapters. That was not a subject I was interested in. Althought a serious php developer can't simply ignore this topic, it is not crucial in understanding the fundamentals, and it, in turn, adds a source of difficulty to the examples from chapter 7 on. Other thing I didn't like was the development of a complete application that I didn't have time to study, altough fortunately I managed to ignore it as much as I can, without losing too much.

In summary, I love this book, it is not perfect, but it's just what I needed and I give it 5 stars because it is a really well written and focused book.
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on May 6, 2002
You know a little HTML. You know a little programming. Perhaps you've used Perl to create a simple CGI form handler so that you can get feedback from a website. Williams and Lane methodically guide the reader through the steps needed to create a MySQL-driven web application written in PHP. Readers will get a solid introduction to using PHP, SQL and a deeper understanding the HTTP protocol than they may have had already. Williams and Lane use the practical example of building a retail website to highlight such issues as taint-checking user input and automating application maintenance with cron. Sure, veterans of web application design may not learn many new tricks here, but for those that want to become veterans some day, this book provides an excellent launch pad.
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on September 23, 2003
If you want to learn how to build a large scale php web app from start to finish this is the best book you can buy. Nearly every question i had was clearly explained, from user input validation to file uploads, from database queries to session management, its all here. Some books show you lots of small toy projects, this one builds a (nearly) industrial strength e-commerce site. The lessons are fairly universal, too - i used what i learned form this book to build a full scale dating web site.
The only beef i have with this book is that the code is entirely procedural, as opposed to object-oriented. This may not be a problem for most people, but i really feel that, after a site reaches a certain level of complexity, objects really make the code a lot easier to manage. There are also a truly heroic number of typos, so be sure to read the errata on the books web site. That i can still give this book 5 stars is just another testament to its excellence.
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on May 7, 2002
For anyone first learning how to write database-backed Web applications, this is an excellent introductory self-contained text. The selection and organisation of topics, style of presentation, emphasis and writing are all excellent. The main topic lacking from its online shopping example is the issue of online payment, and hopefully this will be included in a second edition. Despite being an introduction the text goes far enough to allow readers to implement serious applications.
It would make a very suitable text for an undergraduate course, though, as it lacks exercises, instructors need to invent their own application development assignments. Also, for a class inexperienced in data modelling, it would be useful to supplement the text with a wider range of examples, such as those in Wellings and Thomson, PHP and MySQL Web Development (SAMS, 2001). One reviewer here criticised the text for not going far enough, but this is unfair as it's only intended as an introduction; experienced developers would certainly need to access more advanced material. This does not detract from the value of this text to its intended readers.
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