The PHP UK conference is tomorrow at the Olympia Conference Centre in London – and there are still a few tickets left. Why not come along tomorrow and join us for what will be a great and informative schedule of talks?

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The folks from Packt Publishing recently sent me another of their books to review. If you’re not familiar with Packt, they’re a relatively new book publisher who are steadily building up quite a range of technology books on open source software, normally written by people involved or close to the software being written about. They’re like a modern day equivalent to the old O’Reilly of the 90’s, only (imho) with higher quality 🙂

A Bit About Packt

Mastering phpMyAdmin 2.11 for Effective MySQL Management by Marc Delisle is the third edition of this book, and it follows the usual pattern of Packt Publishing books. The book has clearly defined objectives on the cover, and it follows a clear progression of its chosen subject from start to end. It is well presented, with a clear layout and clean page design that makes it easy to read. The book also includes a sizeable index, something no decent technical book can be without.

I’m really pleased to see that Packt are now providing example code online for download, as well as online errata for the book. Many of their earlier books reviewed here on Planet PHP have been criticised for not doing so; it’s great to see Packt improving in this area.

No matter which Packt book you pick up, don’t let the use of language be the reason you put it back on the shelf. Most Packt books are written and reviewed by folks who don’t speak English as their first language. Once you get used to it, it’s never really a problem, but it’s worth pointing it out because if you browse their books at your local bookstore, it might put you off at first.

Introducing phpMyAdmin

If you’ve never heard of it, phpMyAdmin is (imho) one of the most important open source projects for the LAMP stack. phpMyAdmin provides a web-based admin interface for MySQL, making it extremely easy for folks new to the LAMP stack to start working with databases, and a very convenient way to avoid firing up the MySQL command-line if you need to check something or make changes to your databases.

It feels like phpMyAdmin has been around forever.

Unfortunately, it looks that way too at times. In the post Google Maps world of AJAX enabled slick and efficient user interfaces, phpMyAdmin’s usefulness can be hampered by its Web 1.0 UI, and by its continued reliance of manual configuration instead of a WordPress-like admin panel. Don’t get me wrong, phpMyAdmin is a good tool without equal atm, but it’s a workmanlike and functional tool that younger folks used to the Facebook world find a bit long in the tooth.

About The Book

Marc’s book is aimed both at folks new to MySQL and phpMyAdmin as well as experienced developers such as myself who aren’t aware of the advanced features that have been added over the years. The full chapter list is:

  1. Introducing phpMyAdmin
  2. Installing phpMyAdmin
  3. Interface Overview
  4. First Steps
  5. Changing Data
  6. Changing Table Structures
  7. Exporting Structure and Data
  8. Importing Structure and Data
  9. Searching Data
  10. Table and Database Operations
  11. The Relational System
  12. Entering SQL Commands
  13. The Multi-Table Query Generator
  14. Bookmarks
  15. System Documentation
  16. MIME-Based Transformations
  17. Character Sets and Collations
  18. MySQL 5.0 Features
  19. MySQL Server Administration
  20. Troubleshooting and Support

The first ten chapters cover the basics of using phpMyAdmin. If you’re new to phpMyAdmin, these chapters will be very helpful to you, and if you’ve been using phpMyAdmin for years, there’s still little bits in here that you might not have been aware of before now. I particularly like the way that these chapters often refer back to the configuration settings in phpMyAdmin’s config file. However, towards the end of this section, the material starts to feel a bit rushed, as if the author himself can’t wait to get onto the clever features of phpMyAdmin that have yet to come. If you’re completely new to MySQL, you might find the end of this section to be a little light on detail. I hope the next edition of this book beefs these chapters up a bit.

Like most people I know, my use of phpMyAdmin over the years has tended to stick with the basics: creating and browsing tables. I confess, it’s partly because I’ve found the phpMyAdmin UI to be more and more clunky as time has gone by, a throwback to the days before Google showed us just what could be done with Javascript and AJAX. So the second half of the book, which looks at the more advanced features of phpMyAdmin, were ones I found very educational. I had no idea, for example, that phpMyAdmin now includes an AJAX-based Designer tool, or that I can use phpMyAdmin to generate PDF documentation of my databases. I found these chapters to be very detailed and informative, although again towards the end of the second half of the book, the chapters began to feel a little rushed in places to me.

Conclusion

I have several new starters joining my team in June, and it’ll be interesting to see whether or not they find the book useful as they find their feet in their first job doing PHP web development. One thing’s for sure: I’ll have no hesitation in leaving this book out for them to read.

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The folks at Packt Publishing sent me a copy of Dennis Popel’sLearning PHP Data Objects” to review. I’d never heard of Packt before, and was intrigued. They’re a relatively new publisher, with a growing range of books on PHP-related topics, and they remind me of what O’Reilly was like when they first started out. According to their About Us page, they also pay a royalty direct to open source projects – so sales from Dennis’ book should result in money coming the PHP Group’s way.

What Does The Book Claim To Do?

The jacket of the book says that, by reading the book, you’ll learn:

  • An overview of the technology
  • Getting started with PDO
  • Creating sample databases
  • Different methods of creating connection strings
  • Error handling, prepared statements, and handling rowsets
  • Getting column metadata
  • Setting connection parameters with examples
  • Handling rowsets and different ways to retrieve multiple rows

The book also includes a helpful appendix on PHP object-oriented programming for readers who aren’t familiar with using PHP this way.

My copy of the book doesn’t include a CD with the code listings on, and I wasn’t able to find the code listings online to download. That’s something I’d like to see Packt change in the next edition; I thought we’d stopped having to type in code examples with the demise of the good ol’ ZX Spectrum 🙂 I haven’t tested the example code in the books as a result, and given Lukas’s concerns about errors in the code found in another of Packt’s books, don’t be surprised if there are issues here. But don’t be put off by it either.

Does It Do What It Says On The Tin?

Yes.

If you’ve never used PHP’s PDO before, and you’re looking for a book to get you up and running, then you should take a look at Learning PHP Data Objects. The book covers all the basics, plus error handling (something I personally heartily approve of 🙂 ), and also topics like streaming BLOB objects from the database out to the browser.

This isn’t a book that aims to teach you SQL, nor the differences between the different SQL dialects supported by your favourite database platforms; it’s totally focused on the PDO side of things. This is a good thing; it ensures that the examples and text aren’t constantly full of tony tangents distracting you from the main reason for buying this book: to learn PDO.

Is This A Book You Will Go Back To In The Future?

I’m not sure. From start to finish, the book is written as a tutorial rather than a reference, staying true to the book’s title and mission. I feel that the book’s index is incredibly weak, which is a shame, but not unexpected in a tutorial book. It’s the sort of book that you’d like to have on the company’s bookshelf to help new starters get up to speed with PDO, but it’s likely to stay on the shelf afterwards.

Conclusion

If you’re new to PHP, or haven’t yet made the move from PHP 4 to PHP 5, then this book can help you get started with one of the important new features of PHP 5. It’s a book that does exactly what it says on the tin, which is a refreshing change 🙂

Whilst there’s plenty of online tutorials about PDO out there, for the folks who prefer to read a real book, as far as I can tell after a quick bit of Googling this is the only book out there to date that’s dedicated solely to covering PDO (if you know of any such books, please leave a link to them in the comments below).

If you’ve bought this book and have an opinion on it, please leave a comment.

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