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PHP Solutions: Dynamic Web Design Made Easy Paperback – Nov 24 2010
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About the Author
David Powers is an Adobe Community Expert for Dreamweaver and author of a series of highly successful books on PHP, including PHP Solutions: Dynamic Web Design Made Easy and Foundation PHP for Dreamweaver 8. As a professional writer, he has been involved in electronic media for more than 30 years, first with BBC radio and television and more recently with the Internet. His clear writing style is valued not only in the English-speaking world; several of his books have been translated into Spanish and Polish. What started as a mild interest in computing was transformed almost overnight into a passion, when David was posted to Japan in 1987 as BBC correspondent in Tokyo. With no corporate IT department just down the hallway, he was forced to learn how to fix everything himself. When not tinkering with the innards of his computer, he was reporting for BBC television and radio on the rise and collapse of the Japanese bubble economy. Since leaving the BBC to work independently, he has built up an online bilingual database of economic and political analysis for Japanese clients of an international consultancy. When not pounding the keyboard writing books or dreaming of new ways of using PHP and other programming languages, David enjoys nothing better than visiting his favorite sushi restaurant. He has also translated several plays from Japanese.
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It seems that Powers came to computer guru-dom from a career in broadcast journalism, and it shows in his ability to present exactly the information I need in exactly the way I need it. I'm a fairly experienced user-developer, but not a technical person. Powers is a wizard and at the same time a first-rate "host" to the reader. He understands the difference between making an explanation ALMOST confusion-free and getting it just right. His writing style pleasantly engages you on grown-up terms, with no static of jokiness to cut through.
As for content, PHP Solutions is, as the title declares, a solution-oriented approach to getting things done with PHP, not a ground-up tutorial or a dictionary-like reference. But I find that the challenges and solutions Powers has assembled amount to an important part of what I want to get done on a project. You can learn PHP basics anywhere (although Powers gives you a refresher in those, too) and then, when it comes to putting a particular capability into your website, turn to this book for the solution. For example, when I look at the code I wrote for my course-management system to display a list of students' reports with short extracts in screens of ten students each, I find the following comment:
// *** Prepare for paging through query results, displaying a specified number
//of records on the page and inserting a record-navigation system above and
//below the records. This is a heavily modified adaptation and combination of
//techniques from PHP Solutions by David Powers.
I really write comments like that, because I have to remember what parts of "my system" might need attribution if I describe it in an academic paper. The one above refers to the first edition of PHP Solutions, which brings us to an important point. I was working in PHP 4 at the time and dreading the move to PHP 5. Dave Powers took care of me at my own level but also showed how things could be done the newer way, thereby getting me started on the road to transition. If you're coming to PHP Solutions now, in the new edition, be aware that PHP 4 is a THING OF THE PAST -- and be glad! You shouldn't invest time and headaches in writing it at this date.
Note the following from the introduction to the book: "If you're in hurry or are daunted by the prospect of building class definitions, you can simply use the finished files. However, I encourage you to explore the class definitions. The code will teach you a lot of PHP that you'll find useful in other situations." Right. I started out pasting useful code snippets years ago but found that while it was the first step in learning the code, it was also the first step in a mess that I couldn't untangle when things didn't quite work. Do learn the lessons that Powers makes so learnable. They'll have you writing reusable code, and you'll understand how to deploy it. Still, you don't want to struggle with every last keystroke in making it run -- and that, of course, is why you want a book of solutions. So it's great having solid, tested examples to go from.
With many computer books, I feel that I've invested in a small number of valuable tips -- which is all right, if they're lifesavers. With PHP Solutions, the abundance of lifesavers and generally useful information is very rich. Since the original edition is my most-used computer book (literally), I'm happy to have had the chance to review this edition, working from a complimentary copy.
I come from a programming background but I'm new to all things "web development". I went through the Head First HTML/CSS book and thought it was great. Decided to give the Head First PHP a try and was disappointed with it and so abandoned it half way through. Decided to give this one a try because of all the good reviews.
My first impression was that I liked the actual layout of the book and the teaching style much better than the Head First book. For the most part, the authors explanation of what each line of code is doing is excellent. The sequence of topics being covered seemed strange to me. You dive right in to the deep end which I found a little unsettling at first. There were a few instances where the author puts a line or two of some cryptic code and says something along the lines of "don't stress about this code and what it means...just know that it needs to be there and does what it needs to do" which I found a little strange because he was so detailed in his explanations in most other parts.
What I have found to be the most frustrating part of this book though, are the amount of errors found in the example code. I'm on page 256 of Ch. 09 and I've found no less than 6 or 7 errors in the code thus far that ARE NOT listed on the errata page on the books website. I've submitted the found errors to the publisher but I have yet to see them on the added to the errata list. Quite frankly, I'm pretty surprised that nobody else has mentioned this in any of their reviews? It is absolutely not possible to get working code from some of the examples given in the book as they are printed. Not only are the errors in the printed version of the book but in the downloadable code as well. For a beginner, things like missing semi-colons at the end of a php statement or a mistyped variable name can be obvious and easy to spot. Others like the one I just went through in the middle part of Ch. 09 (specifically solution 9.3 thru 9.5) were much for difficult to debug and resolve. I actually gave up and was ready to quit the book at one point. Out of sheer determination to get it working, I decided to pick the book back up a week or two later and give it another try and finally figured it out. Very frustrating.
I'm really curious to know how other reviews have not mentioned this? I can't be that crazy, can I?
David Powers in its books guides the reader step by step to understand the infinite power of PHP language through practical projects to realize, following the philosophy of the subtitle: "Dynamic Web Design Made Easy". This second edition adopts the same structure of the previous book but has been updated following the natural evolution of the language: PHP is an alive language and from 1995 to today it upgraded adding a lot of powerful features. Altough the first edition of the book already took in consideration version 5 of PHP - while version 4 was used by all - this second edition raises the compatibility to version 5.3 assuring also full compatibility with future PHP v. 6, under development for several years and never ended to a really usable release until now.
I would like to emphasize that this is not the usual book that limits itself to try to explain what's PHP with 500 and more pages of boring theory making use of interminable lists of PHP terms and property, rather reading with attention the several chapters everyone will succeed to complete practical projects that will sure return useful in the realization of Web sites as well as will increase the skill of PHP programming. This is possible also using the example files downloadable from the website of the book: at the last you will have 17 folders - one folder for chapter - plus images, CSS styles and all the files necessary for working easily through the book. Obviously a bit of theory is present: what's PHP? Is it useful for my works? Is it hard to understand? But I can assure that Powers supplies useful answers without to fall in boring programming rules, indeed using sometimes an unexpected sense of humor: An example? In chapter one he illustrates the way PHP makes Web pages dynamic and for example he uses the "Date" function of PHP reassuming the advantages of using it writing this: "You can enjoy your New Year's party without worrying about updating your copyright notice. Anyone accessing your site after the stroke of midnight sees the correct year." I find this both useful and actual since I am writing this review on the 26th of December.
After the good description about PHP, the author guides the reader to prepare a functional testing setup on the computer so to try soon the functionality of scripts made: useful suggestions are supplied about how install PHP, MySQL database and Apache server both on Windows and Mac and what all-in-one free packages are available to install as well as what editor to use to start to write PHP scripts.
A full chapter is dedicated to write PHP scripts in the more correct way: well this is the real core of the entire book. It's a bit hostic for the novice - although David Power try to make it friendly - and contains some technical notions about PHP and you will have to read it many times and probably will use it like reference in the future, but if you understand well it your skill will grow in clean way. Maybe this can free your interest for programming and today for a Web developer this is a great success key. The following chapters show other important PHP features overall the includes function and the classes that costitute a first step in OOP Programming: luckily Powers friendly explain this powerful way to write PHP code, emphasizing both its importance and efficiency.
Another important chapter is dedicated to Web forms: how to validate user imput, how to transmit it to email address and how to avoid that forms become a vehicle for spam diffusion. I have appreciate a lot this last theme that is well explained as well as the difference between GET and POST method with which PHP gains information from the forms. Luckily there is always PHP code ready to work with, so it's necessary only the minimal engagement to understand the argument and to complete the project.
Remaining chapters are dedicated to show the ability with which PHP can upload files to server, image manipulations, protect access to selected Web pages with login and password, and interact with MySQL database: all notions really necessary to know for the creation of really dynamic web sites. After a rich introduction to MySQL and the way databases stores informations, Powers guide the reader to create pratical project like a dynamic online gallery of photos. Thanks to this project the reader can also understand the correct way to dynamically add, delete, update elements in a database to change the aspect and the contents of Web pages or how to authenticate users to personal blog or any protected areas of a Web site and storing its access informations in a secure way using encription.
I think that this PHP book will be a bestseller for everyone that want to transform itself to a real Web developer as it goes to overwhelm some gaps present in Web designers that rarely exits from the comfortable house constituted from PhotoShop...
Something else to consider is that although many books will advise you to get PHP, MySQL, and Apache separately, this one does not. It has a specific installer that it recommends and goes through and shows you exactly what to do to get you up and running within 2 to 3 min. at most. This is a far cry from when I had to do it separately and is much easier for the beginner to get started quickly. Something else that is new to this edition is that the author goes into somewhat high-level programming near the end of the book regarding classes. While this may seem to be something that belongs in object-oriented book, this is done in such a way that you will easily understand exactly what he's talking about and why this is actually a good method to start doing from the very beginning.
Just like the first edition of the book, the author develops a PHP site from the ground up but still expects you to know you're basics such as HTML, and CSS. However, the author is focused solely on PHP so you won't have to edit any of that code. Of course, you can always download the PHP code and compare it to the code that you write. The author even stresses the fact that you can just simply read the book and copy and paste. However, I believe that it is better to actually trying to type the code yourself. This way you get a true understanding of what it is that you are doing and potential pitfalls and errors that you can make this programmer.
One thing to consider is that this book will not make you a PHP guy overnight. It is going to take some time to go through and not only do the exercises but really learn and understand the material. However, this is one of the best books that you should have is beginning programmer and indeed may be the only one that you need to start your PHP adventure. If you take the time to read through and learned the exercises, you will find that you'll be able to whip together solid PHP sites in little time with little effort. The reason for this of course is that the author never sounds like he's talking down to students and he always makes whatever topic he is talking about be variables, contact forms or even user authentication, interesting and engaging. This is truly the key to having any successful programming book. So do I recommend PHP Solutions? Absolutely and without reservation this is one of the best books to have on your bookshelf especially if you are beginning PHP programmer.
This book is a fantastic revision of the original PHP Solutions: Dynamic Web Design Made Easy. It covers the latest versions of PHP and MySQL, as well as the benefits that go along with them.
I found this book very helpful. The chapters on includes, forms, and MySQL were very well done and shockingly EASY! By creating include files my code is now much cleaner and easier to read; if I need to make a change, I only have to do it in one place.
Forms are everywhere on the web. The books makes forms fun, not frightening. The last half of the book deals with integrating MySQL into the mix. I am familiar connecting to a database and retrieving records; however Powers takes it a step further by explaining Date and Time functions and how to setup your database to use foreign key restraints to maintain referential integrity. He also shows how to write the code if you do not have the Innodb option available to you.
If you are unfamiliar with Object Oriented Programming like me you might find the chapters with classes a bit difficult, but definitely worth working through. I now have a better understanding of Object Oriented Programming and plan on getting PHP Object-Oriented Solutions. I feel I now have the knowledge and skills to go and tackle the dynamic problems I once faced. This book is a definite must have for the PHP enthusiast or anyone who wants PHP "PROBLEMS" Made Easy.
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