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PHP for Absolute Beginners Paperback – Oct 28 2009
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About the Author
Jason Lengstorf is a software designer and developer based in Missoula, MT. As the owner of Ennui Design, he specializes in creating custom Web applications, ranging from simple informational websites to full-fledged content management systems. When not glued to his keyboard, he's likely standing in line for coffee, shopping for cowboy shirts, or pretending to know something about wine.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Being an absolute beginner in PHP, I give the book 3 stars. Here's why:
The author glosses over theory (in some instances, he just does away with it all together) in order to hurry up and get to the part of the book where you code your own blog. That's fine if all you want to be able to do with PHP is code your own simple blog. However, if you're like me and would actually like to be able to code something other than a blog after you read this book, you NEED theory. There are several different ways you can code things to get the same output. You need to know the hows and whys of them all in order to choose the best coding method for your project. Otherwise, you run the risk of creating a buggy program and spending hundreds of hours and countless frustrations on a project that you'll ultimately have to scrap because it wasn't coded properly in the first place.
There is no Glossary. Dozens of new terms and concepts get thrown at you within the first two chapters of the book, most of which are poorly explained (if they are even explained at all). A glossary at the back of the book would have allowed the author to explain them in detail to true beginners in PHP without taking up space within the chapters themselves. Without it, the first couple of chapters can be a bit overwhelming.
There are errors in the test code. To me, this is perhaps the biggest flaw this book has. Even during the first few chapters, you are encouraged to write the test code out for yourself, save it, view what you've just created, and compare it to the example in the book. I spent nearly an hour in frustration over a section of code that was giving me nothing but errors, the entire time wondering what I was doing wrong. Fed up and discouraged, I finally decided to move on. Several pages later, after having read about a new concept, I discovered that the reason why I got nothing but errors before was because one line in the test code was wrong. In a book that is primarily teaching PHP through example codes, having even one line of coding wrong is unfathomable.
The good thing about this book is it DOES get you coding right away. It's encouraging to see code that you've written (even from examples) work. It's even more gratifying playing around with the example code on your own, changing different variables, to see how it changes the final output. Because you're coding a simple blog, you learn about databases and how PHP interacts with MySQL, something that is very valuable in the age of dynamic websites.
All in all, this book is worth the read if you'd rather code a sample project before starting off on your own coding journey. If you are a true beginner in PHP, be prepared to struggle a bit if you don't purchase a separate book on PHP theory or research it online before starting this one.
For example, in Chapter 5 the author provides a Cascading Style Sheet with the caveat that this isn't a book on HTML/CSS and the user should type the text as displayed. Detailed instructions are provided for including the style sheet in the project. Unfortunately the href for the style sheet - "/css/default.css" - is wrong and it should be "/simple_blog/css/default.css". As a result, the style sheet isn't used and the actual browser output doesn't match what's displayed in the book.
In Chapter 3, page 90 the author feeds the result of the trim() function to the empty() function as part of a conditional check - if(!empty(trim($_POST['username']))). This code returns a fatal error because empty() will only check variables. Again, typing the code as displayed in the book would have caught the error.
In Chapter 7 on page 200 there's a custom confirmDelete() function that doesn't work and isn't part of the author's official code sample. Did anybody test the code before putting it in the book?
I'm giving PHP for Absolute Beginners 3 stars because the editing was sloppy. If the errors are corrected I would give it an additional star. The author provides a complete sample application and reviews all the pieces of the program. That's more than you'd get from a Software Development Kit sample. He discusses using XAMPP for PHP development which is a great suggestion for starting users. There are some wrinkles when installing & configuring XAMPP which would have been nice if the book had taken the time to go over it. I had to spend an afternoon reading the ApacheFriends forums to solve my problems.
I have a few PHP books and looked over lots of others online but so many have fell short in my opinion. Either they are way too basic and cover little tidbits and little examples. Thats all well and good for just learning the basics of the language but then what?
After you learn the basics of the PHP syntax (variables, conditional statements, loops, functions, object and connecting to MySQL) then what?
Well, normally most will try and look for an intermediate-advanced book, but do know what happens then? You find the book teaches more advanced topics which may or not be of help to you because you really havent fully understood how to use the basics yet.
This book does. This is the only book i've read in PHP (if not any other programming web langauge), that after it explains the syntax basics with some small little examples, it then shows the reader how to take what they have learned into developing a real world example.
This book shows its readers how to build a working blog site. Of course its not a WordPress clone, but its a useable website that can be expanded. It is actually useful web application. Brilliant!
I have started to implement this book on my PHP classes I will teach next semester. I wish this book was written years ago.
A must buy for anybody who wants to either learn the basics of PHP, or a current PHP devloper who wants to learn how to use PHP the right way and learn to develop a real PHP web application.
1. grammatical errors (which increase in frequency as the book progresses)
2. major code errors!
3. INFURIATING program inconsistencies (i.e. In ch5 you build a simple blog with the author. In ch6 the author wants you add functionality to the blog you built in ch5, but now he starts telling you to add to code that we never even wrote in the first place! He's telling you to change the previous code [which doesn't exist] to the new code, which you are hopefully resourceful enough to realize on your own by this point in the book... IT WON'T WORK WITH THE PROGRAM HE HAD YOU WRITE!)
4. Learning HTML on your own (there's not even a refresher in this book, you just have to know HTML or come back when you do)
5. Learning CSS on your own (no explanation at all on what this is... you just enter in the authors magic words and suddenly page looks right!)
6. Learning programming methodology on your own (search for Stanford University's youtube course on the subject and learned like crazy, then come back to this book and it will kind of make sense if you can translate the concepts on your own)
7. Learning all about .htaccess on your own (good luck beginners, much less absolute beginners, cause the explanation is nill)
8. Learning how the internet and web development actually works on your own.
9. Any error in your code and won't know if it's your fault or if you've simply been taught wrong... it's up to you to figure out who's gone wrong and where! SERIOUSLY
As it turns out, little did I know (nor did the cover or contents tell me), HTML is a pre-requisite. You should already be fluent in HTML. I'm sorry, but I wasn't quite an absolute beginner and I got my brain handed to me on a platter with this. The author introduces one concept, explaining it well, and then before you know it he's throwing another concept out there that you've never even heard before. You read on, hoping for an explanation that never comes. Solution = google + patience & suffering.
Somebody was in a BIG rush to get this book out. I have never seen such blatantly absent proofreading and editing.
That being said, I am learning PHP from this book. Perhaps the best teacher is the experience of not being able to trust the author's code. Hopefully people will figure this out on their own like I did instead of thinking their just not getting it! Giving up was not an option for me so I put the book down and went and learned HTML. I came back and learned a little more PHP and then found out that he wasn't going to teach me why he was doing what he was doing or what a ton of different words he was using were... so I went and took 8 hours of programming methodology at Stanford on YouTube! I came back and learned more PHP until I had to know what the heck he was doing with all this CSS, where I took a break and went to have a look at that. Then I came back and learned a tiny bit about databases from this book and then... well, you get the point. But if you have that level of perserverence, you can learn PHP like I did from this guy. Otherwise you will need to be familiar with programming already, not be a beginner!
It places far too much emphasis on the use of developer kits/interfaces.
There is a good dose of PHP code as well, but it does not start there, nor does it focus on it. So if you are looking to learn PHP for itself - regardless of the development environment, this is Not a starting place!
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