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on February 7, 2001
I wasn't going to review this book until I read Robert Peters' review. It is factually incorrect. I had to respond. I can only guess that Robert got a copy of the FIRST edition, which apparently ... This second edition is great.
First, Robert suggests that the book is "just a fat manual that lists functions" -- like a reference. Part 2 of the book is indeed titled "Functional Reference" and consists of 450 pages of functions (with sample code for most functions, organized into logical sections, like "Image Functions" and "Database Functions"). However, the book has THREE other parts, consisting of 300 more pages!
Part 1 is titled "An Introduction To PHP" (7 chapters, about 120 pages). It teaches the fundamentals of programming, has tons of screenshots and sample code, and is written in a conversational style that makes it easy to understand the technical stuff. The author's explanation of variables (page 16) is good, and he also covers loops, functions, arrays, etc. If Robert's other criticism of the book, that "it won't teach you how to use the language" is true, then what is all of Part 1 for?
Part 3 is titled "Algorithms" (5 chapters, about 100 pages). It steps you through real-world examples, and while none of the examples are huge (like "here's a complete e-commerce shopping cart solution"), they are all practical and can be combined to create what is needed. For instance, modify the discussion forum sample on pages 635-641, combine it with the code samples for session handling, and you could allow users to enter and store "preferences" for your Web site, or you could allow users to append comments to articles, like ZDnet does.
Part 4 is titled "Software Engineering" (3 chapters, 80 pages). It addresses one of the big controversies with server-parsed HTML, and that is: "gasp, you've combined code with HTML!" The author talks about why it is an issue, and outlines different ways to embed PHP in HTML. I don't like his conclusion (turn everything into PHP and use "print" to output HTML), but I must admit I am elated to see someone discussing the issue.
In conclusion, Robert's other criticisms of the book -- that it doesn't show how to "build dynamic web sites" and that the book doesn't explain how to use functions "within the context of a script" -- just shows he didn't bother to actually read it. Almost EVERY function has a code sample. And almost ALL the database examples are used precisely for building dynamic Web sites. Perhaps Robert thinks "dynamic Web sites" is the same as "Dynamic HTML" -- if so, he should get a book on JavaScript and leave Core PHP Programming to those of us who are ready to learn about database-driven sites. Because as far as I'm concerned, this book is great for learning and using PHP. Better than the PHP Bible.
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on October 7, 2003
One deniable fact of the book is the presentation. The presentation is simple and easy to understood. Language used is simple , attractive and not complicated as others. Explanations are clear and direct to the point , embedded with examples which makes the book worth. Its a rare ability in programmers/ developers to put into simple words, but the author has possed such skills.
Another added advantage is the organization of the book itself. Organized in such way , thats to introduce PHP and Web based developments efficiently to newbie or intermediate users whom is seeking to improve the coding style. Explains are so beneficial with so many functions explained by using example and thats great for beginners.
But if you are a experienced and advance level user, this book might not satisfy your need, but rather a quick reference with example for advance users.
Chapter on Software Engineering is another strentgh, presented in simpler way on how someone could achieve/acquire the designing skills as the desinging skills is equally important with coding. An intelligent coding could be handicapped with a poor design.
Basically , new users and intermediate users will benefit alot from this book.
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on January 16, 2004
This is a fantastic book if you already know PHP. If you're like me -- transitioning from ASP to PHP -- this book is completely, utterly, worthless.
In order to understand the programming syntax, you must already be familiar with C. The book does a poor job of acclimating you to it's backwards, excessively abbreviated method of coding.
The vast majority of functions and methods described in the book have absolutely NO CODE EXAMPLES whatsoever. Many functions get exactly one small paragraph of description, without any detail of input, output or expected return data. A great example is the $_REQUEST pregen variable. How do you use it? Don't rely on this book to figure it out. There's NO DOCUMENTATION. What if you want to know how to connect to a MySQL server that isn't your "localhost"? This book doesn't even touch the syntax of mysql_connect. All of the examples in the book use "localhost" over and over again. Apparently, the good people at PHP don't think that you would ever ever in a million years connect to a MySQL server that isn't on your local system. Oops.
Furthermore, the Index is also worthless. Referring to the previous example, let's say you wanted to find what little information there is on the $_REQUEST pregen variable. If you look under "R", you won't find it. If you look under "$", you still won't find it. Somehow, you must magically know to look under "pregenerated variables" in order to find the index entry for $_REQUEST. That's great if you already knew that you were looking for something that was classified as a pregen variable. But, if you didn't know that tidbit of information, then this book left you high & dry.
This book makes great leaps of abstraction. They explain a small amount of syntax, and expect you to re-apply that syntax haphazardly when you write your code. Here is a brief allegory of their style of explanation, so you understand what we're talking about:
1. The universe is made from sub-atomic particles.
2. Sub-atomic particles make atoms.
3. From this, we can understand how Man creates skyscrapers.
That's how this insipid book reads from cover to cover.
The second half of this book ignores the concept of "reference manual" completely, and dives into program theory. It's a great computer science 101 refresher course on sorting algoriths and program structure, and even coding styles!
To sum up, if you already know PHP and you enjoy a trip through abstracted fantasy land, buy this book. On the other hand, if you exist in reality and you want to learn how to write PHP code, skip this useless paperweight.
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on February 19, 2004
First, I'll admit that I'm biased against PHP because it's such a haphazard language. I was frustrated to no end to find out that they made a huge change to the object model with this PHP 5. But, since it's helpful to know PHP, I figured I would grab a book that was written by the authoritative gurus on PHP. With that having been said ...
What a joke! This isn't a programming book, it's a memoir! The authors explain PHP only to the extent to which it allows them to glorify themselves and the open source community (or as I like to call it: the confoundingly elitist hippy brigade.
Part 1 is actually the most useful part of this useless book. It walks you through the basics of the language. Thankfully, it has the most examples so you can do some real learning instead of listening to their pie-in-the-sky abstraction ideas. Part 2 calls itself a "functional reference", but it's anything than that. Each entry gets a paragraph talking about the language element. But, there's no indication of how to use it -- not even an example in most cases! Furthermore, part 3 and part 4 of the book are totally useless. Yes, they explain how to code a nice sorting algorithm, use nifty graphics manipulators, and how to write efficient code. But, honestly? If you were writing code in another language, you could buy modules for sorting and graphics for about $10 each that are far easier to use and more powerful than what's given in PHP. This book doesn't cover all the bases it should about writing code well - they dedicate anout 25 pages to the subject. And, if you're concerned about writing efficient code and building sorting routines from scratch yourself, go take a class and learn to do it right! (Hint: this book actually shows you how to do it INcorrectly on occasion.)
Save your money and try one of the "customers who bought this also bought" because that will tell you where customers turned to after this book completely disappointed them.
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on February 15, 2004
I have to agree with the negative reviews - this book just doesn't make any sense. First of all, why call it "Core" PHP? There's no core to this book. There's no syntax description, no documentation on arguments, returned values, or errors. There's very few examples of code, even the new version 5 code. This book should have been called "Addendum to a previous reference" instead of Core.
Personally, I distaste the format and style of the book. The first chapter glorifies the history of PHP to make you think it's bigger than Jesus. Guess what, folks? PHP has a long way to go before it's deserving of such praise. If I wanted an editorial, I would've gone to the "fiction" section of my bookstore.
Lastly, the positive reviews on this site are obviously written either by the authors or by people with affiliations with this publications. Come on, guys. Shouldn't you spend less time pumping up your diatribe novel, and more time writing a useful book on a fledgling programming language?
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on February 12, 2004
This book achieves what it sets out to: A core reference on php. It won't teach you how to implement a silly pet store with a mysql database. But it will be a useful resource and a great reference to the language, functions sorted according to meaningful chapters with excellent poignant examples, and how-to's for common real-world problems, then this is for you. If you want to learn how to develop a web application according how someone else thinks you should design it, then go for the more popular tutorial-style books. If you want a desktop reference that you can rely on when you need the facts then this is it.
The reviewers who gave this low stars probably want their hand held thru a join the dots web project. If you are a serious PHP web application designer who values creativity and flexibility and wants more than a tutorial, you'll be impressed with Core PHP, 3rd Edition. It also covers PHP 5 improvements to the language as well. Maybe thats why the script kiddies are wary because PHP is moving away from procedural script-in-html mode into the Object Oriented world of component driven design.
There are great chapters on software engineering, efficiency, integration, and design patterns that will be invaluable to the PHP architect. As are the full descriptions of configuration variables and interacting with your environment.
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on April 5, 2004
One of my key concerns when reviewing a good book is the pull between information density and a light, easily read style. I believe that as we get further along the learning curve we can sacrifice some readability for density -- we want more facts and less explanation.
The authors of Core PHP Programming have found a marvelous middle ground. Toward the beginning of the book they have a great deal of light, explanatory material as they cover the basics of PHP. As they move towards more advanced topics there is less explanation and a tighter packing of information. At the same time the book has a large number of small code examples throughout, making sure that you know how to use the functions under discussion.
This is the third edition and I must admit that I had not come across it in either the first or second editions, so I have no great way of comparing them in this review. It has certainly been revised to take into account the changes for PHP 5 and examining the table of contents for the second edition on Safari I can see the that the basic structure has remained the same while the book has grown about 300 pages. The addition of Zeev Suraski as co-author can only be to the benefit of the quality of the information, particularly regarding PHP 5.
The book starts with the absolute rock bottom of PHP, the basic data types and operators through to efficiency, debugging and design patterns. Along the way it covers almost all aspects of PHP 5 with a readable reference style. The 'Core' in the title of this book is a key to understanding it. If you're looking for a book with all the code required to handle session management, or user logins and security (to mention two possibilities) then this isn't the book for you. If, however, you are after a book that more than adequately explains the power and nuances of PHP and programming in the language then this is a marvelous volume.
It's broken up into 5 sections: "Programming PHP," which covers the basics of data, control flow and I/O; "Functional Reference," which is 600 odd pages broken up into 12 chapters that seems to cover every PHP function (a check of three sub chapters showed every function mentioned on the topic at PHP.net was also in the book) and does it well with good explanation and code examples; "Algorithms," which details a number of methods of performing routine tasks such as sorting, parsing and generating graphics; and "Software Engineering," devoted to design, efficiency and design patterns; and finally, there are a seven excellent appendices.
Taken as a whole it does a good job of covering the whole language and the ways of using it.
I can imagine it would make a good companion volume to my other favourite PHP volume, PHP and MySQL Web Development, which tends more towards recipes and leaves out the encyclopedic coverage of this book.
Leon Atkinson has a good web page for the book that includes a link to download all the code and examples, a link to the Prentice Hall page for those wanting an example chapter or a look at the Table of Contents and some other reviews. His site also has a page for the inevitable errata, currently blank. While I did find only one typo (not in example code) I can't claim to have read every page or run all the code examples.
I'd recommend this volume to anyone who wanted a comprehensive guide to PHP 5. It is probably useful at almost all levels.
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on September 15, 2000
This is a wonderful book! I've had this nagging background need to learn PHP for some time and have been putting it off as one of those extra little tasks I could do without. After reading just a little of this book I couldn't wait to get started!
Leon Atkinson aims his book at both beginner and advanced users and his writing style manages to score a direct hit! The basics are covered in sufficient detail to allow the intelligent beginner to follow along and learn useful stuff pretty quickly. This is achieved without talking down to advanced users, or bogging them down in masses of simple things. The organisation and layout of the book is good enough to allow most readers to jump straight into the sections that interest them most, so if you just want to use this book for reference, rather than have it act as a tutor, you can. Lots of references to more elementary programming texts are provided for anyone who does find themself struggling with the concepts, but I can't really imagine anyone needing them.
Coverage is very comprehensive too, so you never find yourself left in the lurch just as things are about to get really interesting, as I've had happen in many books aimed at beginners. So far, this book has provided good solid instruction of every PHP task I've needed or fancied (although a better index wouldn't go amiss!) and has frequently provided me with a coded solution all ready to plug in and use! I can see that this volume will have a place alongside my computer for some time!
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on January 7, 2004
This time around Leon Atkinson teamed up with Zeev Suraski, one of the PHP project's team members and co-developer of the Zend Engine -- the scripting language that powers PHP. Structurally, the book is laid out very much the same as it's predecessor. There are four parts followed by several appendices. This format works well and is easy to navigate. The layout has a more polished look to it.
One of the many things I really enjoy about this book are the examples that are provided, they are concise but well thought out and usually show related functions that help with code generation. As a heavy Index user I am happy to say that this one doesn't disappoint. Some effort was put into organizing this information, for people like me, to thumb through and find things quickly. The book has been updated to include the full features for PHP 5. This is good for those of us who have dealt with feature creep over the years and get stumped by subtle changes in the way functions work.
I highly recommend this book. It is a great resource for the PHP programmer regardless of skill level.
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on February 18, 2004
I read the reviews before I bought the book. Sadly, I should have listened to the negative reviews. This book is NOT what it's advertised. I agree with the other reviewer: this is not a "CORE" book. Rather, it's more of an intellectual discussion of PHP on an abstract level. If you know the syntax, and want to learn how to apply it, then this book may be to your liking. However, DO NOT expect a reference guide!!! This book does not take the time to document the language. This isn't the kind of book you keep at your side while you code. You read it, absorb it's wisdom, and then proceed.
Why did I give the book two stars? Two reasons: 1. Because a core book should be just that: core material (i.e.: a reference, a code example, and a best practices guide.) This book is a conceptual teaching guide. Which is fine, but, I already know how to code. I wish this book would have been more direct to begin with. 2. The book is a rather boring read. I once agree with the other reviewer: I could have done without all the self-congratulatory text. As for the meat of the book, it was rather amateurish and cutesy, the way Japanese instruction booklets are. All in all, mostly disappointing.
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