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on July 9, 2004
One question that may be going through your mind as you read these reviews is "Should I buy this book or 'MDX Solutions'?". I know that because that is what went through mine about three months ago as I read them.
In general, Fast Track is seen as the introductory book, Solutions as the expert's book. So I nearly skipped Fast Track and went directly to Solutions; I am so glad I didn't.
Fast Track is certainly the book to buy if you are new to MDX. It does a great job of introducing the language, it is excellently written by a set of true craftspeople - it is highly readable and, heaven help us, at times it is even amusing. This isn't like reading a text book, it is like sitting down with the guys who wrote it and having them tell you how MDX works.
Solutions is much less readable - we are talking about a typically stodgy reference book. But it does have a massive amount of information and that information is accurate and therefore highly useful.
So the easy answer is to buy both books, learn the basics from Fast Track and then use Solutions as a reference. And that is all I was initially going to write as my review. But I glanced back through Fast Track before I did so, looking back at it now as someone who now understands the language. And I was amazed at the amount of information that these guys cover. For example, MDX has about 150 functions in all, and Fast Track covers about 50 of them. Since they have carefully chosen the most commonly used ones, by the end of the book, you are familiar with most of the functions that you will ever need. And even better, you have enough background information to be able to understand the rest by reading the help system.
In addition they cover queries, expressions, calculated members, moving averages, distinct count, filters, colour coding, navigating the hierarchy, parent-child dimensions, member properties, security, the list goes on and on.
So, this is an introductory book in the sense that it assumes that you know nothing about MDX and introduces it gently. What is so subtle about the book is that it makes learning so easy, such fun, that you simply don't notice how much information these guys are pumping into your brain. Remember that Mosha Pasumansky invented MDX and he is one of the authors. He really does know what you really need in order to get started and up to speed.
So I still go with the notion that you need both books. Solutions is still a great reference book, but whatever else you do, start with Fast Track. In terms of useful information per unit cost, this is by far and away the best technical book I have ever read.
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on April 5, 2004
This book does what it says on the cover. And it does it very well.

It takes you quickly and clearly through the basic concepts of OLAP cubes and the terminology.
It introduces the structure of the MDX language then gets you to
understand the usage through clear examples.

The best thing about the Authors' style is that the examples build up from the question
"what do I want to do?" and end up with the line of code. I like this style. I prefer to learn how to tackle a problem than buying a book with a long list of solutions.

The latter chapters introduce you to the advanced concepts and features, again with good examples.

The book doesn't tell you how to sit down at SQL analysis services or Cognos Transformer and create a cube. It doesn't teach you to be a master of any of the OLAP clients.

It does give you a basic understanding of how OLAP servers and clients work and, if you understand what is under the hood, you can see how to tackle your own problems, start to build your own solutions and get more from your data.

This is not one of those big, every function and every option reference books.
This is a very readable book that will help you understand the subject.
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on January 8, 2004
This book is just great! I have so far found MDX to be a very difficult language to understand; although I am fluent in SQL. The problem was that I didn't know enough about the basics, so I couldn't get over that initial learning curve.
The huge strength of this book is not that it is the definitive work on MDX; the authors are very clear about this - that is not what they intended to wrote. What they wanted to write was a book that made it easy for people to get started with the language - hence the word 'FastTrack' in the title. And they have succeeded superbly. As I read this book, the whole way in which MDX works seemed to crystallize in my mind; suddenly it all made sense. Now I find it really easy to write MDX expressions, which is making my job so much easier! I totally recommend this book if you have been finding MDX difficult to understand.
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on January 30, 2004
I have read and found "Fast Track to MDX" to be easier to read and understand. There are many charts, diagrams, documentations and pictures to help the reader. I have tried many of the MDX statements in the book with success. The book has explained many things in a very understandable way, including Lead, Lag, Filter, IIF, Distinct Count, Count, Member Properties, Current Member, Previous Member, Syntax usage and more. Also, to my amazement, the CD included is ProClarity v5. ProClarity is a very good tool compared to other viewers and very user friendly and powerful. This book is good for both the beginner and intermediate users.
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on August 4, 2003
This is the perfect book for someone who has read other MDX books but still isn't clear on the difference between a tuple and a set. It isn't as detailed as Spofford's "Inside MDX", but spends most of its time giving detailed descriptions (with plenty of graphics) of the basics of MDX. It solved a host of MDX problems for me where a basic misunderstanding was causing an otherwise-correct statement to fail.
This is not a detailed reference, and you'll also need a more comprehensive book such as Spofford's to go past the basics. But for a "first book" on MDX, this is the right choice.
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on May 18, 2003
This is a fantastic book to get you started with MDX. I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot. The authors give you the information you need for the most commonly used functions and real world examples of how to use them. The building block approach helped to not overwhelm me which over course, kept me interested. I now know I can write MDX and although it will be a continual learning experience, I have a great foundation and feel that I can even handle MDX Solutions at this point.
I really like the writing style too!
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on November 10, 2003
This book has excellent coverage on MDX in general, and MS-AS in particular. It's a great book to start with, and the best book I've seen in the market. It covers just about every topic, and provides enough information, you can go on and try new things, or get enough ideas to solve your problem.
Be aware that this book is tailored for MS-AS. Although many MDX stuff applies to other products, good deal of the information is product specific.
If anything could be improved, it would be in the depth of coverage.
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on June 1, 2003
The authors do a terrific job in explaining the fundamentals of MDX. I really liked their style explaining how MDX expressions are composed, explaining the differences between tuples and sets, and their approach for incrementally building complex MDX expression. The book includes very useful and practical examples that I was able to utilize for our project (e.g. calculation of averages, filters, custom orders and rollups). I can highly recommend this book.
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on January 28, 2004
I should say, if you really want to understand MDX, this book is the place to start. The author presents the information in a very logical manner, building gradually, and anticipating your questions as you go along. If you're an MDX expert then you don't need this book. But for all you who are struggling to get started, look no further. And on top of that, I actually laughed; the author has a sense of humor; imagine that in a technical book!
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on July 21, 2003
I've been reading a few MDX books and I must say that this is 'The' book to start with.
Clear and easy to understand. The difficult passages are broken down into more palatable pieces and every concept is proved with examples that the reader can work out by himself. Even witty at times. I hope that this way of writing technical books will soon be established as a standard.
I am waiting for the Advanced MDX book from the same authors.
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