13th December, 2009
This is the first book sent to me from Packt where I wasn’t left dizzy from trying to understand just what it is the author was trying to get across. It looks like their proof-reader was awake for this one – totally awesome.
“jQuery 1.3 with PHP” is aimed “for PHP application developers who want to improve their user interfaces through jQuery’s capabilities and responsiveness”. Over the course of ten chapters Verens starts the off with an introduction, then a series of ‘Quick Tricks’ that almost immediately help you add some measure of “Web 2.0″ functionality to what I’d term a “web 0.2 application” rather sharply.
The book ends with a chapter on Optimization – some of which you are bound to already know and some which are complete gems.
In the middle are chapters with mini-projects on tabs and accordians, forms and form validation, file management, calendars (and how to make your own google-calendar-like application), image manipulation, drag and drop and data tables.
In each case, projects are analysed and the required steps for each are outlined in the simplest terms – no extraneous buzzwords are used or are the projects over-analysed for the sake of pedantry.
I was a little surprised in some places where, for example, the json encoded output was not created via json_encode; but then thought not everyone is going to have PHP 5.2 or greater installed. Thumb forward a few pages and this is mentioned. So all’s o k.
It was good to see Kae suggesting use of the PEAR Validate package (or similar) in the Forms and Forms Validation chapter (chapter 4). I had to wonder if there was a PEAR package for creating and shunting down jQuery validation rules to the client – and found that there isn’t. That’s something to consider for later on, I guess.
The rest of the book is similarly both easy to read and easy to understand – my first port of call for learning how to do something that I’d almost term exotic with jQuery and with PHP in the background is usually Google but that is going to change (actually it already has).
Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this books working title was “JQuery and PHP: The HowTo” – it is that good.
Now, this book is not for learning jQuery – that is not within its remit, but I would heartily recomend “jQuery 1.3 with PHP” by Kae Verens to anyone wanting to utilise jQuery from a PHP background.
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15th November, 2009
PHP Team Development by Samisa Abeysinghe
A few weeks ago I received a copy of “PHP Team Development” from Packt.
Split into seven chapters, all equally sprinkled with phrases that are disjointly written and that don’t get a point across, and some that make you think the book was written using some speech-to-text software (“Vendor locking” anybody?) , this book which “is for PHP developers who work in teams on complex projects” has given me an aversion to seeing three little words printed alongside each other (“the PHP code”).
If you have read this book you too will develop this aversion. I think Lorna Jane Mitchell and Brandon Savage who both bravely reviewed this book before me might be inclined to agree.
Published only in September of this year, I found it surprising that its section on coding standards and best practices does not suggest the use of phpCodeSniffer (for checking the adherence to coding standards, and which, incidentally, has been available in one form or the next for the last three years). Nor does Samisa suggest the use of phpUnit or SimpleTest for unit testing (Actually, nothing is mentioned for unit testing – the concept isn’t even described, nor is Test Driven Development). These tools have been around for a very long time and I was honestly startled by their ommission.
In a way that’s fine – these are only tools and the book is about team development – not about listing and reviewing each and every tool that could be used to help team members make more efficient use of their time.
But I’d rather use these tools during peer review to help highlight what a team member may be doing wrong in an efficient use of my time, than have to analyse the code myself.
So, moving on, there’s a section explaining that frameworks should also be assessed on the basis of the various open source licenses they are distributed under but the author doesn’t really explain why this is important – or discuss what the prevalent FLOSS licences are (MIT, BSD, GPL etc), or what issues they each attempt to address and what they are best suited for.
The NIH (Not Invented Here) Syndrome is mentioned and to be fair the author does give a long list of frameworks to be considered; probably the one detailed list in the book, to be honest.
PEAR had been mentioned in passing elsewhere in the book so I was expecting it to be listed in the frameworks section too, as I was expecting ezComponents to be referenced somewhere as well – but then, these are a component framework/libraries so perhaps he thought it did not belong in such a list.
To be honest, I think that is part of the problem. The book focuses on what the author thinks and his thoughts on the subject are written in such a manner, that once you put in the immense effort in trying to understand what he is attempting to communicate, that you are left with the impression that
there are no alternatives; that X & Y & Z are the true and tested ways of doing things in PHP and there are no two ways about it.
This is a complete shame.
Some other observances about this book;
- Continuous Integration is mentioned; but CruiseControl and PHP-Under-Control are not.
- Source Code Control is mentioned, and here Subversion and GIT are covered. CVS is mentioned elsewhere, under a section, and chapter, far-far-away. Mercurial, bazaar and others don’t even get a look-in.
- There is no mention of how approaches to Team Development might vary depending on whether some team members might be working remotely, Pair Programming is barely mentioned let alone suggested as one way of ensuring that each team member is learning from the other and reviewing the code that his partner has written.
- Under issue- or bug-tracking, jira and bugzilla are mentioned as two popular bug tracking tools, and although Abeysinghe states “there are numerous tools that are available, both opensource and commercial for bug tracking”, no others are listed. Fogbugz, Mantis, RT, Trac, and plenty others get left by the wayside.
Actually, I’m wrong. Sorry. Trac is mentioned – at the other end of the book; though not in the glossary or index.
I honestly considered giving up on reading this book and not writing this review. The book truly is that bad. The thought of someone paying out close to thirty euro for a book that I’d call poorly researched, badly proof-read, woefully incomplete, badly structured at worst and self-opinionated at best did force me to reconsider.
Nobody should spend close to thirty euro on a book and get so little in return.
So my oneliner opinion of PHP Team Development by Samisa Abeysinghe?
I’d seriously suggest you give it a miss – do something more meaningful with the money and buy bread to bring your team on a duck-feeding-mission.
Posted at 9:33 am | Comments Off
27th October, 2009
A while ago I was sent a complimentary review copy of “Beginning Joomla! (Second Edition)” by Dan Rahmel and published by Apress.
In a clear non-patronising and concise manner the author explains to the reader just what Joomla is (a content management system), how to install, add content, administer, design templates and write extensions for it. He touches on SEO and covers the aspects of both deploying Joomla on Windows, Linux and Mac.
Done in a gentle manner with graceful explanations along the way, he explains everything in a clear manner: how to troubleshoot not being able to access the web or database servers and even mentioning the password system differs from version 4 to version 5 of mysql, for example.
There are a few points in the book that startled me however; Rahmel informs the reader in chapter three that if XAMPP is used as a means of installing the base requirements then certain security concerns need to be addressed. In chapter two he states PHP 4.3.10 as the lowest version required – I’m surprised that a later version of PHP 4 wasn’t recommended, even though 4.3.10 may be the lowest required version – version
4.4.10 4.4.9 for example which is the very last version of PHP to ever be released. I hope this is just a typo that hadn’t been caught in time.
If it was not, then I’d have to express a certain level of professional disappointment; the security enhancements and bug fixes in PHP 4.4.10 should definitely have been enumerated. While it is true to say that most installs of Joomla are into shared hosting environments where such changes can not be implemented, I also would have expected the author to have mentioned that Apache, and by implication Joomla, performs better when configuration directives are specified in the httpd.conf files rather than .htaccess files which must first be scanned for at a directory-by-directory level.
I had been looking forward to reading the chapter on creating extensions (chapter thirteen) but was rather disappointed. I had expected Rahmel to go into much more depth, especially as the blurb on the back of the book mentions how he has coded other solutions from scratch in PHP and ASP, so surely there would be hard-learned tips and some advice that he could share? Instead he hardly mentions the Joomla API nor does he provide a reference or link to where further information on the subject could be found.
I would like to say that the second edition of “Beginning Joomla!” is well rounded but the lack of detail on creating extensions and the differing levels of detail regarding security and performance tips makes me shy from saying that.
Also, I do wish that there was a list of recommended reading and a glossary in the book too – it is invaluable to have a “cheat sheet” of what different terms mean and also to know what other bodies of work are available to help you learn more.
To summarise – “Beginning Jooma! Secong Edition” is a well-written book aimed at (surprise) people new to using Joomla – it just could be better and the section on developing plugins or components should simply be dropped as it is not adequate and probably could have an entire book devoted to the subject.
Posted at 1:55 pm | Comments Off
16th June, 2009
The subject matter is expertly covered and unless you were aware of the changes in jQuery 1.3, compared to the older version that the original was focused it would be difficult to tell which portions of the book are new – the revision and updates to the original are seamless.
Quite rightly, Swedberg and Chaffer do not explain all differences between jQuery 1.3 and its predecessors – they rightly assume that if you’re reading “Learning JQuery 1.3″ then you don’t need to be informed of exactly how jQuery 1.3 differs from the version they previous covered. The book flows better because of this and remains very easy to understand because of this approach.
There is no hint of the selector engine in 1.3 being any different than what was already covered. The language used for explaining the different concepts to the reader is more precise, especially so in the Events chapter and this makes understanding the concepts being covered much more easy – for this reason alone buying the revised edition is well worth the money.
The book doesn’t focus on new additions that were freshly added to jQuery 1.3 but also ones that had been added to jQuery since the first edition was published; JSONP, which was introduced in jQuery 1.2 is covered in the chapter on AJAX, as is the more low-level $.ajax() method; it also mentions which features have been removed from jQuery since the first edition was published – XPath being one such example. The listing of development tools has also been reworked, as has the Online Resources section. These listings mention resources that are current and up-to-date.
I remember mentioning in my review of the first book (trying hard not to use the word ‘original’ again!) that until a later edition of it was released that you wouldn’t be able to find a better book on the subject. I stand by that assertion – the only book that covers jQuery better than the first edition of “Learning jQuery” is the second edition of the same.
Posted at 12:16 pm | Comments Off
29th August, 2008
It’s been a while since I posted a review about a packt published book.
I was sent a copy of “Learning Facebook Application Development” by Hasin Hayder and Dr Mark Alexander Bain a while ago. The by-line description of the book is “A step-by-step tutorial for creating custom facebook applications using the Facebook platform and PHP”. It is precisely that.
Here’s my review of it:
The book was published prior to Facebook’s facelift but this doesn’t really impact on the usefulness of the book.
Happily the book focuses on using PHP5 for developing Facebook Applications – while there are classes available for developing FB apps with PHP4 there really is no point in doing so; especially now that official support for PHP4 was withdrawn last month.
MySQL appears to be the database system of choice for the examples and Linux/Unix oriented solutions for scheduling tasks to occur regularly are given – some Windows screenshots feature in chapter one with regard to setting up the client libraries for local development but other than that everything else is unix-centric.
I found “Facebook Application Development” more useful than facebook’s own documentation with regard to the main aspects of developing a Facebook application – it is written well and easier to follow than the online documentation and while it is true to say that the Facebook Platform is evolving I am of the opinion that Heyder and Bain’s work will still be applicable for a long time.
Posted at 12:33 am | Comment (0)