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MySQL (4th Edition) by Paul DuBois
The unexpected pleasure of reading books about databases is that they are often written by authors with highly organized minds. Paul DuBois and his editors at New Riders have assembled MySQL with a clarity and lucidity that inspires confidence in the subject matter: a (nearly) freely redistributable SQL-interpreting database client/server primarily geared for Unix systems but maintained for Windows platforms as well. What isn't "free" about MySQL (the application) is its server's commercial use; all clients and noncommercial server use are free. DuBois's tome isn't free either, but its list price is modest in light of its value and the value of its namesake.
The volume is superbly organized into 12 chapters and 10 appendices and contains a concise table of contents and a comprehensive 50-page index. It is peppered with references to the online HTML documentation that comes with the source and binary distributions (which are available and easy to install in stable rpm and tar releases.)
The first third of MySQL is an excellent instruction tool for database newbies; the second third is a detailed reference for MySQL developers; and the last third consists of clearly annotated appendices, including C, Perl (but not Python), and PHP interfaces.
Perhaps as an indication of the collective will of the developers of MySQL, DuBois does not separate Windows 95/98/NT design or development specifics from its main discussions. Platform-independent design is a goal, not a reality, and users will have to rely on newsgroups and mailing lists for details. Moreover, security issues are addressed in a mere 18 pages, a large part of which is devoted to standard Unix file and network-access permissions. Next to nothing is mentioned about defense against common hacking strategies, the use of secure shell interfaces, or access encryption.
Although it is nearly 800 pages in length, DuBois's book is thankfully not encyclopedic. It is a valuable précis of the MySQL database, and its easy-to-skim look and feel will make it an excellent browse for database experts who want to know what is and is not possible within MySQL, the application.
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