MySQL in a Nutshell
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Feature: O'Reilly's MySQL in a Nutshell by Russell Dyer
Motivation: Does this make for great summer reading ?


Its two days before summer officially starts and we have already have had 10 days of a scorching hot smog wave ... and so one is thinking "indoors, a cool beverage, and curling up to a good read like Harry Potter or MySQL in a NutShell". MySQL in a Nutshell ?? Must be deep geek or serious freak.

Well hold on for a moment. Google has its $4500 Cool Summer Coding stipend. And theGlobe's business section is citing how companies are using summer slack to retool their thinking on how to control IT costs. And MySQL AB, the makers of MySQL are touting how their database is the most popular Open Source database with more than 6 million installations. And MySQL is growing fastest in enterprise settings where it is reducing database licensing costs by over 90%, cutting systems downtime by 60%, and lowering hardware expenditure by 70%. I must admit I did a double take interfacing to some Sabre travel data and discovering that it was MySQL based.

In short, MySQL is becoming a major database player and so worthwhile to know in more detail. And since the database and supporting tools are free its easy to get, try out and know. All true until you run into the MySQL documentation. MySQL docs are sort of like reading Chaucer's Canterbury Tales - a meandering exercise full of useful info but so hard to piece all together.

Enter O'Reilly and Russell Dyer with MySQL in a Nutshell. This is the missing manual.

First there is the well detailed installation instructions which have proved to be lifesavers for Novell and Mac re-installations. Next there is a slim MySQL basic tutorial on usage and simple administration - the first place where I felt the book fell short. But Russell makes up for that in the next chapter that deals with the SQL statements in 60++ pages of well organized (its alphabetical by command and major subcommand - nice innovation)with good examples of using the described SQL code/commands. But again, I found another major omission - no coverage of the UPDATE command.

But again the book makes up for this with a superbly organized section on all the MySQL functions that are somewhere in the Canterbury Tales that is the MySQL User Manual but here organized by String, Date and Time, Math and then Flow Control functions. This is ninety pages just packed with useful tips, examples, and advisories. This really unlocks MySQL for me.

But omissions come in threes. Although the book has a copyright 2005 it simply does not cover any of the version 5.0 features (which has been in public beta for over a year) such as stored procedures, views and triggers among the most important. Now this works for me because the baseball database I intend to hone my MySQL skills on is in MySQL 4.1.3 - and this book easily covers that topic and opens up some functionality that had frankly remained hidden. But this may not work for others who need to know 5.x features and directions. So be forewarned - MySQL in a Nutshell is no meandering tale but does have some missing links.

(c) JBSurveyer 2007


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