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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Database Systems: A Practical Approach to Design, Implementation, and Management, Third Edition
Publisher: Addison Wesley Publishing Company
Authors: Thomas Connolly, Carolyn Begg
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
A Solid Introduction to Database Theory and Implementation


This book is an excellent, comprehensive, INTRODUCTION to relational database theory. The book clearly explains what are usually the most frustrating, yet critical, concepts for those new to database design and implementation - entity-relationship modeling, normalization, and transaction management - through the use of illustrated examples, diagrams, and comprehensible text. Of course, the book also thoroughly covers the essential concepts of SQL, ODBC, security, and data integrity.
Database Systems also offers some treatment of more advanced database topics like Web connectivity (JDBC, ASP, XML), OLAP, data warehousing, object-oriented databases, and object-relational databases.
The book is well organized and logical in sequence, and thus makes a good reference book as well.
Notes: This is NOT A "COMPLETE REFERENCE" for all database systems. The book does not offer "complete" coverage of specialized database concepts/issues like database performance tuning, OLAP, or data warehousing, though these subjects are examined in the book to some extent. These subjects are complex enough to warrant separate texts. Also, the book does not exclusively embrace any relational database software title (Oracle, DB2, SQL Server, etc.) Since any one of these products is extremely complex, do not buy this book in expectation of becoming a vendor-specific DBA. Again, separate texts would be required to realize such an achievement.



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Sams Teach Yourself PHP, MySQL and Apache in 24 Hours
Publisher: Sams
Authors: Julie C. Meloni
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Measure twice, cut once


Sams Teach Yourself PHP, MySQL and Apache in 24 Hours is the kind of book I wish I had had when I started developing enterprise-level web applications for zdev Corporation back in the 90s.
Back then, it was all about scouring USENET, Listservs, How-Tos, and FAQs while incessantly scratching your head. Although this book is very introductory, there are some good habits and excellent insights that even the more tried and true code-hacker might consider useful even after years of PHP/MySQL development (such as authentication schemes and some inner working of MySQL).
It is astounding how simple the tools, techniques, and technology is seen through the eyes of Julie Meloni. Much simpler than I had believed since I really had to be baptised by fire, and the simplicity and easy-of-use of the package -- MySQL, PHP, and Apache -- is indisputable.
Postnuke, PHP-Nuke, and the other Open Source CMSs are true killer apps today, and there are a million more open source applications your can easily download, install, and start using within a week if you first still your mind and enthusiasm long enough to work through the easy-to-grok lessons as they are laid out in Sams Teach Yourself PHP, MySQL and Apache in 24 Hours.
No doubt. You won't be sorry you took the time to measure twice before you cut once.



Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
Publisher: Basic Books
Authors: Douglas R. Hofstadter
Rating: 3/5
Customer opinion - 3 stars out of 5
Imaginative, but watch out!


Douglas Hofstadter's imaginative and engaging GEB:EGB asks the question, "Can machines be conscious?" and answers in effect, "Certainly, because we ourselves are such machines." And there is no doubt that he earned his Pulitzer Prize for this fascinating book.
But watch out! His reliance on imagination actually masks the real problem.
The "real problem" is this: mind can't arise _simply_ from self-reference and self-representation, because reference and representation presume the existence of a mind to begin with. Only minds refer and represent; _resemblances_ (even fancy ones like "isomorphisms") aren't references/representations.
And in Hofstadter's undeniably well-presented examples, his reliance on imagination serves to distract from the absolutely crucial fact that the reference and the representation are always provided by a mind _outside_ the system in question: the reader. A formal system complex enough to "represent itself" doesn't become conscious; it takes a mind _outside_ the system to "see" the isomorphisms in question as references/representations. The system _itself_ can't do so unless mind is _already_ there -- so Hofstadter's bootstrapping "explanation" fails.
As an _argument_, then, GEB:EGB is a tremendous begging of the question. Invoking Godel's Theorems and waving one's hands about "strange loops" doesn't alter the fact that Godel's Theorem itself delivers a killing blow to "computational" theories of consciousness: semantics is _not_ reducible to syntax; truth is not reducible to provability within a formal system; reason is not reducible to purely formal logic; meaning is not reducible to isomorphism; and mind is not reducible to computation. (And indeed, this reading has much more in common with what Godel himself thought he had shown than does Hofstadter's attempt to reinterpret Godel's work in favor of strong AI.)
But GEB:EGB is still a remarkable intellectual accomplishment and a joy to read. Just be careful!



Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: As the Future Catches You: How Genomics & Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, Work, Health & Wealth
Publisher: Crown Business
Authors: JUAN ENRIQUEZ
Rating: 1/5
Customer opinion - 1 stars out of 5
light content and misleading title


One would expect, given the subtitle "How Genomics & Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, Work, Health & Wealth", that this book has many revelations about Genomics. But in reality the topic covers only a few pages (after compressing the meaningless and odd typesetting to normal page format).
This is clearly an example of a book being dressed up for a market after it was written, rather than a book written for a market. The majority of the book makes a case for the importance of technology in general (as opposed to life sciences or genomics in particular). Its a well presented argument, but not what I expected to read given the title.
If you're considering buying this book, I suggest you browse it first.