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The ACCU passes on review copies of computer books to its members for them to review. The result is a large, high quality collection of book reviews by programmers, for programmers. Currently there are 1918 reviews in the database and more every month.
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Title:
Open Source XML Database Toolkit
Author:
L Quin
ISBN:
0 471 37522 5
Publisher:
Wiley
Pages:
434pp
Price:
£32-50
Reviewer:
Francis Glassborow
Subject:
sgml; xml; database
Appeared in:
13-2
This book is aimed at developers with a more specific interest. It is all very well knowing all about the syntax of XML, but you will want to use it for something. If that is producing what we have conventionally thought of as a document, then fine - books such as the previous one cover most of what you need. However there is a large area where XML has much to offer that does not fit our conventional understanding of a document; for example we want to publish selected material from databases. This book's target is exactly that. How should I use XML with both relational and object-oriented databases? How can I couple SQL with XML etc.?

While you can do a quick, once over lightly, read of this book to get the general drift, you will need to be reasonably versatile and be willing to get your hands dirty if you are to get full value from it. You certainly need to be reasonably fluent in the fundamentals of programming and some fluency with reading (and writing) several of C, C++, Java, PHP and Perl would be a definite asset. I also think youneed experience of at least one database and to have used at least rudimentary SQL. Clearly this is not a book for the casual reader, nor for anyone who believes that one computer language is all you need in life.

Let me take a chapter as an example. Chapter 3 is titled 'Just Enough SQL' and provides an introduction to relational databases. Much of the chapter is data that you will need to input to the database of your choice. This is a problem that plagues books like this one, the author needs something for you to work with but he also does not want to tie you down to a specific database. I think there are better solutions - most databases will accept several general formats for external data and a good deal of the readers time could have been saved by providing the data in an electronically readable form on a CD (yes, you can go and fetch it from a website, but this is not always convenient - most Internet Cafes are not keen on you plugging in your own laptop). Returning to the text, only after you have a relevant database can you do the other practical work. Now when the fourth of the end of chapter exercises is

The BookWeb sample is not fully normalised. Determine what needs to be done to put it into third normal form.

I think you can appreciate my reservations on this book; the author assumes a lot of technical knowledge from the reader even when he thinks he is not doing so. Be honest, can you list the normal forms for a relational database?

If you have the relevant technical background and databases are a substantial part of your work, then I think this book is one that will help you acquire the skills that will be in increasing demand over the next few years. However this is not a book for the casual reader, nor one for those who are just curious about how it might work.