Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Review of MySQL Admin Cookbook from PACKT Publishing

PACKT Publishing sent me titled "MySQL Admin Cookbook" to review and I told them that I would be brutally honest about it. They said cool and well here, we go.

Overall, the book is cool if you are starting out in MySQL administration and want to get a box up and running. If you are looking to scale MySQL or make your application faster this is not the book for you. If you are worried about consistency and getting the most out of your hardware-this is not the book for you. If you are trying to figure out what the best index combination is-again-this is not the book for you. If you want to know how to add users, or set up replication, or dump a CSV format text file of data then this is the book for you.

Some things that annoy me from this book is all of the GUI cut and paste screen shots. Explaining stuff with a GUI screen shot really sucks IMHO since by the time you read the book, the GUI changed. I personally stick with command line interfaces or write my own GUI layouts to administration actions since I know what the various ADMIN commands do. Let me stress again that GUI explanations really go out of date fast and is only pertinent for when the book is made. For instance if you ever used Eclipse, a common IDE for various languages (mainly Java), between Eclipse builds the GUI changes. The overall interface for the MySQL command line client has stayed the same since the very beginning. To be fair though the book does show some mySQL command line examples, like for handling NULLs but consistency is key to getting your ideas across.

Another pet peeve of mine is the book has a tag line 99 great recipes for mastering MySQL configuration and administration yet I couldn't confirm 99 recipes since the book is not actually structured this way IMHO. It is structured in the format of "How to do it", "How it works", and "there's more..." for certain actions and there is just not enough meat for Mastering MySQL configurations – like what is a Star Replication Schema and how to do it? How do you rotate in new servers when in a circular MySQL config? Where is MySQL clustering? Why are file sorts so slow? How is MySQL using the disk subsystem with this config ... etc.

IN conclusion, would I recommend this book to readers? If you need a starting point to ask Google for some more complicated questions-this is a good start. For experienced administrators, no it is not for you.

1 comment:

Daniel Schneller said...

Thanks a lot for this differentiated review. Just to be clear, I do not want to argue about anything, just provide some background on why things in the book are the way they are. In the end, everyone has to decide for herself, whether a book serves their needs or not :-)

The publisher asked us to do lots of screen shots to illustrate the book and make it feel "lighter weight" than it would have been with lots and lots of text. I agree with you that command line stuff tends to be more stable over time, however I'd say that in most cases slightly changed GUIs over newer versions of software do not make them generally unsuitable. As for your Eclipse example, even though there are some changes to the chrome, the general concepts (perspectives, views, tabs) are still applicable and have been form the earliest versions.
Nevertheless, in general I see your point.

I also agree with you in that this is not a book for application or SQL optimization. This however was never the focus. Instead, the concept was to provide readers with a means to look at the TOC, scan through the recipe titles and see if one matches their needs of the moment. Getting the task done quickly was the priority; that's why in all the recipes we have the "How to do it" section first, and only after that, if readers care, they can read an explanation of what they just did. In general this seemed a little suspicious to me at first, too, because before I apply any recipe to my servers, I definitely want to understand what the stuff is going to do and how and why. But at this point we had to adhere to the general style of the Packt Cookbook series.

Also I would have liked more background information on most topics, but we already overshot the initial 300 page limit the publisher had set, so we were reluctant, but needed to cut down on some background material.

Daniel Schneller