Robin Nixon’s Computer Programming Books

After many many years of web development in PHP it finally became time to really learn the language. The essence of computer programming has always come down to the IF/THEN statement. All we’re doing is manipulating data and the various languages – C+, perl, java, php, javascript, ruby, etc. – have methods for storing and accessing the data and telling it what to do based on IF something is true or not. So it’s been kind of easy to make sense of various bits of code just based on common sense.

My grasp of these PHP has been of the order of an immigrant who can communicate well enough to make transactions, but by no means compose poetry and speak eloquently.

But working with an object-oriented library there was a lot of code that looked really confusing so I looked up the most popular publisher of computing books, O’Reilly, and got a copy of Learning PHP, MySQL and JavaScript by someone named Robin Nixon. PHP is language that’s been developed for running websites and sending information back and forth between the computer viewing a website and the one serving it. MySQL is a super-popular database system that stores “long-term” information in various tables on the “server” that hosts the website, and javascript does things on the computer of the person viewing a website so the three are kind of a trilogy of languages for website development.

A programming book needs to have not only a sense of humor, but also be written compassionately because computer programming can be a lonely and frustrating occupation and easily make someone feel intellectually inadequate. “Why isn’t this working? It should be so simple. I’m sure it IS so simple, but why is it taking 8 hours to make 12 lines of code work?”

In Learning PHP, MySQL and Javascript, Robin Nixon covers all of the basics, with downloadable examples to work with and little test sections at the end of each chapter. It’ nice having the book in paper because you don’t always have the leisure of being at the computer when you want to learn, and in many ways disciplining yourself the actually “read” each line of code until you understand it can be more illuminating than just copying bits of code and confirming that they work. But in working with the downloadable code examples, Robin Nixon offers many opportunities to experiment, insuring that your understanding is being cultivated. One cool thing about Robin’s androgynous name is that I read most of the book in a woman’s voice, ’till visiting the website I discovered Robin is a man. One who also has books on Creative Visualization , who ran an opium den (okay a coffee shop) in the heart of Texas (he’s from UK) and with his partner, raised like twelve disabled foster children. (I wonder if foster parents are more likely to be good or evil.)

By the way the copy of Learning PHP, MySQL and Javascript was a used copy, like 6 years old, for $7 including shipping as opposed to paying $30-something for the current version. Six years is a long time in web development, but the fundamentals are the same. Doing it again, I might have bought the newer one. Also wondering if the Pensacola Library has much available in computer programming books. One really awesome thing about the book is that Robin Nixon walks you through getting your own development server set up on your home computer, which is key in any website development because otherwise you have to upload your script changes every single time you make a little change. And mostly all you’re doing is making little changes and checking to see if they worked and/or if you’re any closed to having a working program.

Well Robin has another book on PHP called Robin Nixon’s PHP Crash Course, and one really interesting thing about reading PHP Crash Course right after Learning PHP, MySQL and Javascript (LPMJ) was comparing the output of a great mind within and outside of a large corporate machine. The O’Reilly book lists a small army of editors and the final product is a nearly flawless, glossy course that gets the user set up with all of the basic tools necessary to develop web sites.

Robin Nixon’s PHP Crash Course is a published version of a series of PHP lectures and showcases more of Robin’s unique way of understanding and explaining the PHP language in a more casual and open format. Some of the analogies are repeats of the analogies from LPMJ. Like the “chess board” you create using nested arrays. She, I mean he is a really fun writer who shares a firm grasp on the basics of PHP in both of these awesome books.

I’m looking forward to hopefully checking out Robin Nixon’s Javascript Crash Course as well. Thanks, Robin.