Monday, November 01, 2010

Book review: MySQL 5.1 plugin development

MySQL 5.1 Plugin Development MySQL 5.1 Plugin Development,
by Sergei Golubchik and Andrew Hutchings.
Packt Publishing, 2010.
Executive summary: Highly recommended. If you want to develop MySQL extensions, buy this book. It's a must, written by two expert professionals who probably know more than anyone else on this matter. The book is full of practical examples explained with the theoretical information necessary to make it stick.

This book fills a gap in the world of MySQL documentation. Although the MySQL docs are extensive and thorough, to the point that sometimes you wished that the writers were less verbose and stick more to the topic, when it comes to the plugin architecture, there are still more some unanswered questions. I guess that the ones who have implemented MySQL extensions so far have read the code, more than the documentation.
But, back to the point. The void is filled now, and in such a wonderful way! I have to disclose that I was the reviewer of this book, and while this fact puts me in a conflicting position when it comes to a review, it has also given me inner reason for praise, beyond the experience of a regular reader. The people who have worked with me will know that I am hard to please, and so my review was peppered with suggestions for improvements that, I admit it, made the authors' life quite difficult. I mostly complained that some of the examples proposed for each chapter were not enough useful and interesting. In short, there was not enough incentive for the reader to start coding immediately. I am glad to report that the authors were very responsive, and, rather than being annoyed by my demands, did work enthusiastically at the examples in the book until they became a true gem in this category. This book will surprise you for its practical approach, when it guides you through the examples, until you end up with a working extension.
The first chapter is probably the part that will save many hours of attempts to everyone who wants to build a plugin. In that chapter the authors explain how to build the different types of plugins in several operating systems. If you have ever tried to build a plugin, you will appreciate this chapter.
The book's body covers every type of plugin that you can create in MySQL, from the classic UDF to the more recent storage engine. For each chapter, you will have code ready to compile and try on your own, and the line-by-line explanation of what that code does, and why it was written the way it is.
Whenever the code is less than intuitive, the authors take care of it with additional theoretical and practical explanation, making sure that the reader is fully informed on the topic, and can complete the task effectively.
Summing up, this is not a book for the idle reader. It's a a practical help for the doers, the ones who want to get the job done, and need guidance through the maze of the MySQL plugin protocol.

Update. There is also a review at Slashdot.

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