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25 May 04

Be XML and PHP wise

Vikram Vaswani, highly acclaimed author of XML and PHP, took time out of his hectic schedule to tell us a bit about his book and himself.

Q: What made you decide to write a book of this nature?

A: Both XML and PHP are powerful technologies. However, while there are reams of information available on these two topics individually, there are very few resources that explain how to use them in combination with each other. This book was my attempt to bring the two worlds together and teach developers how the combination could make possible new applications and more efficient solutions to common problems.

Q: What research was involved in writing this book?

A: I was already familiar with PHP, but I spent a lot of time researching the various XML extensions that were gradually appearing in the language. I also spent a significant amount of time reading the (many!) XML and XSLT specifications and discussing my problems/points of confusion with my peers on the various XML newsgroups and email. At the end of the research, I had a much better grasp of the technology and its theoretical basis…which made it easier to come up with valid, usable examples and applications in the book.

Q: How do you think XML and PHP language has progressed since you began in
this field?

A: It's changed significantly. The book covers PHP 3.x and 4.x, which both had a bunch of different XML extensions glued on to the language. Since then, the PHP Group has made great strides in making XML very much a part of the core language - something you're going to see in the upcoming PHP 5.x release, which offers a streamlined, consistent API to XML and its offshoots. The two are much more tightly integrated now…something anyone who works with XML and PHP on a regular basis is sure to appreciate!

Q: Tell us a bit about your company, Melonfire.

A: Melonfire, the company I founded in 1999, specializes in software consultancy and content creation services. We create Web-based applications customized to the needs of a diverse range of clients around the world (we're based in India) using open-source tools. In addition to turnkey project implementation, we also offer consultancy services to medium and large companies, offering our team expertise to improve the efficiency of customer processes and guide customers to the appropriate technology/platform for their needs.

All our customers have gone away satisfied, and come back for more…which makes us happy, because it means they appreciate our work and the level of service and expertise we bring to the party.

Q: What can your book offer the absolute programming novice? And what can
your book offer the expert?

A: For the novice, "XML and PHP" offers an introduction to the XML language and how it can be used through PHP. It explains basic concepts like SAX and DOM parsing, SQL versus XML, WDDX and SOAP - all technologies that a novice must master before he can build sophisticated XML applications.

For the expert, "XML and PHP" offers a new look at how to use XML with PHP. The book covers numerous applications built around XML - an invoicing system which uses XML-based data trees and PHP to render them in a browser, a database application which reads database structure and creates an XML representation of it, a WDDX client-server application for stock prices, and many more. In addition, the book includes case studies of two open-source applications built around XML and PHP, as well as a look at some important XML/PHP open-source APIs.

Q: Have you got any future books in the pipeline/planned?

A: I recently finished work on a MySQL reference called…"MySQL: The Complete Reference" It's aimed at both beginners and SQL experts, and it teaches you everything you'd ever want to know about the MySQL RDBMS. In fact, it comes with MySQL's stamp of authenticity…their engineers proof-read the technical details, added a bunch of developer secrets you won't find anywhere else, and basically helped me build a guided tour of MySQL that's superior to anything else out there right now!

The book covers MySQL 4.x, and includes detailed tutorials on the two big new features in MySQL, transactions and subqueries. Monty Widenius, the founder of MySQL, liked it so much he penned a very nice foreword to the book, and the early reviews are all very positive as well.

Interested readers can get a copy online at, or read more about it (including the Table of Contents and a sample chapter) at

Q: Aside from programming languages, what are your interests?

A: Watching movies, playing squash, swimming, fiddling with electronic gadgets (I just got myself a digital camera) and reading (mostly crime fiction).

Q: What is your favourite computing book of all time and why?

A: I think it has to be "DOS for Dummies", the very first computing book I ever read. It was so funny it had me in splits, yet it taught me DOS quicker and better than any instructor or manual ever could. I loved reading it because the author had this really easy-to-read style of writing, yet he never pulled any punches or talked down to me. He made DOS
- usually a painful experience! - simple, understandable and fun. I think all computer books should be that way.

XML and PHP, by Vikram Vaswani, was published by QUE in June 2002.

For further information or to purchase click here.

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