Book Review: Packt’s “PHP Web 2.0 Mashup Projects”

I recently received a great little book from Packt Publishing that’s a bit out of the norm for some of the PHP-related books these days. A lot of them tends to rehash the same details over and over again or focus too tightly on one particular aspect of the language to get much value from a wide audience range. This new book (PHP Web 2.0 Mashup Projects), however, takes PHP and applies it to one of the more popular topics of the times – mashups – and, via five difference projects, shows how to make your code place nice with the outside world.

Shu-Wai Chow introduces mashups first by talking about the importance of the sharing of data on the web and some of the methods that they will use to create the mashups in the book. From there, it’s all about the examples and their technologies:

  • Buy it on Amazon – creating a simple application that uses Amazon’s API, XML-RPC, the REST protocol and the Internet UPC database’s API to find information and pricing for the items matching the user’s search term.
  • Make Your Own Search Engine – mixing together the MSN search API via SOAP requests and responses to get the information for a user’s search.
  • You own Video Jukebox (my personal favorite) – a mashup of the YouTube and Last.fm APIs to pull the song information and videos for the titles in the feed (in either XSPF, RSS or YouTube’s XML format).
  • Traffic Incidents Via SMS – Scraping the California Highway Patrol’s website, they combine this data with the interface from 411Sync.com to send SMS updates to users of the system when new accidents arise.
  • London Tube Photos – a huge chapter crammed full of information and different mashup components including Google Maps, Flickr, SPARQL, the RDF API for PHP, using the XMLHttpRequest object in Javascript (along with JSON) to create a system that allows the viewer to locate images of the London Tube based on a location on a map rather than just a description on the site.

My personal favorite of the mashups is (as mentioned) the Video Jukebox one – I just think it’s a cool idea to be able to bring those two things together pretty easily thanks to two of the most powerful APIs out there.

Even if you’re not into the mashup aspect of the book, but you are a budding SOAP developer looking for a few helpful hints when it comes to WSDL structure, you’d do well to pick up a copy too. In Chapter 3, he’s written up a great little primer to the structure of a WSDL document (types, message, portType, etc) and has made it simple enough for just about anyone to catch. I know when I was starting out with SOAP, this was the one thing that I could definitely have used. Plus, without a built-in method for PHP5’s SOAP extension to make the WSDL for you, this can help you bridge the gap.

Overall, it’s a great book – a definite purchase for anyone out there looking to see how to combine two or more web services into one seamless application. Plus it gives a great overview of a lot of handy web service type bits of functionality.



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