Sunday, July 29, 2012

My Review of PostgreSQL: Up and Running

Originally submitted at O'Reilly

A Practical Guide to the Advanced Open Source Database

Good overview + new features in 9.1-9.2

By spara from San Antonio, TX on 7/29/2012


5out of 5

Pros: Well-written, Helpful examples, Accurate, Easy to understand, Concise

Cons: A little too colloquial

Best Uses: Reasonably experienced, Intermediate

Describe Yourself: Data monkey, Occasional devops, Developer

PostgreSQL: Up and Running is a book for experienced PostgreSQL users and people comfortable around RDBMS such as Oracle or SQLSever. This is definitely not a book for someone starting out with PostgreSQL.

For me, the book is a practical reference that begins to answer questions but directs the reader for more detailed information from other resources that are hyperlinked in the book. I'm a long time user of PostgreSQL 8.4, so the book provides an overview of features that are/will be available in 9.1 and 9.2. For example, the serial data type auto-increments integers is now available. Previously, you had to create a sequence object and use it when creating the table. I also learned about arrays for the first time which have been around since 8.3. Certainly a very handy datatype to have.

A nice feature in 9.1 is the ability to load new extensions with the CREATE EXTENSION command. I use PostGIS frequently, and previously you would have to run sql scripts to create a template database and use that to create a spatial database. With CREATE EXTENSION, you can add PostGIS data types, objects, and functions to an existing database.

The book also covers the standard SQL tables, indexes and views as implemented in PostgreSQL. Writing your own functions and aggregates are touched on and examples are provide. Query performance tuning is covered and typical sql errors, such as overusing subqueries (guilty), are discussed and examples for improving performance are given. Basic replication is also discussed as well options for hosting PostgreSQL.

PostgreSQL: Up and Running also gives a sneak preview of new features such as Foreign Data Wrappers for working with data from web APIs, plPython for writing functions in Python or in other supported languages, native JSON output, and the list goes on. The book shows that PostgreSQL is flexible and extensible.

I enjoyed reading the book. It was easy to understand, had good examples, and I learned about new capabilities. The book covers much ground, but goes into sufficient depth to gain an understanding, and it provides additional resources for more in depth treatments of topics. It's a mile wide, deep enough and a good reference for an experienced user.


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