Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Easy PHP.....How Easy?

When and why did I start using this wonderful program, but most importantly, what does it do? My company had started two small schools in NYC 2 years ago, which will be grades 6-12, but started with grade 6 and grade 9 adding 2 grade levels each year.

So how many educational technologists get to start with a clean canvas in which to work with? Most of the time we are working with existing school technology and trying to implement within them, or plan new initiatives, which may or may not get funded. Since most of the money allocated in the project was for hardware, I started searching for free software. In my research I came across open-source software. Open-source has varying licenses, but the main concept of it is that programs can be freely distributed and modified as long as the original statements and comments are kept in the code. There are different licenses, so you should check whenever you use one of these programs.

Most of the programs I found were web-based developed under PHP and MySQL. I had done web pages and graphics before, but never dealt with these languages. So, what did I do with the first program? I downloaded it and then tried to open a .php file in dreamweaver, look under the design tab, and what shows....a blank page.

Looking at the code, it did have some HTML elements but did not make sense from the straight HTML I had been using. Being a self-learner, I started to read everything available about PHP and MySQL. This is when I realized the process in which the PHP and MySQL pages work. All the PHP code is processed on a webserver which outputs the HTML for the web page you are viewing to your computer's web browser.

Being a newbie, I started out changing some code and using ftp to upload the files to the web server to see the changes outputed in the browser. This of course was tedious, so I wondered how developers dealt with this. With this question and Google I searched on how to edit php files and view them on the desktop, without FTPing files to a webserver.

The answer: Make your local Windows computer into a web server. There are different programs to do this, but one that was recommended and was open-source was Easy-PHP. For Windows users this is the best program. Mac users who have OS X, already have a built-in web server and Linux users, well, you know.

What makes up a typical web server using open-source (free) programs?
  1. Apache is the web server.
  2. PHP works with Apache and is a server-side (processes all information on the web server), cross-platform (doesn't matter what you use, PC, Mac, Linux), HTML embedded scripting language that lets you create dynamic web pages (pages on your site that can change based on user input or data changing).
  3. MySQL is a database which PHP accesses and uses to store information for the program.
Easy PHP has all of these components included and installs them for you.

Download, Install, & Configure Easy PHP
(or Create, Change and Mess-up your web pages without it leaving the computer. WhoooHooooo!!)

Easy PHP website: www.easyphp.org
( a French site, one of the beautiful things about open-source is access to a world community of developers)

Download Version 1.8

The download is in the form of a typical install program for Windows(.exe). Download it into a folder on your computer that you will remember, and once complete double-click to start the install.

Step 1: Choose the language you would like the program to run in.

Step 2: The usual warning, "close all apps before installing". Click next.

Step 3: Accept the license agreements. This is where you can see the different types of open-source licenses. The GNU is the most popular open-source license.

Step 4: Description of the program and what it does. Click next.

Step 5: Shows the default install folder location. Change the location here if you have to for your own computer. Click Next.

Step 6: Here you can change the name of the folder that will show in your start menu to recognize EasyPHP. Click Next.

Step 7: Confirmation of the information you entered in the last 2 screens. Click Next.

Step 8: Sit back and watch it install.

Step 9: Installation is done. If you don't want the Readme file popping up uncheck the box and the click Finish.

Step 10: Easy PHP will start automatically and show this screen. If you minimize the window, it will disappear and leave the blinking E in your taskbar (Program is Running). If you close it with the X then you will exit the whole program.

You now have a web server running on your computer........Yahoo!!!!

Tomorrow: Easily configure and see your websites.


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