Setting up a PHP Environment

Asif Ahmed

One of the hardest parts of learning a new language is getting the proper environment set up for it. Learning Python on Udacity was easy because they had a web based application that could interpret Python for you. All you needed was a modern day browser. Learning jQuery was also fairly easy. This time all we needed was a text editor (like Notepad++ or Sublime Text 2) and a browser. However we have to set up the proper environment to learn PHP. We have to set up a PHP environment which requires an Apache server, a MySQL database, and PHP. We can install each of these components separately, but this can get tricky quickly. A better solution is to install XAMPP (cross platform Apache, MySQL, PHP, and Perl) from this link. This takes care of installing everything for you and making sure all the components are compatible. This can be installed on Windows, Mac, or Linux.

Once you have the PHP environment set up we will try to complete a couple sample PHP exercises. I will mostly be referring to tutorials on Lynda.com because my subscription to Lynda will be running out soon. I will be using this heavily for my learning over the next couple months. If you are a college student, your university may give you free access to this website. It’s a very thorough but slow way to learn. You may find yourself getting bored with how slow the videos are. We will try to use these tutorials to get the basics down of learning how to use the PHP environment. Actual learning of PHP is better done by project driven learning.

There are three PHP tutorials I want to look at specifically over the next ten days. The first is using PHP with PostgreSQL. PostgreSQL is a database that is used by a lot of newer web companies rather than MySQL. I have a little bit of experience with MySQL but have no experience with PostgreSQL so I though it would be better to learn about this. The second tutoral I want to look at it is Building an eCommerce Website using Dreamweaver with PHP. I know the title says that we will need Dreamweaver, but I will try to attempt following along without using Dreamweaver (because I don’t want to buy it). This will probably make the programming more code intensive and will end up being a better learning experience. The third tutorial is to learn about different frameworks for PHP. Frameworks often makes the language more powerful and easier. They often use proven code and stop you from reinventing the wheel.

Over the next two weeks in addition to learning by following these 3 PHP tutorials, I will attempt to cover Git and Github. I will be getting my first Macbook so I will be writing about my experience with that.