After watching everyone’s design presentations last week, it became apparent that everyone is going to need to set up some server space at some point in their projects. Usually, this is something you’ll have to pay for on a remote server. Check out the links on the “Hosting services” page for a few options regarding hosting. For 1 free database with PHP already setup, you can check out freehostia.com.
Even when setting up a remote server, though, you’ll want to set up a server on a local machine for your own development purposes. Developing on your own machine is called “sandboxing.” The idea behind sandboxing is that you first develop something in a safe area, where you can “play” with the code, before deploying it for all the world to see on the public server space. I strongly encourage you to sandbox your development by setting up a server development environment on your own computer.
In order to set up a server, you are going to need the server software on your own computer. Lucky for you, this is way easier than it used to be. First, let’s understand what you need. There are three things:
- First, you need the actual server software. We are going to use the free, open-source Apache server software.
- Second, once your server is up, you are going to need some database software. We are going to use the free and open source MySQL database.
- Finally, you’ll need some way to translate between database calls and HTML. We are going to use the free and open-source PHP for this.
I didn’t include the links in the above descriptions, because I don’t want you downloading each of those software packages separately. Instead, there is an awesome, free tool called either WAMP (for Windows), MAMP (for Macintosh), LAMP (for Linux), or XAMPP (another linux/mac alternative). The first letter stands for the respective operating system. The A-M-P stands for Apache (the server), MySQL (the database), and PHP (btw, the extra “p” on XAMPP is for Perl, another programming language).
So, download the either WAMP or MAMP, depending on your OS. The really nice thing about these is that you can turn them on and off quickly.