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Posted Jan 3, 2002

Installation - Page 2

By Kevin Yank

Welcome to the Show

Hi there, and welcome to the first in SitePoint.com's four-part series on building a database-driven Web site! Over the course of this series, it will be my job to guide you as you take your first steps beyond the HTML-and-JavaScript world of client-side site design. Together we'll explore what it takes to build the kind of large, content-driven sites that are so successful today, but which can be a real headache to maintain if they aren't done right.

Before we get started, you need to gather together the tools you'll need for the job. In this first chapter, I'll guide you as you download and set up the two software packages you'll need: PHP and MySQL.

PHP is a server-side scripting language. You can think of it as a "plug-in" for your Web server that will allow it to do more than just send plain Web pages when browsers request them. With PHP installed, your Web server will be able to read a new kind of file (called a PHP script) that can do things like retrieve up-to-the-minute information from a database and insert it into a Web page before sending it to the browser that requested it. PHP is completely free to download and use.

To retrieve information from a database, you first need to have a database. That's where MySQL comes in. MySQL is a relational database management system, or RDBMS. Exactly what role it plays and how it works we'll get into later, but basically it's a software package that is very good at the organization and management of large amounts of information. MySQL also makes that information really easy to access with server-side scripting languages like PHP. MySQL is released under the GNU General Public License (GPL), and is thus free for most uses on all of the platforms it supports. This includes most Unix-based platforms, like Linux and even Mac OS X, as well as Windows 9x/ME/NT/2000.

If you're lucky, your current Web host may already have installed MySQL and PHP on your Web server for you. If that's the case, much of this chapter will not apply to you, and you can skip straight to the section entitled "If Your Web Host Provides PHP and MySQL" to make sure your setup is ship shape.

Everything we'll discuss in this series may be done on a Windows- or Unix-based server. The installation procedure will differ in accordance with the type of server you have at your disposal. The following two sections deal with installation on a Windows-based Web server, and installation under Linux (and other Unix-based platforms), respectively. Unless you're especially curious, you should only need to read the section that applies to you.

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