The book was written with the idea that readers would attempt to recreate the coding examples. To run these examples, you need access to a server computer to which you are allowed to upload and run middleware programs, or you need to turn your own computer into a server. Appendix A, “Running ASP and PHP Scripts on Your Own Computer,” provides instructions on installing server software (including MySQL and PHP) on a computer running Windows XP Professional. It is beyond the scope of this book to cover how to operate a server computer, although some hints are provided as to how things are done at our institution where we run PHP, ASP, MySQL, and Access on a server running Windows NT and Apache. Similarly, the book does make note of issues you will need to clarify with the people we call your server administration. The capability to upload and run PHP or ASP files and access databases is not included automatically in typical Internet service provider (ISP) contracts. You might need a special contract to support Web hosting services.
The book also features the use of diagramming techniques for the design and documentation of applications. These include entity-relationship diagrams, process diagrams, and storyboards. The reader is encouraged to spend time on this part of the material and not just jump to the coding sections. Tools exist for creating these diagrams in various software engineering packages. However, you can sketch the diagrams by hand or use the drawing facilities in a word processor such as Microsoft Word.
The book’s coverage of SQL, regular expressions, and the stand-alone use of MySQL and Access has applicability outside of the use of these technologies and products on the Web.
The assumption in the text is that you will be creating the databases “from scratch.” In the real world, a database for your application probably exists and is in use in a non-Web implementation. Development will involve creating a small database for the initial testing. The final deployment of the Web application might involve a batch operation in which an existing database is converted for use on the Web. It is important to know how to define and create a database and how to modify the database when necessary.
The students have the exclusive use of a server just for this course, and student technical assistants maintain the server. Although Appendix B, “About the CD-ROM,” contains instructions for installing the server software on local computers, we recommend the use of a remote server with students using a program such as ws-ftp. This serves to reinforce the notion that the code is executed on the server. It also avoids the complexities of the installation process.