Waraku Education

Ideas, experiments and observations as they occur [and I have time] relating to teaching and learning in a secondary school - special focus on ICT.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Planning the php/mysql learning environment

What an intense day. Very little php learning and programming today but very successful in terms of establishing what I think the development environment will look like at school.

PHP editors
I have downloaded and had a look at

This is an open source product but it seems to be designed to be the one stop shop for program editing. To give it the PHP capability it required the PHPeclipse addon. I liked the integration with xampp in that it had buttons for the control of the xampp tools. It was not exactly easy to set up and I could not find the bits that did syntax checking and provided help with the program action words

  • phpCodeGenie – “phpCodeGenie (PCG) is a code generator for database driven applications.”

This idea had immense appeal but I could not get it to work. Maybe I will come back to this one day.

I have also downloaded the latest beta release of PHP Designer (now 2006). I think that I will stay with this program. While it is not Open Source it is free. It can be installed at school on all student computers and does not need the xampp bits to write code with. If the debugging is done with PHP Designer then xampp would also need to be installed and that’s where issues start because I do not want students storing their work locally on machines. So for debugging I think we will use a LiveLamp server.

At home I will use a combination of PHP Designer and xampp. This will create some issues working between school and home. The versions of mysql differ between LiveLamp and xampp. This has meant that a database made in the xampp environment could not be backed up and restored to the LiveLamp environment. There are probably other differences. A way that I could get around this is to have another old clunker puta here at home as a LiveLamp server so that home looked like school.

Maybe this is more expedient for now although I reckon LiveLamp would be more useful if it was in step with xampp software versions. The reason for this is that currently there are lots of windows machines in schools at home. Students and teachers could install xampp at home to continue their learning with greater transparency.

LiveLamp
The Victorian IT teachers forums and the developers of LiveLamp have been fantastic. Con Zymaris of Open Source Victoria made the suggestion of looking at LiveLamp. I downloaded and installed this last night. The installation really was a no brainer but I had a few issues that were quickly resolved via the LiveLamp talklist. Trent Buck, Con and Peter Lieverdink have been very quick to respond. The issues were
  • I could not connect to the LiveLamp server using ftp – the server uses sftp. Installing and using Filezilla, which I should have done more than twelve months ago, fixed this. Filezilla has a nice export settings feature that I could use to manage my environment at school and home better as I am able to do with Firefox and Thunderbird.
  • I could not access files I had uploaded to LiveLamp via sftp – I was missing a ~ in the url. To access a file for student 1 (s001) I needed to use the urlhttp://[LiveLampServerIP]/~s001/filename
    There was a great suggestion that possibly using Windows Explorer as per this link would work. That would have been brilliant except that Windows Explorer doesn’t like sftp either.
When it comes to mysql use I think the following will be the strategy. I am working toward using PHP and MySQL with my classes. My vision is that students set up their databases using phpmyadmin and we write some php to interact with it.

My limited experience with LiveLamp indicates that it has an installation of mysql that is managed at http://[LiveLampIP]/phpmyadmin/main.php

This would mean that a class of students would all need to access this interface to set up their databases and they would see each others work. I could initially make blank databases called s001, s002, s003,.............and leave it to the students to make the tables in their respective databases using phpmyadmin. This could mean that one student can damage another students work but this sort of behaviour is not common so I am not too worried about that.

Current Solution
So this is the way it looks right now. Students have four windows open on their desktops.
  1. Students use PHP Designer 2006 to create php files that they save in their network home folders.
  2. They use Filezilla to transfer files to their LiveLamp folders so that they can be tested - NOTE remind students frequently not to save passwords.
  3. They use a browser to test the file
  4. They have another browser window open to the Moodle site that the course will be hosted on.
And as I am writing this I am downloading the LiveLamp 0.3.1 iso. Cool, a new version was released between yesterday and today. Well that could be bugger as well I suppose.

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