PHP, WAMP and XAMPP, oh my

Last week in Gearhead I discussed the struggle to get my hosting provider to give me a server with the version of PHP I needed to run a PHP-based groupware system.

Last week in Gearhead I discussed the struggle to get my hosting provider to give me a server with the version of PHP I needed to run a PHP-based groupware system.

A remarkable number of you wrote in with recommendations. Reader Darrow Cole (Los Angeles, Calif.) recommended hosting provider Knownhost and reminded me about Web Hosting Talk, a useful resource for discovering who provides services and how much their clients love or hate them.

Another early responder was Network World’s own Lord of the Revels, Dave Kearns, who recommended first testing PHP scripts under WAMP.

The latest version, WAMP5, is an installer that (du’oh) installs and configures Apache 1.3.31, PHP5, MySQL database, PHPmyadmin and SQLitemanager on Windows.Voila! An instant test environment offered as donate-if-you-want-to-ware.virtual machine under VMware and use the snapshot feature you have a fantastic mechanism for testing. Snapshots let you save a virtual machine in a specific state, which means you can have both fast start-ups and known configurations for chasing down problems.

By the way: When you install WAMP in a

Reader Michael Moro recommended an alternative to WAMP: XAMPP, which in addition to PHP also installs Perl and does so not only on Windows but also on Linux, OS X and Solaris.

I tried out both systems with an eye to jumpstart the PHP-based software that had originally sent me down this dark path, Simple Groupware. Installing WAMP is extremely easy and installation of Simple Groupware was just as simple — I just copied the files unpacked from the distribution archive to a subdirectory under WAMP’s default root. When I loaded the WAMP default homepage there was the new subdirectory listed as a “project".

Clicking on the new project link on the WAMP home page caused the Simple Groupware setup page to run, but it immediately noted that I needed to change the maximum_memory parameter in php.ini from 8MB to 16MB. It also noted that I was missing a PHP extension named php_gd.dll and needed to install it, which was odd because its upgrade, php_gd2.dll, was already installed by default and the Simple Groupware documentation implies that either will work.

As much as I’d love to chase down why php_gd2.dll wasn’t being recognized, I’m a busy guy and I have an editor waiting … so, let’s try XAMPP.

Again, like WAMP, XAMPP is an easy installation albeit about twice the time for the installer to simply copy files. But the system includes Mercury Mail which is an SMTP, POP3 and IMPA4 server. Cool.

So, I move the Simple Groupware subdirectory from the WAMP Web root to the XAMPP root. On loading the Simple Groupware setup page it immediately becomes obvious that XAMPP is noticeably slower than WAMP, but at least the php_gd issue doesn’t appear. But when the installer page for Simple Groupware runs I keep getting timeouts because the script is taking more than 60 seconds to run.

I set the maximum_timeout value in php.ini to 120 seconds but I still keep getting a 60 second timeout error despite restarting the server several times. Finally I resort to setting the Apache server priority using Process Explorer to “high" (that’s the next level above “above normal") and voila — the setup completes.

After all that there’s another few minutes of configuration and … well, next week we’ll find out whether Simple Groupware lives up to its name.

Gibbs struggles with his daemons in Ventura, Calif. Exorcise his woes at

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