Building A MySQL Database-Driven PHP Application


This is a self-study project. A prototype rather than a complete product. Back in 2008, I had just finished self-studying the basics of PHP and MySQL, and I wanted to put what I had just learned into test. I was looking around for a practice project idea that I understand well, so that I can implement it and be motivated about it. Back then I was working as a cellular-phone-network planning engineer, and in my department at that time, we didn’t have a database management system. We were responsible for a huge amount of data, yet we were using Excel sheets to keep track of them. You can imagine how it used to be very frustrating to update those file, how error-prone that process was, and how hard it was to have multiple employees working on the same file.

I wasn’t hired at that company to work as a software engineer at all, however, replacing that backward database system was a top priority for me, since I was suffering from it every day at work. At that time, no one in my department seemed to care about replacing that system with a commercial one tailored for our needs, and hence I decided to step in. I thought that creating a database management system for my department is the perfect practice project to test my PHP and MySQL knowledge that I had just acquired.

Taking a look at this prototype, it will definitely look very ugly. That’s because it’s just a prototype. I never finished it or introduced it to my colleagues at work, but rather I was working on it on my free time at home. The reason I never finished it was because my attention was switched to building a more robust system using C# as a Windows Desktop Application, which I named “Site HW Generator©” and reviewed here. Another reason why it looks ugly is that I only cared about PHP, not HTML/CSS, not Javascript, and not any web-design principles. It was meant to be something quick and dirty. In fact, there’s no CSS code at all! All the styling was done the ugly old way of in-line HTML-tags attributes. There isn’t any Javascript code either, except for a very simple script that handled some roll-over buttons. Here is a video review of how it looks:

The reason why I’m reviewing this, is because it’s something I made that taught me few lessons:

  • The only way to learn something is to get one’s hands dirty by trying to put the acquired knowledge into practice. If I had continued self-studying by just reading books and online tutorials, I would have never learned one fourth of what I learned by actually doing something.
  • Being proactive is very important. If I had just waited for the company to replace that old and defected database system, I would have either waited too long, or someone else would have stepped in and created another system. If I hadn’t been proactive, I would have never created this, or the Site HW Generator© tool, which is still used by my department till now, although I left the company more than a year ago.
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