Installing a lightweight PHP dev server

I have written before about creating a live chart based on Google Charts API. This post is for those who are new at this, or non technical.

If you just wish to try out your PHP and use it locally, I recommend EasyPHP. It is a dev server, so you cannot publish your pages to the web, however I recommend you do not create a webserver from a personal PC anyway, unless you are willing to lose all your local data. You can get the devserver here.

Download and install it, and remember where you install it. If you are using windows, make sure that your windows user has the right to access and modify files at the installation path (Would recommend installing it outside of c://program files)


Changing the default port to avoid clashes with other software:

The default port for your new dev server will be port 80. A lot of other software (even skype) can use that port by default, so I would change it right away before any clashes occur. In the install folder, under binaries/conf_files folder  you will find a file called httpd.conf . Open the file in a text editor such as notepad, and look for the text  ‘Listen’ and ‘ServerName’ . Here we can see the port  that we have to change (:80) at the end of the IP. Personally, I like to start from 8079 and go down, as some software has 8080 as default. Change the port to 8079, so now the ip will look like .

‘Uploading’ files:

Every web server has a root folder for its files, in the case of EasyPhp it will be installfolder\data\localweb . You can create folders there to place your PHP files, and then access them through your browser. For example, I have a ‘charts’ folder, with the file chart.php inside.

I would access by typing in my address bar. If you want to troubleshoot your file, you can view the source by accessing ‘view-source:’

Accessing your PHP file

If you want to make this content accessible online, I bid you not to do so from your local computer. But if you really need to, you can install XAMPP web server. Easyphp is for local access only. I only use it to create files and test them locally, and once they are done I move them to my hosted web server. A host is cheap, so don’t put your personal computer at risk. Besides, most home internet service providers will give you a very limited bandwidth for uploading, so when somebody tries to access your locally hosted webpage, it will load incredibly slow.

Have fun with your PHP files!

Google Charts API – from your SQL database to a live chart with no coding skills

While data will most often be used as a tool to assist in making decisions, it sometimes also serves as a motivator. Live dashboards can allow your client to react quickly to any changes in their KPIs, or can assist a sales team in seeing how close they are to their daily targets.

Stick them in fullscreen mode on a wall display or a TV, and they will be there to offer this transparency non stop.

There are quite a few pieces of software out there that allow you to create live, automatically updating, automatically refreshing dashboards, but most of them cost more than it’s worth, and some are quite glitchy. I will not go into these tools now, but will rather offer a very fast and easy alternative.

When looking for this, my first requirement was that the refresh is easy to accomplish and smooth. HTML offers that, so I wanted something that can be wrapped in HTML.

HTML also offers the advantage of being flexible in regards to where you put it: as standalone on a dedicated web page, or embedded in an admin frontend or dashboard panel.

Google has a nice free Javascript API for creating charts, compatible with data pulled from almost any source. You can find more details about the look and feel of it here.

My final result was this, for a daily chart updated every 3 minutes:

Daily Updating Chart
Daily Updating Chart


Google does not provide any connectors for MySql or other common Sql, and most often that’s where live data will be.

I tried looking around for some resources that will pull the sql data into the chart, but my search was not very fruitful. Google API wants the data in a very specific format, so I took the liberty of writing a little PHP to do the job.

If you are not interested in how this works, just scroll all the way down and copy paste the full code into Notepad or TextEdit and save it as PHP. If you want to edit the code, I use Notepad++ as it highlights the operators.

1. First part: connecting to the database


2. Second part: transforming the data in the right format. We do this with an echo.



3. Final part: creating the final PHP with the Google API. You can find all the documentation for Google Charts API here

Note the refresh is set to 180 seconds with meta http-equiv="refresh" content="180" The php is run, query pulls data, and only after that is successful, the chart refreshes, so the update will be very smooth to the eye.


4.  Running the PHP file

To run the PHP you need a dev server, a web server, or someone who can upload it somewhere for you. I will cover how to install a lightweight dev server in a separate post. I recommend EasyPHP dev server if this is all you will ever do with it, alternatively XAMPP is a better option allowing you to publish to web as well. Guide for installing and configuring easyphp here.


5. Result:



So I hope you enjoyed this guide, and that you will find this useful. One final note: Google API has all kinds of charts, and it’s easy to switch between types. You can change this chart to a column chart by changing just one word in the html. Just give it a shot 🙂