Archive for October 22, 2007

An Introduction to PHP

PHP is an area of web development that is relatively new to me, yet is evidently emerging as one of the most popular forms of web scripting languages currently around. PHP effectively converts a static website into an active one by drawing upon, and enabling a wider variety of interactive content to be used within a site.

In order to gain some funemental background knowledge on PHP I decided to visit the website http://www.php.net which in essence is the home site for PHP and is a useful starting point for anyone interested in learning more about it. For instance, on the site there are introductory tutorials, mailing lists, regular updates on where the develoment of PHP currently stands, as well as numerous relevant links available.

Another useful resource I came across which further explains PHP, however in a less complex way is the website: http://www.tizag.com/phpT/ 

Their way of summarising PHP is by saying:

“Another way to think of PHP is a powerful, behind the scenes scripting language that your visitors won’t see. When someone visits your PHP webpage, your web server processes the PHP code. It then sees which parts it needs to show to visitors(content and pictures) and hides the other stuff(file operations, math calculations, etc.) then translates your PHP into HTML. After the translation into HTML, it sends the webpage to your visitor’s web browser.”

One of the main benefits to using PHP is it’s compatability with most of the popular operating systems (such as Microsoft Windows and Linux) as well as the most commonly used web servers around, such as Apache.

To begin developing with PHP, your computer needs several elements:

  1. PHP itself – To Develop within a PHP environment, your computer needs the PHP component, which can be downloaded for free from http://www.php.net  
  2. The second element your computer must have is a running web sever, the most popular choice would be Apache and again can be downloaded for free from http://httpd.apache.org It is important to note that the download file must match your operating system, for instance if your computer runs with Microsoft Windows, then the extension for the download file will include something along the lines of ‘win.’
  3. The final element is MySQL – a free database server that coincides with PHP development

Once these elements are installed and are running correctly, developing with PHP can begin!

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Preliminary Idea

After initial and further research into Video on Demand (VoD) as a system, the applications used to create video media files, play these files and the delivery systems used, I have decided upon producing a website-based VoD service.

As I do not have the technical skills or knowledge to create a stand-alone VoD download manager and player, similar to that of Channel 4’s application ‘4OD’, I will create a website that has aspects of VoD. It will not be “true” VoD, as that is thought to be provided strictly by a television cable service, like Virgin Media’s ‘On Demand’ which offers customers an instantaneous response, from the time the program is requested to the time its being delivered. I want this website to compile the better features from other websites of a similar nature in order to create something that encompasses all aspects of television programmes online. I feel this will be the most productive use of this module in advancing my skills.

I’ve decided to use Adobe’s Dreamweaver to create the website and am looking into which application to use for playing the videos. I am inclined to choose a media player that has a simplistic layout for the viewer to use and works well with both Macintosh and Windows users. As a Macintosh user, I have found BBC’s ‘iPlayer’ and Channel 4’s ‘4OD’ being ‘Windows-only’ annoying, especially in light of the public remit each broadcaster is held to.

I am currently researching further into VoD but feel at this time that streaming video content will be the best delivery method for my website. Although I have utilised streaming audio in the past, I have yet to use streaming video but, intend to practice using this method in producing a ‘trial-run’ website.

As I researched into established streaming video websites that provide free access, I noticed a common theme of plain backgrounds, lots of text and continuous use of blue, black and grey. My examples of this are alluc.org, Megavideo, Sidereel and Veoh. This may be intentional in order to match with embedded media players that use these tones and create a seamless finish. As this seems to be the case I intend to use similar colours but will separate content by wide genres, making this clear by using different bright colours, similar to TV Link Vault.

Unlike the websites mentioned above I intend to make this website solely for the content of television programmes. I plan for these to be established television programmes, funded through a mix of sponsorship and payment by viewers. However, this could be changed to include newer programming if public demand altered.