Build Web Interface to Database - LAMP Linux Apache MySQL PHP

In this howto, we program a simple database application. It reads data from a database, then prints it on a web page.

Techniques teached here are used for building guestbooks, web shops, web forums and group calendars.

You only need to have Linux installed (Red Hat Linux 9 or Fedora Core 1 preferred). During the tutorial, we install Apache web server, MySQL database and PHP scripting. Finally, we write a simple php database application.

(c) Tero Karvinen

Apache Web Server

To install servers, you first have to become root. Using su - (with the dash) makes all commands work without typing paths.

su -

Install the actual web server program

yum install httpd

If you don't have yum yet, read yum tutorial and install it.

Start web server, make it start automatically on boot

/etc/init.d/httpd start
chkconfig httpd on

Now your web server should be running. When you surf to http://localhost, you should see a test page.

mozilla http://localhost

Localhost usually works even without hole in the firewall. If you do not see your test page right away, click shift-reload (ctrl-shift-R or shift-F5) to bypass cache.

Hide the testpage, so that your computer does not look like a punching bag for wannabe crackers

echo "powered by linux" > /var/www/html/index.html

Make a hole into firewall to make your web server visible to others.

iptables -I INPUT 1 -p tcp --dport 80 -j ACCEPT
iptables-save > /etc/sysconfig/iptables

Check your ip number (it's not


and surf to that address, for example If you see your test page, congratulations, you just installed your web server!

Other servers in Linux are installed just like above: install the program, start it and make it start automatically, and make a hole in the firewall.

User homepages

Web server content directory /var/www/html/ is not writable for normal users, and you don't want to edit web pages as root. That's why users create homepages in /home/foo/public_html. Homepages are shown in http://localhost/~foo

Allow users to create homepages

Edit web server configuration with your favourite text editor. If you don't have pico, you can install it yum install pine

pico /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf

Find the section about homepages by searching ctrl-W for public_html, then comment out the line with UserDir disable and remove the comment char "#" from the line

UserDir public_html

Activate your changes by restarting the web server.

/etc/init.d/httpd restart

Your users can now create homepages.

Create a homepage as a user

If you are still root (if you have a # in your prompt), exit.

Create a directory for homepages. Home directory, public_html and all directories under public_html must be executable (x) by all, so that web server can access files under them if it knows their name. Files must be readable by the web server.

cd $HOME
mkdir public_html
echo "my homepage" > public_html/index.html
chmod a+x $HOME $HOME/public_html
chmod a+r $HOME/public_html/index.html

If you have a lot of users (10+), automate this by putting public_html and index.html to /etc/skel and check default home dir permissions.

Browse to your home page. If your name is "user", it is located in http://localhost/~user. If you can see "my homepage", you are now a happy owner of a homepage.

PHP scripting

PHP is a powerfull scripting language with a C++ like syntax, many readymade classes, good examples and great documentation.

Install PHP scripting

yum install php

Because php is a module, you must restart a web server to load it.

/etc/init.d/httpd restart

Hello PHP World

As a normal user, write a sample php page

cd $HOME/public_html
pico hello.php

Write this sample code to hello.php

<?php echo "Hello PHP World, 2+2 is " . (2+2); ?>
Text outside code block is printed normally to web page.

Usually there is a normal html web page outside the <?php code ?>.

Browse to http://localhost/~user/hello.php. Put your own login name instead of user. If you see "Hello PHP World, 2+2 is 4", you have installed php and written your first program.

MySQL database

Install mysqld just like any server, but don't make a hole for it in the firewall. It is only used locally by Apache.

yum install mysql-server mysql
/etc/init.d/mysqld start
chkconfig mysqld on

Try your new SQL server


| Databases |
| mysql     |
| test      |

Two databases. mysql contains database management system internal data, so don't edit it. test is a safe sandbox to play with.

mysqlshow test

Database: test
| Tables |

If for some reason you do not have database test, CREATE DATABASE test; and then USE test;

No tables in database test yet. Let's CREATE some.


On the prompt mysql>, you can type mysql commands (USE, SHOW) or sql queries (CREATE, INSERT, SELECT).

USE test;
SHOW tables;
CREATE TABLE persons( name VARCHAR(50), email VARCHAR(50) );
SHOW tables;
DESC persons;
INSERT INTO persons VALUES('Tero Karvinen', 'karvinen at-sign');
SELECT * FROM persons;
INSERT INTO persons VALUES('Sample Person', 'recycle@nosuch.invalid');
SELECT * FROM persons;

After the two INSERTs, the last SELECT should return a table with two records

| name          | email                     |
| Tero Karvinen | karvinen <at-sign> |
| Sample Person | recycle@nosuch.invalid    |
2 rows in set (0.01 sec)

You have now installed a database management system, and you also know some SQL.

PHP program using MySQL database

A database by itself is not very usefull - it needs a user interface. To create a web interface to database, we use PHP scripting language.

yum install php-mysql
/etc/init.d/httpd restart

Let's write a simple program to display our database. Use pico $HOME/public_html/database.php to copy this script to a file

PHP database example - <br>
    /* database.php - Use mysql database from php
     * (c) 200309 Tero.Karvinen <at-sign>, adapted from 
     * See Linux Apache MySQL PHP tutorial. */

    /* Connect to database */
    $link = mysql_connect("localhost", "root", "")
        or die("Could not connect : " . mysql_error());
    print "Connected successfully";
    mysql_select_db("test") or die("Could not select database");

    /* Perform SQL query */
    $query = "SELECT * FROM persons";
    $result = mysql_query($query)
	or die("Query failed : " . mysql_error());

    /* Print results in HTML */
    print "<table>\n";
    while ($line = mysql_fetch_array($result, MYSQL_ASSOC)) {
        print "\t<tr>\n";
        foreach ($line as $col_value) {
            print "\t\t<td>$col_value</td>\n";
        print "\t</tr>\n";
    print "</table>\n";

    /* Close connection */

Browse to http://localhost/~user/database.php. Use your own login name instead of user. You should see:

PHP database example -
Connected successfully
Tero Karvinen karvinen
Sample Person recycle@nosuch.invalid

Web page displaying database contents.

If you see the two email addreses from the database, congratulations! You have successfully completed every part of this tutorial.


What next? You can now read the database. Next you probably want to learn to get user input (using html forms in php) and writing to database.

PHP programming language manual.

MySQL database reference manual.

Apache 2.0 web server documentation. Howtos are a good place to start.

PhpMyAdmin is an administrative web interface to MySQL databases.

<<Tero Karvinen's homepage

Notes, todo and copyright

Pretty print code block without pre. Change order php before mysql, so that you can just do part of the tutorial if in a hurry.

Tested with Red Hat 9 Shrike.

Copyright 2003-09-25, 2003-10-02, 2003-11-12 (Minor consistency edits, links), 2003-11-22 (minor copyedit), 2004-05-17 (updated links) Tero Karvinen. All rights reserved. XHTML Basic 1.0