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OpenLampTech - Developer Interview With Alessandro Castellano
Back-end web developer Alex of Alex Web Develop shares insights on PHP security, using core PHP instead of frameworks, and more in this developer interview for OpenLampTech.
Hi and welcome to this interview with back-end web developer, Alessandro Castellano.
I’ve been a long-time subscriber of Alex's newsletter and enjoy reading his content on PHP web development.
Alex's website, Alex Web Develop, has some of the more in-depth core (or vanilla) PHP content online.
Needless to say, I am very excited to share a fantastic text-based interview with Alex here in the OpenLampTech publication.
And now without any further adieu, on to the interview.
Q: Please introduce yourself and tell us what you currently do for a living.
My name’s Alessandro but my readers know me as Alex.
I live in Italy where I work as a back-end web developer for a tech company. I mostly work with PHP and SQL databases.
I also run a personal website called “Alex Web Develop” where I write about PHP programming.
Q: With the wide range of available programming languages, what about PHP makes it your language of choice?
Back in the early 2000’s, some friends of mine decided to launch a music website. I was already into computer programming, so I took the opportunity and volunteered to build the website myself.
PHP was the obvious language choice for the job, so I started diving into it and eventually I decided to specialize in that.
One thing I really like about PHP is the fact that it’s constantly evolving and getting better. The PHP we have today is very different from how it was 15 years ago.
Q: Do you think it is important for developers to learn SQL? Why or why not?
I think SQL is very important for the majority of developers today, especially for those who work (or would like to work) in data science, cyber security, machine learning and similar contexts.
If you know SQL, then you can understand how databases work and get the most out of them in terms of performance, efficiency and security. This is true even if you use abstraction layers that do not require actual SQL code to be written.
In the field of web development SQL is definitely a must, simply because any web application uses a database of some kind.
There are alternative technologies to SQL, such as NoSQL, but you still need to understand SQL to choose the right technology for your project.
Q: Tell us about your course, PHP Security Mastery. Who is this course for and what does it cover?
Security is one of the most underestimated aspects of web development, especially among less experienced developers.
One of the reasons for this is that security is perceived as complicated, with hard-to-grasp concepts and even harder coding techniques.
I decided to write a course about PHP Security to address this problem.
The goal of the course is to let the developer have a crystal-clear view of what security is about and the exact coding techniques required to secure a web application.
It is specifically focused on PHP programming and it covers all the security issues a PHP developer must address. From input validation to XSS protection, from CSRF to authentication, from SQL injection to Sessions.
If you are interested in the complete list of features you can find it here: https://alexwebdevelop.com/php-security-mastery/
Q: Do you leverage any PHP frameworks or CMSs for any projects and if so, which do you use?
I currently do not use any PHP framework because our system requires a high level of customization.
Recently I’ve been testing Laravel to see if I can use it to replace some specific parts of our ecosystem.
If I had to start a brand new project today, I'd probably consider using Laravel.
However, I encourage developers not to use frameworks without understanding the PHP basics first.
Q: What's your favorite text editor or IDE and why?
My to-go IDE is Visual Studio Code.
I like its coloring scheme, how lightweight and stable it is, and all the little features that help you code faster.
I’ve been using Eclipse for a long time, and I tried other IDEs such as Netbeans and PHPStorm, but Visual Studio Code is the one I like the most.
I just like how its editor engine works (code highlighting, coding assist…), its modularity and its very modern structure.
It’s also free to use which is a nice plus.
Another somewhat lesser-known IDE that I suggest you try is CodeLobster.
About text editors, my favorite one is Notepad++.
Yes, it’s a bit old-style, but it’s blazing fast and it really has anything you could possibly need.
Q: What is one piece of software or tool you cannot live without?
F.lux is one. It makes your screen light warmer to reduce eye strain. It may not work for everyone but you should definitely give it a try.
Another one is Notion. It’s a lifesaver for planning tasks and organizing information.
Other tools I can’t live without are Google Sheets and the aforementioned Notepad++.
Q: Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give yourself if you were just beginning to learn to program?
If I had to pick one piece of advice, it would be to adopt an “always-learning” mentality right from the start.
By constantly improving your programming skills, you can stay up to date without getting overwhelmed (because you are learning new things in small, manageable pieces) and you will avoid being left behind.
Q: Any hobbies or other interests outside of programming and development?
I enjoy reading (especially sci-fi and fantasy), video games, heavy metal music, board games, and photography.
I also like hiking and visiting places around.
Q: Where can readers go to learn more about your projects and work online?
Just go to my website, https://alexwebdevelop.com, and join my newsletter. Give it a try and, if you like it, we’ll be in touch every week.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add or share with the OpenLampTech readers today?
Just thank you for this great opportunity!
Please take a moment and share this fantastic interview with others.
Thanks so much, Alex for sharing your knowledge with the OpenLampTech readers. I appreciate you participating in the interview!
Thank you for reading. I hope you have a great rest of your week.
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