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How did you installed the newer php? From source, or using your package manager?
Anyway look for the line "LoadModule php5_module ..." inside httpd.conf of whatever it's called in centos and change it to point to the new libphp5.so installed by php 5.2.3.
yeah i just noticed that. i'm now a supreme moron for not answering your question - apologies, no idea why i didn't. before i start over with this - since i did the whole ./configure, make, make install route on both apache and php, do i need to uninstall it before i can install it again or can i just do it over without deleting anything?
I guess you compiled php running ./configure with the "--with-apxs2=...". If that's the case, then it's strange that "locate libphp5.so" didn't find it. It should exist under both libs/ and .libs/ subdirectories in the place you extracted php sources (I presume from your post that it's /home/wemuhtat/php-5.2.3).
You can do the whole ./confgure, make, make install from the beginning overwriting your previous attempt (running make clean before anything else).
I suggest you if you're going to start from the beginning, to install php-5.2.4 that fixes some bugs and security issues of the previous release.