Use old mac as web server

As first spotted on Boing Boing and Slashdot , on the frontiers of the world wide web one man is keeping the URL rhyal. Now, sales engineer Huxley Dunsany is using the year-old computer which he souped up with more RAM and a modern solid state drive to serve up a website to visitors over the modern internet. Dunsany started the project on a whim. He initially planned to use it to run old Mac games and needed Ethernet to transfer the files from modern machines.

Once Dunsany got it working, visitors started wandering to the site and signing the notebook. After a post about the site on tech news aggregator Slashdot, the popularity grew. Currently, rhyal. These all still work very well to help you check things out on the site while it's still on your local test server. Things like analytics and load times won't be accurate until you're accessing the site from a remote location. This is especially true of load times — since loading a web site from your local computer is always faster than loading the same web site through a network.

And best of all, you can do all these things without affecting the integrity or security of a live site. Even some of the most tested and widely used systems in the world can have security holes in them.


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Sites built on WordPress or Drupal, for example, are constantly being modified and improved upon to avoid and address these weaknesses in security — ones that exist despite their popularity and widespread use. When working on a new plugin or module or sometimes even just a new feature with either of these two content management systems, security can be threatened — even if only for a few minutes. And I don't think I need to tell you what can happen to a web site that loses its top notch security for a few minutes.

Years and years ago, when Perl was still very, very new, I didn't know very many people who had test servers. In fact, I think that out of the hundred or so web developers that I knew, only two or three of them actually had a test server. This is an abysmally low ratio compared to today.

Old Mac, new tricks: Web server

You see, back then, test servers were something of a luxury. Large web development companies and corporations had walls of servers available for, well, anything really. They used them for testing, staging, hosting — you name it. Individual or freelance web developers were a little harder to come by back then and most did not have a local testing environment set up.


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Of course, this was also before all the wonderful tools that I'm about to show you were even available. Back then, setting up a local testing environment was a bit of a pain. Granted, the pain was totally worth it if you were able to get it working. But for many freelance web developers setting up a local testing environment back then was a time-consuming endeavor and was better done remotely.

One thing to keep in mind is that a server is not a piece of hardware. I know when I talk about servers many of you are probably picturing small boxes that look similar to small computer towers sitting up on shelves.

Choose Your Web-Server Hardware

Even I have that picture in my head sometimes and I know better! Setting up a server is more about the software than it is about the hardware. You can use your standard Windows or Mac computer; you just install some software and, voila! You can actually install any other server-side language that you prefer. I prefer PHP, so that is what I am using. There are three primary methods from which you can choose for installing the three pieces I just mentioned web server, database server and server language :.

There's no rule saying that you need both a local test server and a remote test server; this is just the set up that I generally recommend to my clients. And it has to do with workflow and usage of each of the servers.


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First, my local test server is only accessible to me. I can go in there and fiddle around all day. I can send screenshots to my clients, notes and emails to my clients. I can even write out a detailed explanation about everything new that I've discovered and played with while on my local test server. But they cannot access the server itself.

macOS Server Will Lose Services Soon: Here Are Alternatives

They can't hop onto their computer and take a peak at their website mid-development to see how far I've come. They can't determine whether or not they like the look and feel of their site, the user-friendly experience or the workflow.

Outside of what I choose to tell them, my clients have no idea what is happening on my local test server. And that's kind of a scary place to be if you're a client. As a client, I would want to know what's happening with my project, even if I don't completely understand everything that you're doing. Oh, Okay, so you just installed the thingamajig and now I can write my web pages and just click on a button to make it look bold? Can I try? That's what most clients care about Can I try it out?

They appreciate the emails and the screenshots — but they like demos.

Whether it's because it gives them a feeling of power to have to approve something before it can go live, or just a matter of trying to learn their website before anyone can ask them any questions, clients like playing with all the little thingies, whatchamawhoozetts, thingamajigs and gadgets that you're placing on their site. They like knowing first hand how it's going to work, even if they don't understand the technology behind it.

And this is what having that second, remote test server gives them. A chance for them to play and get to know their site before it goes live. It also allows you to do some last minute testing that might have required a remote server — such as load times, performance audits and the like. Since all the major issues such as security holes and compatibility checks were done on your local test server before uploading the site in all its glory to the remote test server, there's very little reason to worry.

For those of you who, like me, primarily work with either WordPress or Drupal, this is also a good platform to teach your client how to manage his or her site before it has been launched. They may have questions regarding how to create or update content, how to customize certain aspects, or other notions that might not have been requested of you as of yet. This way, you can walk them through all these things and they don't have to worry about the live site being affected at all. And they can be fairly certain that the live site will function almost exactly as the remote test server functions.

So, as I mentioned before, the easiest method to install all this new software onto your local test server is to find an all-in-one application that will install the web server, database server and language within just a few moments. There are a few to choose from, so to be honest if you're not happy with one then you might have better luck with one of the others out there. The primary difference between these two is spelled out right in the name:. For the most part, choosing between the two is going to be a matter of whether you're using Windows or Mac. You can try both and then settle for the one you like the best.

I would probably start with MAMP, though, as some folks have experienced trouble with. Both worked well for me, neither crashed or became choppy or hard to work with. I know that there are a lot of reviews out there saying that one or the other is faster, works more smoothly, etc. Your own experience may be different You have been warned First things first, you'll need to download and install the MAMP program. Whichever version you choose, go ahead and download the software to your computer.

As is par for the course of most applications for the Mac, installation is easy — a couple of clicks, agree to the terms of service and enter your admin password and you're golden. The Pro version is a trial of their industrial-strength server; we don't need that, so we'll be using the plain old MAMP application. Once the lights turn green about 2 seconds , you're ready to go:. Now that every thing is installed, we can check to ensure that it's installed and working correctly by clicking on the button that reads Open Start Page.

And it really is that simple It probably took me longer to type out the steps than it will for you to get this server set up. Of course, there's no site or even a page or anything else set up yet. For that, you'll need to place your site into the htdocs folder inside the MAMP folder; it should be empty right now:. Now that your server is all set up, there are a couple of other things that you might want to set up.

Children of the revolution

Well, if you don't remember, that's okay. By default, both the username and password for MySQL were set to root. As you might imagine, this is not a very secure combination. Even though you're only testing locally, take the time to change those before moving forward:. So, now we want to make your local test server useful. First, we're going to install Drupal and create a little website on the local test server. If you don't want to install Drupal or you'd rather install a different CMS, you're welcome to do that as well.

Many of the same steps will apply, however, so I recommend reading through this section anyway.