Monday, May 26, 2008

Jumping into FOSS

I've had an old PowerPC laying around as a doorstop/dust-collector for over a year. My wife has asked me to get rid of it more than once, but I kept putting her off, saying I would use it for something someday.

Saturday afternoon I got the wild notion that learning how to set up my own web server would be fun. There are quite a few flavors of Linux out there; I had no idea. I decided to go with Ubuntu server 6.06.2 with Xubuntu as the GUI.

Then, with the help of a variety of tutorials and forums, I was able to get Apache2, MySQL, and PHP all playing nicely. Throw WordPress into the mix and tada: is born. There isn't much there to speak of; right now it's just a sandbox for learning how to make all of this work. But who knows, if I get comfortable with all of this and can keep the installation stable, I just may work on migrating everything over.

Around 10am today I hit a wall and decided it was time for a book. I love the computer section of book stores and am a frequent browser, but this was the first time I trying to deal with something so technical. Lots of options out there, including a Dummies book for just about anything you would want to do with a computer, but overall the books fell into two categories: 1) so ungodly technical as to be nearly unreadable for someone without a CS degree or 2) a $40 restating of what I had already read online. I picked up the WordPress for Dummies book anyway--sometimes its nice to have a good overview in one place--but lots of thanks to the incredible community that has put together all the information for learning how to do something like this.

The hardest technical part was getting the IP information straight between my server, router, and DynDNS. DynDNS is pretty neat--with a free account, they provide a domain name and keep the URL pointing in the right direction if you have a dynamic IP. If I decide to stick with this, I will need to just register my own domain, but what a great way to play around and learn the ropes.

The other hard part was just keeping things straight in the server terminal. I'm so used to GUIs that adjusting my mind map of the system took some time. Fortunately, I could also surf the file structure in Xubuntu; otherwise just finding some of the files I needed would have added hours to the process.

All told, from wild, incomplete understanding of what I was tackling to a working web presence took just over 20 hours. Certainly time well spent.

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