How It All Happened
[A Geeks Tour of Setting Up A Web Site]
There are a number of people that have been of major assistance, offered inspiration and help in getting this web site up and running. Some who I already knew and some that just posted helpful instructions on their own website. The earliest from when I first launched ptavv.org back in 1998. The web server ran off of Mac O/S 9’s built-in web sharing on an old Powerbook hooked up to my home network with Farallon PhoneNet. A setup less capable now than the iPhone I carry with me every day.
In The Beginning…
I met Mac when he was hired on as a fellow Tech at MacWarehouse (long since swallowed up by CDW) He’s a great guy, real easygoing and very knowledgeable. He already had a similar setup (now no longer in operation) at e-mac.com as I was putting together (‘cept the rat bastard had a [much faster at the time] G3!) so I hollered at him asking for assistance with getting MacDNS up and running.
Mac called me 3 nights in a row. He checked in on my progress, he offered his help and even sent me documentation and spent some time on the phone (long distance!) walking me thru setting up MacDNS. Even though I ended up not using MacDNS (see below) Mac was of great help and went out of his way to assist me with this. Thanx Mac!
In order to have a domain, (at the time) it was not enough that you register it and pay them your money you then have to find a way to tell the internet where your web server is. At the time you could not do it from a web-based form on your registrar’s site.
When you have internet access from your local cable company, then as now, you can’t change the DNS name they give your cable modem (hell most people don’t even know it even has a URL. But you can add your own. So I needed to get my IP Address and domain name out there. Unfortunately nothing I tried worked. The handy web form front end to change your DNS records was still years away from being generally available to any Steve, Dick and Harry who wanted a website.
Enter Mr. Ruffin. Joel hired me at Sarnoff. He managed the enterprise infrastructure for the company. Joel was a busy man. Very busy. But he took some time to assist me with getting the DNS records set-up correctly. A true sweetheart of a guy.
But all the work I had done was for nought. The damn web site still wouldn’t resolve! So I sent out a plea for help on a mailing list. Brian answered with a couple of pointed comments about MacDNS and that he could get me up and running. All for the low low price of just 30 bucks (a year). At this point I had been banging away at this for a week with no success and was at my wits end trying to figure out what I had done wrong. I decided that $30 a year was reasonable and took Brian up on his offer.
Brian was patient, understanding and quite friendly. So if you need hosting services, from simple DNS info to a full blown commercial web site, Brian is your man at MacServe.Net. In fact my brother hosts his business’ website with Brian’s company. Thanx Brian!
Believe it or not I met Lynne thru an online dating service. There was never a romantic click between us but we are a couple of true blue Mac computer geeks and have remained friends. She used to do some really outstanding web design. That evolved into her own web based business and she is now no longer slinging HTML for hire. At the time she was kind enough to critique me from time to time. Nothing like learning from the best!
Bill and Stefan
…and Then Later On…
Some Guy in New Zealand That I Don’t Even Know.
I spend too much time surfing the web. What computer geek doesn’t? At least I admit it. I spend a lot of time on Slashdot and Digg. they’re a kind of news/discussion web site, boy do they discuss. A lot of discussion centers about various websites and how these sites aren’t “web standards compliant.” That and flaming Apple, Microsoft, AOL or whatever today’s whipping boy is. What can I say, geeks like to kvetch.
It’s February 2006 and my move to Austin has been great. The job search has been a bit slow. I have some time on my hands. So I get the urge to try my hand at a 100% CSS front page. No tables, no blockquotes, just pure unadulterated XHTML joy!. But I’m having a hell of a time wrapping my mind around CSS and How It All Works. Then one day Digg has a story that linked to a guy with a web site that had a nice beginners tutorial on CSS page layout. It was perfect. Also now out of date and gone. I knew a little about CSS and this filled in the cracks. In a simple clear and straightforward manner. You used to be able to check out his website at www.subcide.com.
So thanks go out to Steve Dennis at Subcide Design. I guy I don’t know from halfway around the world. We’ve never met and corresponded only briefly when I wrote him a thank you note. So if you live in New Zealand and need a web designer he seems to know his shit. Cheers mate!
Hivelogic and MacZealots
It’s been a while since I got the urge to set up a blogging engine on my own webserver. I am not going to go into all that again. But a brief mention of where I got started seems like the right thing to do and I just realized that maybe it ought to be on the “Thank You” page (too), duh!
I spent all of 15 minutes deciding on using WordPress and Googled around and found a really amazing tutorial on installing WordPress over at MacZealots. Helpful, well written and just what I needed. Thanks guys (and now gone…).
Of course WordPress requires a database back end. What I know about databases can be summed up in five words “CD Collection in Filemaker Pro.” fortunately the guys over at Hivelogic.com have a great tutorial on installing MySQL. It’s a part of installing a bunch of other stuff that I don’t need but the MySQL part was perfect. And from the looks of things this tutorial has been updated for new versions of Mac O/S and of the applications therein. A valuable site and a great resource, check it out sometime.
The page design I did almost four years ago was starting to wear a little thin with me. I had tweaked it a little from time to time but I was tired of the logo and the whole design. So I went looking and finally found an approchable design that my meagre coding skills could handle
Roger had a tutorial on how he built the navigation bar for his web site. I found it after a bit of Googling for a CSS navigation menu. His instructions and code are really pretty good. You should check it out.
A few years later the Mac I was running the website on was aging and the version of Mac O/S it was running was not being updated anymore. And while this site is hardly a target for hackers I needed to update MySQL, PHP and Apache so I was running the latest, greatest and secure-ist.
I had recently been using an open source product that allowed you to run a fully functioning MySQL/PHP/Apache website in a sandbox on your computer (completely isolated from the rest of the operating system) MAMP. This allowed me to hack around in WordPress without messing up my current installation or my current website.
MAMP (My Apache MySQL PHP) is a nifty concept: basically everything you need to run a (non-Microsoft) web server in one folder, already configured and ready to use. Even better it was free! And if I messed it up I just delete the old folder, re-install it and plop my website back into place. So I installed MAMP on my aging web server, copied the file over and voila! Instant (errr… 30 minutes…) updated webserver!
…Or The End of Self Hosting.
Late 2013 I got a nice bonus from work and bought a new Mac Mini to replace the aging and now very slow Mac Mini (version 1,1) that I had hooked up to the TV. the old Mini did a decent job but was vastly underpowered for Multimedia Living Room use. Once I hooked up the new one I realized I had bandwidth and CPU cycles to spare and quickly moved my website over (still using MAMP) to the Mac Mini and retired my old MDD PowerMac from server duties.
In the middle of 2013 my wife and I decided to start her in her own Esthetics business (facials and the like) and rather than dealing with (the vaguely unreliable) self hosting for her business’ web site (like I did here with stevec.us) I went with a very reasonably priced web hosting package at Hostgator.
Fast forward several months and I am having problems with my WordPress install (seemingly not the fault of MAMP) and my cable going in and out several times. Frustration was high and the last thing I need is more computer frustration, I deal with enough of that at work.
Adding stevec.us to my existing Hostgator hosting package was surprisingly cheap. And while the cut over was not without it’s issues, most of them were my failure to read and comprehend the instructions the very helpful Hostgator people provided.
So count me amongst the people who would heartily recommend Hostgator as a good place to put a (non-microsoft based) website, for personal or business use.