In two recent articles I highlighted the value of the $799 eMac (despite PC Magazine’s claims to the contrary) as a great first home web server. Click Here for the details on how to do it for about $7.00 a month.
In the second article I pointed to just two tools that you’d need to make your web sites look attractive, professional, and allow you to display daily articles, links to other sites, QuickTime movies, music links, and much more—all point and click.
Click Here for the details.
That’s plenty of info to get the average Mac user on the road to understanding how to build a competent web site, get a domain name, and serve it to the world off your Mac. In the demonstration case, a lowly $799 eMac (one of our first two web servers) does the job.
As Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor would say, “What we need is more power.” We couldn’t agree more.
Whether you’re building your web site (or sites; the Mac and Mac OS X can handle numerous sites from one Mac) for personal use or professional use, Mac OS X now brings tremendous power to those of us who’d rather point and click and create, than double up as a system administrator or programmer (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Let’s step it up a notch. Or 10. An eMac will do well for most personal web sites and can be a good starting point for the SOHO (small office, home office) web site. The next few steps will make a substantial difference in how you serve your web site and how many visitors the site can handle.
Step One – Database: Top web sites are not just HTML pages that are designed and coded and remain static on a web server until a browser comes along. Most commercial web sites (now, many personal sites, too) use a database to serve the pages.
Actually, a database is used to construct the pages when requested by the browser, then serve the page (via the web server, such as Apache, which is included in Mac OS X). While that may sound complicated, it’s actually much easier than you might think. Here are the 3 basic steps (doesn’t matter if you’re using a humble eMac or a powerful new PowerMac G with dual CPUs) to turn your Mac into a powerful database web server. Total cost: $199.
Step two – Web Server:Mac OS X comes with Apache, the Internet’s most popular and capable web page server. That’s built in and ready to go. You’ll also need the PHP engine, and the MySQL database (both are Open Source, and free). For PHP, we recommend the one produced by Marc Liyanage. Installing is a breeze (point and click) and the latest version is secure, stable, and free. Click Here for the download page.
Step Three – PHP Engine:Adding PHP to your Mac adds lots of ability, capability, and opportunity to run hundreds of quality applications that use the PHP scripting language. Even more power can be yours with the MySQL database. While MySQL comes standard with Mac OS X Panther Server, you’ll need to add it to a standard Panther installation (free).
Click Here to download MySQL via Apple’s Mac OS X Downloads page. Again, installation is a snap. Follow the instructions, but it’s all point and click.
Apache, PHP, and MySQL provide a powerhouse combination to make your Mac a very capable web server. What you don’t want to do is have to learn PHP’s scripting language, or MySQL’s arcane query language. Fortunately, complex web sites can be constructed in just a few hours with the right application.
Step Four – Content Management: There are many content management applications available for the Mac, among them are the free Mambo, Word Press and others; all user friendly, elegantly designed, easy to set up, and comes with tremendous content management power.
Use a content management system to create a simple web log which you can update from any where there’s a browser connected to the web. Or, use it to create complex database-driven web sites which can serve advertising, bulletin boards and forums, handle user comments, user articles and graphics, and much more.
Assuming you followed a few of the steps in the earlier articles about using a $799 eMac as a web server, you can actually have PHP, MySQL, and a content management system up and running in about 30-minutes.
Yes, 30-minutes. What used to be horribly complex and required a few bodies to set up and manage (system administrator, database administrator, and PHP programmer) can now be installed on your Mac in minutes. Click, click, click.
Once they’re set up, Apache (the web server), PHP (the application script engine), and MySQL (the database) pretty much run silently in the background. They’re always on, restart automatically when your Mac restarts, and give you a powerful base of applications from which to serve web sites.
Content management systems are often written in PHP (the scripting language) that uses both Apache and MySQL to let you create, store, and serve content. It’s a content management system and you access all the “point and click” mechanisms from your web browser (Safari, Firefox, MSIE, whatever). It’s that easy.
Most come with dozens of templates so you can literally get started with something that looks professional in just minutes after installation. Log in, add an article, edit an article, upload and insert a graphic, add members to your site, control member settings, and much more. MUCH more.
From that point on it can get as complex or simple as you want it to be, but the power and flexibility you’ll have rivals that of big-time media content sites (since they’re not usually served from a Mac sitting in a home office). Of course, Content is King, and you’ll need to have something to say, something to report, or good typing and writing skills.
Putting up your own web site and serving it up via Mac OS X is now inexpensive and comes with point and click simplicity. Could it get any easier than that?
All the pieces are there, too. Domain name set up. Email. Apache. PHP. MySQL database. Add Expression Engine and you’re on your way. You don’t have to worry about all the server point and click goodness but you get all the benefits of working from your Mac (in fact, your Mac can be set up to be a great “staging” server—set up on your Mac, upload your content to your site at pMachine).
Are there others who do the same kind of thing? Yes. We chose Expression Engine and pMachine because they’re Mac users (mostly) and have built the web’s premier affordable content management system, which we use and serve from our own Macs.
Give it a try. Let us know how it goes. Do you have experiences with content management systems, Apache/PHP/MySQL on the Mac? Share your experience with other readers. Click on the Comments link below.