Yes, your Mac can be a web site server. It’s easy. What if you just want to fake it?
Make your Mac a web server without the domain name? Can do. VirtualHostX is the niftiest one trick pony of the summer—it just works.
The Mac360 guys are all into setting up a Mac as a web server. Ron even has his own daily blog set up on a Mac mini on his desk. What if you don’t want to go to all that trouble but still want your Mac to host a faked domain name?
That’s called virtual hosting. Your Mac becomes a server for a web site but only on your Mac; nowhere else. Web site developers love virtual hosting because it makes it easier to develop sites, add links, and so on.
You can do virtual hosting on your Mac a couple of different ways. One is complicated, requires a restart, and use of OS X’s terminal. It’s also free. The other is almost free and is purely point and click.
Guess which one I chose?
Here’s the problem. Ron asked me to help out on a couple of web sites he’s developing. My part requires that my Mac be a virtual host. In this case, I’ll use the domain name “katesdomain.com.”
To get katesdomain.com to show up in Safari or Firefox, which makes developing pages and links much easier, I have to set my Mac up as a virtual domain. That means typing katesdomain.com in the browser brings up the pages I’m developing, since the real site doesn’t exist yet.
It’s so easy a caveman could do it. Not. Do you honestly want to do this? Open terminal, navigate to the /etc directory, and edit the hosts file? This is what it looks like:
# Host Database
# localhost is used to configure the loopback interface
# when the system is booting. Do not change this entry.
Edit it properly, and your Mac becomes a virtual host for katesdomain.com (or whatever name you choose). Then restart your Mac for the changes to take effect.
Not wanting to dink around in terminal any more than necessary, I asked Ron if there was an easier way. He said yes. It’s drop dead easy. Use a nifty application called VirtualHostX by Tyler Hall.
What VirtualHostX does is, indeed, drop dead easy. Tyler has an elegant instructional video of the steps. It’s about three clicks to make it work and you don’t have to restart your Mac.
Getting started is easy, too. Download VIrtualHostX, open and drag to your Applications folder, then double click to launch. The welcome screen gives you three steps. Create a backup of your Apache server configuration files. That’s one click. Turn on OS X’s virtual hosting and adjust the settings. That’s two clicks.
Tyler says there’s no third click. But there is. You have to close the Welcome window.
Now it’s time to create a virtual domain (remember, “virtual” means that the domain name only works on your Mac, in your browser). Click the Plus + button, type in the host name (domain name) you want to use. Then select the document root. That just means to select the folder on your Mac where the web site’s files will be.
Click Save Changes. Done. Now, open Safari or Firefox or whatever, and enter http://mydomainname.com (or, whatever domain you entered in VirtualHostX). If you created a few web pages and put them in a folder that VirtualHostX can find, that’s what you’ll see in your browser.
How cool is that? Very cool, considering VirtualHostX is a measly $7.00. Add as many virtual hosts (domain names) as you want, then develop web sites until your face is blue or the cows come home.
Why do this? Let’s say you want to make your own web site with your own domain using RapidWeaver, Dreamweaver, or Apple’s iWeb (but not use a .Mac account). Creating the site is easy these days, but viewing your results and checking your links before uploading the site to a server is more problematic.
Now it’s not. Whatever links you have will point accurately to your virtual host, the domain name you entered in VirtualHostX.
Can you do this for free? Yes. Just like you can build web pages and a web site for free using any of the free HTML editors. It’s slower, laborious, painful to learn. Ditto for setting up your Mac to host your virtual domain as a virtual host. Using VirtualHostX is a bargain.