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As mentioned, you can search for, and install Apache, but it *is* a confusing ride installing all those components I mentioned (apache, php and mysql) and getting them to acknowledge each other. Individually they may work fine straight from a normal install wizard but actually getting them to work together requires configuring, which can be a little daunting if you're just starting out.
If you have access to Windows Professional I suggest starting with that and using IIS as your server and ASP as your scripting language. ASP works instantly with IIS without any kind of installation becuase it's Microsoft's chosen scripting language. PHP (as I mentioned) needs to be installed seperately.
It's all well and good for people to tell you to 'just jump in and try' but often those people have been working with computers for quite some time and have a level of confidence for the peripheral tasks that the rest of us are still fearful of. You want your test environment to be as safe, comfortable and uncomplicated (for you) as you can possibly make it. From my personal experience I think the chain of ease and complexity goes like this:
1. IIS if Windows XP professional is available.
2. APACHE server.
Scripting language choices:
1. ASP if IIS is available.
2. PHP in any other situation.
1. ACCESS if available (yes, you heard me, access).
2. MYSQL in any other situation.
A generic guide to talking to server guys.
It's possible that some of you followed the guidelines in my first post
and now have a perfectly valid test environment. Even those people with
Windows XP Professional are, at some point, going to have to make a
decision about hosting their site on a live server. Basically this means
moving all the code from your test environment to a computer (server) that
can talk to the rest of the internet and, more importantly, making sure
that the big, mysterious computers that tell everything on the internet
where to find everything, have your site registered (these are called
Domain Name Servers, you may hear mention of DNS).It's not terribly
important to know how they work, just understand that when you type
into your browser: www.widgets.com, it's the DNS's that tell you how to
find that page because that's the name the owner of widgets.com has
registered with them.
So, you want to 'go live'.
Firstly, you have to find a hosting company. This is a big step and it
varies *massively* depending on what your website is intending to do. I'm
afraid you're actually going to have to do some homework here to find out
exactly what's best for you and your needs.
Secondly, when you contact your hosting company, don't try to bluff. If you
don't understand something that they're talking about, don't pretend to
understand because you're scared of looking stupid. Let them know that you're
new to this and still learning. If they persist in using convoluted
terms and confusing jargon, you may want to re-evaluate your hosting choice:
If they can't explain it clearly then it's possible they don't understand it
themselves and if they can't explain it clearly when everything is running
fine how are they going to explain things when something goes wrong?
Things you want to know:
How are my files going to get from where I'm working on them on my computer
to the hosting company's server?
Answer: They are going to give you ftp access to their server for uploading
the files. They'll provide you with a login name, a password and an address,
much like an [website...] address except that it will be an ftp://address.
You will need an ftp program (windows comes with one standard but you want
to find a better one, trust me). You can find many good ftp programs with a
google search. Ftp programs allow you to do file and directory manipulation
just as you would on your computer, but on another computer (in this case the
server). Most ftp programs will simply involve creating a new profile, giving
it name, putting the address your host gave you into the host field, the user
and password (if there's a checkbox for save password make sure it's ticked)
and then click connect. This (usually, depending on ftp program) will connect
you to the computer you'll be hosting on. Your files and computer will (usually)
be listed on the left, the host computer in the right panel. You can explore
the right side until you get to the directory you want to put your files in.
If you have any doubt as to where to put your files ask your hosting company.
Where you put your files impacts directly on how people access your site.
Remember in my first post how putting localhost in your browser actually
pointed you to c:/inetpub/wwwroot because that where the server looked by default?
That exactly the same process here. If your website is www.widgets.com then
your files need to be in the right directory for the server to point to them
when someone types that into a browser.
Are my files guaranteed to work on this server?
Answer: The very simple and blunt answer is, No. There's no guarantee that
your files you've been working on locally are going to work on their server.
Hosting companies who host using a windows environment are often not going
to have php installed on their servers, requiring all scripting be done in
asp. Likewise, those companies that host on a linux/unix environment aren't
going to support asp and require php scripting pages. All files with the
extension .html or .xhtml will work fine in both the given scenarios. As I
described in my first post html is just for displaying information and the
server doesn't care about it. Scripts actually require work from the server
and you can't ask the server to work on a script it hasn't been set up to
On top of that there are extra issues with moving files locally to servers,
especially if you're trying to do tricky things. Here's a very (very) brief
list of issues that you'll want to ask your hosting company about if you're
planning on doing them:
* Sending mail from scripts.
* Uploading files through scripts.
* Converting files to pdfs.
* Doing any kind of image manipulation through scripts.
* Writing to files on the server.
If you absolutely must use a particular hosting company you'll need to find
any constraints they have before you start actually making your site. I once
developed an entire site for a client only to discover that they had moved
servers in the time between design and completion without telling us and the new
hosting company ran entirely on a scripting language that they had personally
created. Learn from my long, sleepless nights.
What if I want to use a database with my site?
Answer:If your site is database driven (that just means it uses a database) then
you'll need to discuss that with your host. Don't assume that one will be
available. There are a few ways that databases can happen with a hosting company.
1. You tell them exactly what your database is supposed to look like, be called,
and the tables and fields needed in it. Then they go away and set it up for you
and they will send you a little bit of information that contains the address
of the database (usually localhost) the name of the database, the name of a
user for that database and a password for a user for that database.
All those pieces of information need to go into the connection string you use for
getting to the database in your scripts. If this doesn't make sense, don't worry,
it will when you start working with databases.
2. They give you a web address to a control panel that allows you to set up your
own database on their server. This allows you to do all the work they did in secret
in the first scenario, otherwise the situation is identical.
Both ways have their plusses and minuses. The first is liable to have errors or you
may forget a field or require a change to the database, these changes require going
through the hosting company which can potentially be a time consuming process which
they end up doing incorrectly anyway.
The second is confusing, ifyou don't understand the control panel or have access to
someone who understands it it can be very daunting. Try and make sure that your
hosting company is available for questions and help at least until you stop breaking
out in a cold sweat every time you put in your username and password. The plus is that
when you do something you can see immediately that it's exactly the way you want it.
So, the guys let me know that they are going to phase out their server service since they can't give any support and it doesn't make sense for them financially. So there goes that, and I'm back to square one.
I was researching using a company that has cheap hosting and can get a package deal along with a very generic make-a-website-in-one-night sorta thing. I am very hesitant to go with them because this particular company does not have an 800 number and when I emailed a question it took a whole day to hear back from them. Plus, I really want to be in control of my site and not have to depend on a middle person. I feel an urgency to have a site very soon as I have several irons in the fire. Maybe doing this for a few months wouldn't be a bad idea, then I could learn more language and have time to build a dream site myself. hmmm.
If this information is insightful; my background is that I first learned programming on an Apple IIe waaay back in the 80's (remember floppies with the huge hole?), IBM, and have work experience with a Unix system.
I'm wondering if I should go mac......better for art stuff.
Site registration: yes.
Lists: take a look at yourluckylist.com - it's free.
Look for free marketing courses (Google it) and don't buy any! Lots of scammers out there (been there, bought all the t-shirts). There is no such thing as instant riches. Some so-called gurus offer good free courses as come-ons for their various programs.
I repeat: Don't buy anything until you feel comfortable with all the advice they're dealing out.
You can e-mail me for some good URL:s.
Have you got yourself a domain and an ISP yet?
If not, I suggest you do the following, step by step:
1. search Google for 'html tutorials'. There are thousands.
2. choose one, for instance www.w3schools.com/html/. Get a html editor, I personally use Cute (www.globalscape.com).
3. While you're at it, start laying out and sketch your site on paper. Decide on format and copntent. Then start coding - Cute lets you preview your efforts.
Get out your credit card and search for an ISP. A good low-cost one is b-one.net, but it's based in Europe. They also handle domain name registration. They also have a free wysiwyg editor. e-mail support only. There are others that combine hosting with site-building and a sort of marketing support like sitesell, bluevoda, xsite.
When done, upload via ftp to your server.
If you don't want to hand code, another alternative is NVU (www.nvu.org). It's wysiwyg program, it's free. But still get an ftp program (Cute ftp is good) as the built-in ftp of NVU is buggy. But remember - knowing a bit of html is essential.
Now get going and DO something. Good luck.