Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Host Your Own Domain and Webserver



Doesn’t sound like anything new right? Well, some people may not know of this method. To host your own webpage you don’t need to spend 7 bucks for a domain. You don’t need to get a hosting plan. You absolutely do not need to get domain name services through a provider. You can even host your own webserver using a dialup connection (that’s right…I said dialup) although. I don’t recommend it (but I’ve done it using 56.6kbps).

Why would you want to do this? My reply…to stay connected to friends and family…perhaps throw up a gallery so that your grandparents can see pics of your new dog/car/tinfoil hat. Sure, you could waste my time with MyWaste..er..space and be barraged daily by advertisers and solicitors…or you could roll your own web host, install a gallery or website, and provide media to your friends and family without costing yourself a dime. That’s right, NO COST (except time spent getting it running). Just remember, your website might not survive a digging or slashdotting if you run it yourself. Keep that in mind :) So without more chatter, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of things:


Do you cringe at the thought of buying a domain and putting up with the headache of trying to make sure your IP address is up to date with your domain? Do you hate the 40 dollars you spend on DNS service each year to resolve your IP address to your hostname? Read on and learn the the flat-broke-and-busted way of maintaining a fixed hostname for your IP…even if you have dialup.

I’ll divide this up into 2 sections. The first will deal with Linux. The second, Windows. This is only something that I’ve found easy to do and the price is just right (it’s free). The only thing that I recommend is a dedicated internet connection (cable, DSL) but even this is not necessary as dialup can be used. I recommend that you use the Linux way of doing things since it is more secure and doesn’t require a restart every time you patch it.


*note: I’m assuming that you aren’t behind a firewall/proxy of any kind and that your ISP doesn’t block port 80 traffic. If your ISP blocks port 80, see the appendix at the end of this article.

LINUX

No matter what version of Linux you run, chances are that you’ll be able to install the apache webserver. This is good news as over half the websites of the world are run by the extremely efficient and speedy apache. I’m not going to address the specifics of how to set up your website…only how to get it a fixed address without buying a domain. So, you have your pages dropped into your webservers public directory…good. Now, how to resolve your IP…lets say it is…25.24.4.166 (for our example) and you want it to have a host.name.com to bind to. Easy to resolve. Go to http://www.no-ip.com/index.php and sign up. You can get a site from noip that is like yourname.theirdomain.com/.net/.info. They have cool names like sytes.net and servebeer.org…even workisboring.com

You’ll be able to choose your own top level name…for instance, Ithink.dnsiskinky.com could be your new domain name. Next download a client from the download tab: https://www.no-ip.com/downloads.php


The linux client is a tar.gz source and is simple to install. Follow the instructions when installing. You may have to install compilation tools (devel packages like GCC) to install the client. You now are the proud owner of yoursite.theirsite.com and your IP will ALWAYS update (as long as noip.com is up) each time you log on/sign on/beam up or whatever it is you do.

How does this help you? Well, if you’re like me, you have a dynamic IP address. If you connect to the internet via cable, dialup, or dsl…you also have a dynamic IP address. Dynamic means that it will change from time to time without warning. So by binding yoursite.theirsite.com to your IP address…you don’t ever have to worry about what IP address you have anymore. Instead, you’ll always be able to connect using yoursite.theirsite.com. You can host a webserver using Apache and a virtual host in this style as well (look for another how-to on this subject later) so that everyone can visit a shiny website at yoursite.theirsite.com.


WINDOWS

First you need a free and clear webserver since one is not included by default with windows. You can download Apache for this as well OR try the Abyss Webserver.

Interestingly enough, Abyss is also free! I ran it while my linux machine was being worked on (bad hard disk…it was a Quantum 200MB drive from 1913…had to upgrade) and it worked just great off of Windows XP. Download that puppy and install it. Make sure you read all of the documentation and familiarize yourself with how Abyss does business.

The next step…getting a hostname… is even easier than the linux method because you don’t have to manually install the noip client…they have a windows installer. Go to http://www.no-ip.com/index.php and sign up. Choose the domain name you would like (see above examples in Linux section). Next, download the noip client from the download tab: https://www.no-ip.com/downloads.php but this time choose the windows client. From there, you’ll be able to install this with a simple double click. Fill in all of your information (pretty self explanatory) and make sure that it will run with each time you sign on. You’re set! Your IP will now resolve to the yourchoice.theirhostname.com


CONCLUSION

You don’t have to spend a dime to keep a domain bound to your IP. This is perfect for the home user who just wants a gallery or homepage. It’s even good for someone who has a weblog or enthusiast site. I would not recommend this to anyone who has a business and wants to run a site. Just remember that the best things in life are free. Thanks open source!!!

PS: It’s always good form to put a link of the stuff you are using on your website to direct traffic back to your software provider. When I used noip, I included a noip link on my mainpage and also an abyss webserver icon as well. It’s just good form and some companies/software providers necessitate the use of their logo or a link on sites that use their software/code. Just be a nice person and give a linkback to them. Good luck! Have fun!

PSS: Also, please note that having hosted my own webserver for quite some time (circa 2001) I’ve found Linux and Apache as a combination to be more secure, faster, and more stable than any webserver I’ve hosted on the Windows Platform. I included information on Windows mainly to introduce you to the concept of free and open source software. If you thought getting a webserver for free was great, think about getting a whole operating system! Give it a try, you don’t even have to install it (use a Live CD).


If it was helpful to you, any amount of your donation is welcome. Thank you once again.





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