Local Development

by Shane Perris on Friday, 1 February, 2008

in how-to

“Local development” – the practice of hosting a copy of your blog on your local machine (desktop or laptop) for the purposes of testing changes to your blog.

Having a blog can be an exciting experience. Blogging virgins often choose to have their blog hosted by someone else (eg Blogger, WordPress.com, Livejournal, Typepad to name a few). This is usually a good thing as the hosting service takes care of all the trickier aspects of blog hosting like free (or nearly free) hosting, bandwidth issues, image hosting, bug fixing, and general trouble shooting. This enables the beginner blogger to focus on the important things like content and trying to maintain the rage after the three month honeymoon period is over.

Why local development is a good thing

New bloggers become veteran bloggers (if they survive aforementioned honeymoon period). With experience comes a desire to have greater control over the type of experience provided to the blog’s readers. The common remedy is to organise your own hosting with a web host provider and make your own designs on design, templates, plug-ins and so on.

One problem with hosting is that it can be difficult to spend time tweaking your blog, testing for changes. Every change you make to your blog on your host’s servers is published and goes “live” straight away. There is little room for trial and error. It is in this situation that local development excels.

Hosting a copy of your blog on your local machine gives you the luxury of making as many changes as you like without worrying about whether those changes will break your blog and cast it into cyber purgatory. You also don’t need to worry that everyone will see that change you made to the colour scheme at 3am that seemed like such a good idea at the time but in the cold light of day resembles far too closely the colour of the tabouli that was on your kebab while you sat at the keyboard tapping in the RGB colours when you should have been sleeping (or at the very least still at the club and not changing your template colours at 3am, even if The KLF proclaims it as eternal)

Don’t sweat it – it’s easy

Although it may sound like a complicated idea, hosting your own blog is easy to do. All you need is some server software (such as Apache), an SQL compatible database (such as MySQL or PostgreSQL) and an installation of one/all of PHP, Perl and Python. Luckily for you dear reader, it is a doddle to get all of this in one simple, easy to install package for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux – XAMPP.

What can be installed locally?

Many blogging engines can be installed locally. The most popular of these include WordPress, Movable Type (which is the core of Six Apart‘s Typepad service), Drupal, Joomla! and Mambo. You can also install technologies like MediaWiki that serve an allied service and ideal.

Coming up

In the coming weeks, TechWhimsy will provide tutorials on how to install XAMPP as well as some of the more popular blogging engines like WordPress and Movable Type.

Stay tuned!

Photo credit: Downtown Champaign: Taking Out of Storage by grifay.

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