local development

Joomla! is a free and open source content management system with just about everything a webmaster could ask for.  Originally created as a fork of the Mambo content management system (see how to install Mambo on Windows for more information on Mambo), Joomla! has since grown to become a full system in its own right including static pages, blogs, polls, RSS feeds, printable page versions and language internationalisaton.

Joomla! is simple to install and can be administered quite easily from the browser-based web interface.

Below is a 17min screencast that will walks through the step-by-step process to install Joomla! on your local Windows machine with the aid of the XAMPP server stack.

Show Notes

Joomla! requires PHP and MySQL.  If you follow the techwhimsy.com tutorial on how to install XAMPP on your local machine, all your bases will be covered.

Official Joomla! webpage

Free Joomla! Templates – listing of “free templates” category on the official Joomla! website

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Local Development: Installing Mambo

by Shane Perris on Friday, 29 February, 2008

in how-to,tutorials

Mambo is an open source Content Management System (CMS) that was originally developed in Australia as a commercial application in 2000 and was subsequently released to the open source community.  It takes advantage of the traditional Apache/MySQL/PHP stack which makes it perfect for use locally with XAMPP.

Mambo has a checkered past and has suffered from developer dissatisfaction, substantial legal issues and an apparent ongoing tension between different developer groups.  I don’t intend to wade in to the history of Mambo. I simply do not know enough about what is obviously a very complex issue.

Contrary to my comments in the video below, Mambo is not “getting on in years” but continues to be under active development.  I mistook a series of developmental point releases to be simple bug fixes.  Mea Culpa.

[Note to Google Reader readers: I appear to be having some difficulty with these screencasts hosted on blip.tv not showing up in Google Reader. I understand that the blip.tv team is working on this but in the meantime, please click through to the site to watch the video. If you can see the screencast just fine in Google Reader, please let me know in the comments.  Thank you.]

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Movable Type is a blogging engine developed by Six Apart (other notable Six Apart products are the hosted blog solutions Typepad and Vox).  The latest version, MT 4.1, is available under a range of licenses including free for personal use, education and non-profit licenses and commercial licenses depending on the number of users.  The release of MT 4 also saw the introduction of an open source licence available from the MT community at movabletype.org.

Written in Perl and supporting a number different databases, MT4 includes many of the features users have come to expect from a modern engine including themes (called “styles”), plug-ins, widgets, blog stats and multi-user options.  With the introduction of the open source licence, there is very little to separate Movable Type from its competitors such as WordPress, although WordPress seems to have a bigger community of theme and plug-in developers (or maybe I just don’t know where to look).

Below is a 17 minute screencast that demonstrates how easy it is to install Movable Type on your local machine for development and design purposes. Toggle the flash player to full screen for best results. As always, all comments are most welcome.

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Local Development: Installing WordPress

by Shane Perris on Friday, 15 February, 2008

in how-to,tutorials

WordPress is a free (as in beer and speech) open source blogging engine originally built upon the code of the b2 blogging engine.  In time it has become one of the most well known and used platforms in the blogosphere (and is the platform of choice for techwhimsy.com).  WordPress comes in two flavours – WordPress.com, a free blogging service similar to Google’s Blogger, and the software package for installation on your own server, available at WordPress.org.

WordPress is extensible with themes that are easy to edit and a plethora of plug-ins and widgets.  It is also famous for its famous “5 minute installs”.

The video below demonstrates just how easy it is to install WordPress on your Windows machine using the download available from WordPress.org and the basic install of XAMPP to act as your web server, MySQL database and PHP host. Toggle the fullscreen view for best results.

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Local Development: Installing XAMPP

by Shane Perris on Friday, 8 February, 2008

in how-to,tutorials

image There will come a time when the beginner blogger wants to take more control and choose to host their own blog. When it comes to development, testing design tweaks, different templates, plug-in compatibility and overall usability, nothing beats having a version of your blog sitting on your very own desktop (or laptop) computer. The easiest way to host a local version of your blog on Windows is to use the popular local server package XAMPP. This post will explain what XAMPP is and does and will give the reader a step by step tutorial on installing XAMPP on Windows.

What is XAMPP?

XAMPP is a variation of the commonly used acronym LAMP which stands for Linux, the Apache web server, the MySQL database and the languages PHP and Perl. Many websites run on a variation of LAMP (or the not quite as popular WAMP for Windows etc.). XAMPP runs on multiple platforms (hence the ‘X’) and installs versions of Apache, MySQL, PHP and Perl specifically tailored to run on your local machine rather than on a server openly available on the internet. The emphasis on local installation also means that XAMPP is inherently insecure and should not be deployed on systems accessible from outside your own network.

Some of you reading this may have tried to install all of these components separately and came to the same conclusion I did: it’s hard and generally not worth the time and effort invested. XAMPP makes all of this extraordinarily easy and the rest of this post will show you just how easy it really is.

Installing XAMPP

Although XAMPP is available for Windows, Mac OSX, Linux and Solaris, this tutorial will be for Windows only. I don’t have a Mac (I’m saving for one) and my Linux install is a work in progress (I’m still not confident using it but I’m working on it). As for Solaris….well, I choose to work on the theory that if you’re running Solaris at home, chances are you’re already way beyond my area of expertise and I have no idea why you’re reading this post, or indeed this blog. In fact, if you are reading this and you want to write something seriously techy hard core for the Solaris crowd, we should talk.

Step 1 – Downloading XAMPP

The latest version of XAMPP can always be downloaded from the Apache Friends XAMPP site. The most recent version is v1.65 (although this tutorial uses version 1.63a). (Please note that v1.65 has some compatibility problems with Perl, which could be an issue further down the track. Previous versions of XAMPP can be downloaded from Sourceforge) On this page you will find the version for your platform. The Windows version has three downloads – an installer file version, a zipped package version “for the purists” and a self-extracting zipped archive. The simplest option is the Windows installer. Go ahead and download the installer version. I don’t mind waiting.

Step 2 – Installation

Installation really is easy. Double click on the exe file you downloaded. If you’re running Vista, the following warning message may pop up:

xampp_vista_warning

Just follow the advice and you will be fine. Click “OK” to continue.

The usual installer welcome screen is next. Click “Next” to continue.

xampp_setup_wizard_1

XAMPP will ask you to choose a destination. Vista users should keep in mind the earlier warning message and make sure that XAMPP installs in to your main system folder. I have chosen to install XAMPP directly into my C:\ drive at c:\xampp. Once you have selected a location, click “Next” to continue.

xampp_setup_wizard_2_install_loc

You need to install the web server and database services for XAMPP to be useful for local blog development. At the next screen of the installation, ensure that the boxes are checked for Apache service (the web server) and MySQL service (the database).

xampp_setup_wizard_3_services

The Filezilla option is for the installation of an FTP service. You are probably already familiar with FTP (File Transfer Protocol) but it is not required for our purposes here. I have left that option unchecked.

The shortcuts are also useful but not necessary. I have chosen to let XAMPP install the shortcuts.

Click “Install” to let the XAMPP installer do its thing, which will look something like this:

xampp_setup_wizard_4_install_progress

You might get an error message like the following once the installation is finished:

xampp_setup_wizard_ports_ERROR

I am going to admit that I have no idea why this error message appeared. I waved the rubber chicken and clicked “OK”. Since then, everything seems to have worked just fine. My advice: go with the flow on this one.

Step 3 – Check your installation

XAMPP sets up a local web server on your computer that is accessed by typing http://localhost/ into your web browser. Do this now to see if XAMPP installed correctly with the required services running. If you’re lucky, your browser looks like this:

xampp_install_success

For some reason, one or more of the required services might not be running (for example, the Apache service might not be running because the ports were already in use). You can see which services are running in the XAMPP Control Panel. If you chose to have shortcuts installed, you will find a shortcut to the Control Panel conveniently placed on your desktop. If not, you will also find the program sitting in the main XAMPP folder (the file is called xampp_control.exe).

The control panel looks like this:

xampp_control_panel

The most important services are Apache and MySQL. If they’re not running, you can start them in the Control Panel. Once your control panel looks like the one above, try localhost again.

Hooray!

XAMPP is now installed and ready for business. In the coming weeks I will show you how to install a number of blogging engines on your local machine such as WordPress and Movable Type.

If you are still having problems getting XAMPP up and running, drop me a line in the comments and I will try and help you get it working.

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