Becoming an Amateur Webmaster (For Free!)

Becoming an Amateur Webmaster (For Free!)




Did you know that it is often said that porn built the Internet? There was a time when over 65% of all traffic on the web was porn related. That is kind of troubling, don’t you think? And we could go into the why’s and how’s of all that but let me just say there is an different. Start your own christian website or service. It’s not as hard as you think to take back some of that bandwidth from the devil and begin contending for the faith in cyberspace. In what follows I will address three things. Who is this article intended to reach? What technologies do you need to get started? How much will it cost?

Who is this article intended to reach?

Well its intended to reach you of course. If your reading it then you too can become a christian webmaster (in a longer or shorter amount of time depending on your background.) No, really if you are a person who likes to learn you can do this thing. And, I will show you here the technologies you need to get started. The learning curve (if you are really serious) is going to be about five years to become progressive from scratch but there is no reason you cannot have your own custom website up and running within weeks or already days. Of course you can always sign up for a free blogger account and start blogging right now. But, if you want to reach for a little more let me show you some things.

What technologies do you need to get started?

When you first encounter this it may seem daunting but take it a step at a time and I assure you it will come together faster than you think. The technologies you need can be thought of in three groups. First you need one or more servers (a computer with space dedicated to offering sets running certain software.) Next you need to install and configure the server software. Finally you need an IDE (integrated development ecosystem) for designing webpages and a knowledge (more or less) of several basic internet computer languages (html, css, javascript, php, and mysql are talked about in what follows). Let’s look at each part and I will give you some links to get started.

Servers – a server is a computer running particular software that provides sets, its that simple. You need several kinds of servers and sets to be ready to take the web by storm.

Webhosting – Well where do you get a server to do webhosting? If you are really progressive you can by your own machine get an IP and have it registered to you so that the web itself always gets your web pages from your own machine. That is expensive at the start and leaves you open to the risk of your machine being hacked. The easiest thing to do is get an account at a place like GoDaddy.com or some other hosting company which will give you space on their servers and will configure the software you need to program and present webpages. Plus they have backups of your stuff and give like a 99.9% uptime guarantee. They defend against hackers. If you have a good ISP account you probably have some free space for hosting on that company’s servers. I know that AT&T offers some free space. It is getting more scarce to find free hosting with an ISP account but you can nevertheless find it. The best option here though is to get something like the basic GoDaddy explain $7.95 per month and have them configure you with PHP5 and MySQL5. That way you get an unbelievable amount of storage space plus online relational database.

(MySQL) and server side scripting (PHP) for less than $8 per month. In fact the GoDaddy account is so great that you can create subdomains and have other people’s web addresses redirect to them, in effect becoming a virtual hosting company your self. Setting up the server software – supposing that you have a hosting account, you now want to set up your development ecosystem and the software that supports it. Here are several steps that I highly recommend to make sure you get the complete arsenal.

(1) Download and install on the computer you want to use for development the latest stable version of the Apache HTTP Server at apache.org. Once this is up and running (you’ll have to be determined but a basic set up is not hard to unprotected to) you have a web server right there on your local machine which will be called ‘localhost’ unless you name it otherwise. You can then closest open a browser and kind in ‘localhost’ and be taken to the home page of your webserver. This is a great asset when you get into the thick of web design because you can test your pages more quickly. It is also cool if you like to practice web symbiosis because you can straif the web for information you want using technologies on your local machine and present them to yourself by your personal webserver (See the PHP command ‘explode’ and realize you can extract anything from a webpage and repackage it, respecting the copyrights of course.) Did I mention this is free software supported by an open source community?

(2) Next you will want to get PHP on that web server so that you can do all the amazing things that a server side scripting language in the C family of languages can do (which is almost anything btw.) You can download the lastest copy of PHP here -> php.net. observe after you have installed PHP you will have to configure your Apache webserver to recognize it as an add-in but you can find this in the documentation. Did I mention this is free software supported by an open source community?

(3) Now you need some realational database strength and for my bet there is none better for web applications than MySQL. You can download the latest version here ->mysql.com. This too will require some configuration of the Apache Server and PHP but this also can be found in the documentation. Did I mention this is free software supported by an open source community?

(4) Now you need a nice IDE (integrated development ecosystem). There are so many programs out there for web development and many with really awesome built in graphics. I personally like the flexibility of building things from as near to the ground as possible, and since it is free, I love Netbeans. You can download the latest version at netbeans.org. I have Netbeans 6.5, the latest is 6.8. Getting Netbeans set up to communicate with your ISP server and your local servers is not hard, there are wizards and online sustain for it all.

Internet languages and learning to program – you are going to need to learn at the minimum a little bit about several computer programming languages that are more or less designed for the Internet. But this is not really a limitation as you will see. Probably the future of all computer applications is cloud based so these are technologies that you can feel pretty good about learning. For all of the languages I will mention here there is a substantial introduction on tizag.com.

(1) HTML – some people want XHTML to replace HTML but I doubt it will. HTML is a very sloppy language in the sense that you can do a lot of bad programming and nevertheless have a browser interpret your webpage pretty well. As much as the Phd in us all wants a law written in stone, I think the Internet will become a much smaller place if browsers are forced to too strict a standard. And let us not forget there is a not too difficult to learn overall structure to Hypertext Markup Language.

(2) Javascript – javascript is the most often used client-side scripting language. It is really java code encased in your webpage that is run by the browser on the client’s computer when they visit your page. Java is a pretty clean technology in that a java script cannot do too much damage to the client’s computer and it was designed this way. It gives you great strength over the complete DOM (document object form) in most browsers and it can now do some pretty cool asynchronous stuff using the AJAX technology. I love javascript.

(3) CSS – some people today try to do everything with Cascading Style Sheets. I personally do not think it works well as a general purpose language, but it sure does make formatting html objects easy. Want to change the color of text, put in a background picture, cause something to sit exactly where you want it on the page? CSS. ‘Nough said. There are three layers of CSS; inline, internal, and external CSS scripts. An external CSS script is a file containing CSS code that is connected to by the webpage using ‘link’ tags and it can reside on any machine that is online and easy to reach to the client computer. An internal CSS script is placed in the ‘head’ tags of the webpage and under it’s own ‘script’ tags. It can override formatting set in an external CSS script. Inline CSS script is place in the ‘style’ attribute of HTML tags and overrides (usually) both external and internal CSS scripts. So that hierarchy can be useful in easily formatting large numbers of pages on a site and in customizing specific pages.

(4) PHP – is the only server-side scripting language I use and you can do some really cool things with it. for example you can parse HTML and customize it by extracting data from a MySQL database and output it as HTML. This works because the PHP server runs before anything is sent to your browser (it is server-side remember.) So you can, in the moments just before the page is sent to the client, query a database and construct a customized webpage.

(5) MySQL – the dialect of Structured Query Language used by MySQL is sort of it’s own bird. nevertheless I have never been unable to find a way to do the things I have needed to in a short amount of time.

If you have understood all that your real journey into the Internet may be about to begin. Please feel free to contact me. I’ll do what what I can to help. Don’t overlook the manuals online or the many communities that sustain these technologies. If you are willing to be persistent it will pay-off. Oh, don’t be turned off by the attitudes of some out there who think they know something and will mock a noob. There are people and websites truly trying to encourage you. Know the difference.

Godspeed John/Jane Doe!

(Colossians 3:17) in any case you do in information or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, with thanksgiving in your heart to God.

P.S. I forgot to specifically talk about the cost. It will cost you time more so than money to get started. Expect $8-$15 per month (maybe if you think your ISP account is part of it you are looking at $40 per month but most of us are already online.) The additional cost will be slight in that light. The benefits? I think you can figure that out for yourself.




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