Running a Local Web Server on Windows

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AgentPhoenix Mon Jun 10, 2013 7:22 am

Running a Local Web Server on Windows

It can be a pain to do any type of web development when you're having to constantly upload to a server and check your progress. When it comes to developing skins or custom MODs or testing Nova 3, it can be even more of a pain. It may have even made you wonder how I do all this work. The answer is simple: running a local web server.

Because PHP is a server side language, it has to have a server to interpret commands and send the output back to the browser. Traditionally, that's done on a brick-and-mortar server somewhere, but the same technology on those servers can be run on your desktop or laptop with only a handful of steps. Let's walk through what you need to do to get a local server up and running on Windows. For this case, I'm using Windows 7, but you should be able to do all of this with XP or Windows 8 as well.

The web server

Windows machines are rarely used as servers, and when they are, it usually doesn't go well. I'm always very quick to tell people to stay away from Windows servers when they do hosting. That still goes, but local web servers are a little different. Still, if you wanted to build a true server on Windows, not only do you need new hardware, but you also need a completely different version of the operating system. Doing things locally is much easier. On Windows, we're going to use AMPPS (Apache MySQL PHP/Python/Perl Softaculous). You can download AMPPS from the link below:

http://www.ampps.com/downloads

First things first. Download AMPPS and install it. Generally, the best place to install it is at the root of your C drive so that it's located at C:\ampps, but you can choose to put it wherever you want. Once you've finished the install, you can double-click on the AMPPS icon to launch the control panel. Once the control panel is on your screen, you'll see a very simple set of controls. You have different options on the left and some controls on the right. Let's take a quick run through your options here.

Control Center: This is where you'll start, stop and restart the Apache and MySQL servers. There's also a running ticker below of any errors or status messages.

Apache: Any changes you need to make to Apache are done from here. You can change the configuration of how the server runs, see access and error logs or reset to the default settings. If you change config settings, you'll have to do so by changing the actual config files, not going through a UI, so make sure you know what you're doing!

MySQL: Any changes you need to make to MySQL are done from here. You can change the configuration of how MySQL runs, see the MySQL server error logs or reset to the default settings.

PHP: Here is where you'll make any changes you want to PHP. You can change the configuration, see error logs or reset to the default settings. In addition, you can click on PHP Extensions and change the installed extensions with a simple UI. Finally, click Change PHP Version and make sure PHP 5.4 is selected then click Apply.

FTP: You can setup an FTP server if you want. This isn't necessary.

MongoDB: If you want to play around with MongoDB, you can start that server and config things from here.

When you're all done exploring, go back to the Control Center and make sure both the Apache and MySQL servers are up and running. Once both Start buttons are grayed out, you're successfully running a web server on your Windows machine!

To test that you're running the server successfully, click the blue globe button. Your default browser should open and you should see a directory listing of the folder where all your server files are.

The database piece

So you have the web server up and running, but the database piece is just as important as the server for working with Nova. AMPPS comes with a copy of phpMyAdmin, but that can be kinda clunky when dealing with managing your MySQL database. Instead, we're going to rely on an awesome third-party app called HeidiSQL.

http://www.heidisql.com/

Download and install HeidiSQL then start it up. You'll be prompted to enter some credentials to connect to the server. Fortunately, we've got AMPPS up and running, so we can simply connect to that server.

  • Network type: MySQL - TCP/IP
  • Hostname/IP: 127.0.0.1
  • User: root
  • Password: mysql
  • Port: 3306

It'll take a few seconds to connect, but once you do, you'll see a pretty blank screen. In the upper left, there will be a tree that has a few items under it. Right click on the top of that tree (there should be a small dolphin icon there), hover over Create new and click on Database from the flyout menu. Set the name to nova (or whatever you want) and choose the collation as utf8_general_ci. Click Ok and now you have a new database on your server. You can create as many of these as you want for different installations of Nova or any other database-driven software you want to use locally.

When you install Nova or anything else, it'll ask you for the database and you'll just type nova along with the root/mysql username/password combination. There's nothing in the database, but that's okay, because we have something to install Nova into now.

How the hell do I use this now?

Anything you want to display on the server will go into the www directory in the AMPPS install directory. If you installed it at the root of the C drive, that'd be C:\ampps\www. Create a shortcut to that location as you'll probably be going there a bunch. Create a new directory in there called nova. Download your copy of Nova from the Anodyne site and unzip the files into C:\ampps\www\nova. Once that's finished, fire up your browser and navigate to http://localhost/nova.

If all goes as planned, you should be redirected to the setup page and will go through the install process as normal. Once the install process is finished, you'll be able to use Nova as you normally would, but instead of needing a server, you're now doing everything on your Mac instead.

The thing to remember with a local web server is that you can't show someone else your Nova installation (or anything else on your server) by just sending a link. You'd have to change a bunch of settings on your computer to allow that and would have to send a different URL to someone. This is meant solely as something to use for your own benefit.

An easier way to play around with Nova 3

There may be some people out there that want to keep up with Nova 3's development, even in its earliest stages. Since all of Nova 3's development is stored on Github, you can actually pull down a copy of Nova 3 and test it as work happens. This is both a good and bad thing. The good part is that you have easy, constant access to the work that's being done. The bad part is that things tend to break quite often, or even worse, change entirely without any documentation. If you're fine with that, you can actually get up and running with Nova 3 in a few short steps.

First, go to github.com and sign up for a free account.

Second, go to windows.github.com and download Github for Windows. Install Github and make sure you open it to go through the configuration process.

Third, go to github.com/anodyne/nova3. You'll see a button near the top that says Clone in Windows. This will kick off a process in the Github app that lets you clone the repository to your computer. Make sure you select the www folder in the AMPPS directory to clone Nova 3 to. A few minutes later, you'll have a copy of Nova 3 on your computer. Brilliant!

Fourth, you'll need to get up and running with Composer so you can install Nova's dependencies. In order to do that, go to getcomposer.org and follow the installation instructions. Once Composer is installed, you'll go to the command line and navigate to C:\ampps\www\nova3. Type in composer install and it will download a bunch of files and directories.

Once that process is finished, you can navigate to http://localhost/nova3 (or wherever you put it) and go through the install process.

On a regular basis, make sure you go back into Github for Windows and sync the branch as well as going back to the command line and doing composer update. Doing that will pull down the latest changes from Github and you'll be able to see and play around with bug fixes and any other changes that have been made since the last time you synced.

While this may seem complicated and like a lot of work, once you've done it a few times, it'll be a lot easier. This also won't be the process for stable Nova 3 releases either. Those will still come in a zip archive, but for staying up with Nova 3 development, this is how you'll keep tabs on everything! If you have questions, please post them below.
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FM Rodriguez Wed Mar 28, 2018 10:20 am

Re: Running a Local Web Server on Windows

By any chance can you update this for windows 10 users. I've been having nothing but trouble trying to test nova 3
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