Manly Web Development
Last updated at 1:41 am UTC on 17 January 2006
So I had a few spare days to explore an interesting space; personal weblogging. This is one of the 'new hot' areas; a simple version of personal publishing that doesn't require the complexity of traditional web publishing means. I read through a lot of the literature, and picked an open source weblog server/client to install on my Windows XP machine called MovableType.
The first thing that I needed was a web server, so I downloaded Apache. Installing Apache is straightforward, enough people have wandered through that path so that all of the hard questions have already been answered. To be honest, reading the material brings on a certain amount of paranoia that evil hackers are just waiting for my machine to be on the Internet so that they can exploit some security loophole that nobody is aware of.
Next up, MovableType requires a back end database to store posting and user information. MovableType states in their documentation that the default installation points to a database that is not sufficient for the task at hand. They suggest either MySQL or Postgres. I have a PC, so I chose MySql.
Installation of MySql was pretty straightforward also. Again, enough people have wandered through so that most of the installation problems have already been solved.
As an aside, both Apache and MySql installed themselves deep within the bowels of the machine. At first glance, it's not quite obvious that they should both start up when the machine is booted, but they do.
So installation of Apache and MySql takes a few hours, a little bit of time to download and a few hours to read and get the bejeebers scared out of you with what could go wrong, installation, and then a little bit of bug stomping and configuration to bring everything up to speed.
That brought me to what I thought would be the simple part: Installing MovableType. I've had little exposure to Perl, so I was a little behind on how to install this bad boy. There are several 'tricks' that you need to know. To the experienced, installation should be painless. To this newbie, it was a very long several hours.
To me, this is a typical 'open source' deal; There are literally hundreds of files, somehow all interrelated but without a road map. It just makes me shudder that people think that this approach to software design is a good idea. However, I'll note that the documentation to MovableType is better than most, at least they give people a chance.
Once I got the weblogs up and running, made the obligatory first test post, etc, I started to play around with the configuration files and style sheets. Let's just say that it's pretty easy to make a weblog unpublishing system. It appears that you have to have a pretty steady and experienced hand to run that bad boy, as well as a good overall knowledge of the system as a whole. I can see now why quite a few graphic/support companies have sprouted up to serve the weblog community.
At this point, I'll say that I'm not an expert on weblogs and their technology. However, I think I have a pretty good handle on the overall weblog experience.