Thursday, April 2, 2009

A non sysadmin trying sysadmin

Well I couldn't resist waiting till tomorrow but I have over the last few days been attempting something I have never done before. But a wee little bit of background first.

In the past as a PHP developer I have usually used servers to host the work I have done that have already been pre-setup, using a shared/managed hosted service where all the necessary server software (Apache, PHP, MySQL etc) is already up and running. This has served me well in the past because I could then focus on making the applications and leave the server administration to those more qualified.

However, over the last few days, I purchased myself a Linode, a VPS, which allows me to install a Linux distro of my choice as well as then go ahead and install my own applications onto it with the eventual aim of being the web and mail server for my domain (which is currently hosted at an afore-mentioned shared hosting company). Doing this has helped me learn an absolute ton about what goes into setting up a Linux, production web server as well as helping hone my Google search skills even further.

The reasons I decided to do this was simple. I needed a server that would allow me root access to install applications such as Trac, an SVN repository and issue tracking, web based application. Also, I wanted more control over things such as the modules of PHP I can install myself and even which version of PHP as well.

For this little project I chose to use the Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) server distribution. One reason was simply I am used to using Ubuntu as it is my desktop environment as well, and also because one of my colleagues at Synaq (a systems administrator by profession) suggested it, citing that for my limited needs I needn't worry about LTS versions and so on. Included in my little server are the usual applications:
  • Apache 2 for webserver
  • PHP 5.2. I needed 5.2 because I want to use the new Propel 1.3 ORM in my PHP applications and 5.2 is a minimum requirement.
  • MySQL 5.0 as my primary database application predominantly because I am used to it. I plan to also install and experiment with PostgreSQL, amongst others.
  • Python, perl and Ruby. All because I plan to play with them too :)
  • SVN as my code store and code backup
  • Trac (which runs off Python/perl) to use as my Project management and SVN interface tool for a few projects I'd love to make.
A few of the sites I visited to help teach me how to set all this up, seeing as I had never really done this before were:
What I loved about this experience was that I was now able to better appreciate the work the sysadmins here do, as well as be amazed once again how little time I spent picking their brains because of the wealth of knowledge the Internet provides. I love WWW :D

The best part of this whole experience is going to my new server IP address (I haven't tranferred the domain yet, DNS is the next issue I need to tackle) and seeing it all happily load in my browser....

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