April 10, 2004

Getting the site online

Well, all my domain changes have kicked in, and my site is now live on the web. Time to notify a few friends that it's out there now.

As promised, I'd like to post some information on how I got my site up and running, hopefully this might be of use to some of you out there if you're looking at doing something similar yourselves.

Probably the most important decision in setting up a site for yourself is deciding on a name for the site, in my case, the Domain Name folks would use to get here. I can't really help you pick out a name, but once you do, you'll first want to see if that name is even available. Most registrars that sell domain names will have a page that lets you look up your potential names to see if they're available. It's quite likely that your first or second choices are going to be taken (the Internet's a big place...), so it might be good to work up a short list. Also, remember that in addition to .com, many other domains are also available (.net, .org, .us, etc). I had originally wanted to go with a .us name (it was cheaper than .com), but finally found a .com name I could live with.

The particular registrar I'm using is GoDaddy, apparently one of the more popular registrars out there. There are a number of others out there offering different services at various prices, so you may want to do a web search on 'cheap domain names' or something similar to find your own.

Next, and extremely important, I needed to find a company that offered dynamic DNS. This is needed if your internet connection does not have a static IP address. You'll know if you have one, because usually your internet provider will charge you a lot of extra money for this... A dynamic DNS service will let you set up a particular domain name (either one you've purchased through a registrar, or one available through the dynamic DNS service) and link it to the changing IP address of your home system. The one key ingredient needed here is some utility for monitoring the IP address in use on your cable/DSL modem, and pass these changes up to the dynamic DNS provider.

Most dynamic DNS providers will list at their site a number of clients that will perform this task. The particular company I chose, Sitelutions, didn't offer a Mac specific client, but with a little bit of AppleScript and cobbling together a few shell scripts, I think I've come up with a working application to handle this. It needs a bit more tweaking for public use, but I should be able to finish this up in a week or so.

So, now you've got what you need to make your computer at home visible to the rest of the world. I should probably point out that if you're one of the folks that are still using a dial-up internet connection, you'll want to forget everything you've just read. If you're going to have a public site, you need your system to be always available, and available at a decent speed. Dial-up just won't cut it, broadband (cable modem, DSL) is the way to go.

Hopefully before you've even thought of putting your home system online, you've already installed a router with firewall protection to keep unwanted visitors (viruses, malicious users, Windows users, etc) from getting at your unprotected system. Mac OS X includes a very nice firewall built into the Sharing settings, but if you have multiple systems on the net, you'll need a router, and it darned well better have a firewall built in.

There are a number of very nice routers on the market, I prefer Asante's routers, mainly because they provide an easy way for Mac users to be able to upgrade firmware (the software that runs the hardware) via a web interface, unlike some other routers I looked at that required a Windoze app to be run. Do some research before making a selection, and find the right one that fits your needs.

Posted by Jim at April 10, 2004 5:27 PM | TrackBack