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Install win32 Apache
Test Running Apache
Config Overview
Customising Apache
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Webserver Notes

Win32 Apache Configuration

Apache is a web server. This is a program that runs in the background on a web-server (or your PC) and listens out for HTTP requests from browsers. When it gets a request it retrieves the requested page from wherever it is stored and returns it to the browser via the HTTP protocol.

There are many websites out there that deal specifically with Apache and its detailed usage and configuration. Probably the very best one can be found at: »http://www.apache.org
What follows is a simple "Idiot's Guide to Win32 Apache Setup" and should get a basic webserver up and running on your PC according to your requirements.

Download and Install Apache 1.3.33 (Win32)

The latest version of Apache is 2.0.52, however you may prefer a slightly older but stable and well supported for win32 version 1.3.33 which is freely downloadable from: »http://httpd.apache.org/download.cgi To run it under Windows you will need to locate the Win32 Binary (Self extracting): apache_1.3.33-win32-x86-no_src.exe This is a 4.91Mb download and installs using the Microsoft Installer that comes with Windows. Once the file has downloaded double click it and the rest should be plain sailing.

Test Running Apache

It is assumed that you have followed all of the above and have completed the actual software installation, Apache is now installed to c:\apache on your PC.
(I assume that if you are smart enough to put it somewhere else you are also smart enough to figure out how to correct the example paths I have used here.)

Your first task is of course to check that it works... The win32 Apache installation can be started and controlled from the MS-DOS command prompt. Either open a DOS window (or hit [START] -> [RUN]) and type: c:\apache\apache

Apache will then start, the DOS window will remain open as long as Apache is running which of course it must be all the time that you require its services!

Open your web browser and into the address bar enter the following URL:
This is the so-called 'loopback' address, to any machine, including your PC, this means 'me, myself,here'! Your Apache server should also answer to: http://localhost/

And if all is well you will see the default Apache homepage that came with the installation. Note also that this comes complete with links to the Apache manual which came with the installation. Read it! It's very comprehensive and extremely informative.

The document root (or top-level) directory for Apache in its default installation will be c:\apache\htdocs, the default introduction page that you are seeing in your browser is the index.html file from that directory. If you make a minor alteration to the file, save it and then refresh your browser you should see your changes. (And then change it back!)

To shut Apache down return to the DOS window in which Apache is running and hit Ctrl+C, this will cause Apache to terminate cleanly which you must do before you shut down your PC.

If Apache does not start first time you will need to look in the manual directly to find the cause of the problem and a solution.
Go to the c:\apache\htdocs\manual directory (or paste that path directly into the address bar in your browser) and look for the index.html file, double click on it and the documentation will launch itself in your web browser.
Note that you are browsing your file system, not a website, Apache is not doing anything. Use the documentation to diagnose the problem, consult the »Apache website or »search the 'net for answers.

Apache Configuration - (Safety!)

Your second, and most important task before you change anything, is to locate the c:/apache/conf/httpd.conf file and create a copy alongside it called httpd.conf.default or similar. This is a basic safeguard, the httpd.conf file is quite complex and not somewhere that you really want to make a mistake! Until you are sure that you know what you are doing you are advised to make one change at a time, checking that it works before taking a backup copy and proceeding with the next change. Safe working practices and all that!

The httpd.conf file is quite long, however most of this is comments, the whole script is well documented from within, a bit cryptic for the first time user but once you understand how Apache works, and more importantly how the httpd.conf file is structured, it is very nicely put together and highly configurable.

One very useful feature of Apache is its 'self-test'. This is invoked by opening a DOS window and starting Apache with the command: c:\apache\apache -t ('t' for test!) Apache will run through the httpd.conf file and check its configuration and either report an error or return an OK. This is a very useful feature which you are strongly advised to use!

Note! Apache reads the httpd.conf once on start-up. If you make changes to the configuration they will not take effect until you stop and restart Apache. Try the command: c:\apache\apache -k restart which should have the desired effect of causing Apache to cleanly halt and then restart.

Take an initial look at the httpd.conf file and you will see that it is divided into a general config with a number of distinct 'Directory' and 'IfModule' blocks or 'directives' which are delimited by HTML-like tags and which may be nested thus:

<Directory ***>
    ... config options ...
<IfModule ***>
    ... config options ...
    <Directory ***>
        ... config options ...
    ... config options ...

Generally speaking the <Directory [path]> directives specify the configuration for that particular directory and any sub-directories below it. <IfModule [module_name]> directives have configurations that are conditional upon this module being loaded.

Make sure that you understand how this is structured and especially whether or not you are making changes globally or just within a specific directive. The right config in the wrong place is still wrong!

Customising Apache

It's quite likely that you will not want Apache to run on your PC exactly as it is installed, the odds are that you will have a separate document root for your new website and perhaps additional resources that you wish to make available to your home network (which can include as few as ONE machines!) You may also wish to set up more than one website on your PC and have them simultaneously accessible, well Apache can do this too via the Virtual Host config options.

OK, what we will do now is take a guided 'walk' through the httpd.conf file pointing out the important and relevant configuration options.
Note! Apache (and the Internet in general) has a very clear unix ancestry. The use of backslashes as directory separators is a MicroSoft abomination and has no place here except when issuing MS-DOS specific commands! Forward slashes please!

ServerRoot "c:/apache"

This is a critical configuration line, if you ever decide to move your Apache installation to another location you will need to update this line as it tells Apache where to find its own files.
Note! The configuration file can be specified when starting Apache at the command line using: c:\apache\apache -f c:\path\alternate_httpd.conf If this is not found then Apache defaults to: APACHE.EXE_DIR/conf/httpd.conf If this is not found either, Apache fails to start and returns an error message.

# Listen

This tells Apache which IP addresses (or domain name) to listen on within your network. This is useful if configuring virtual hosts or setting your PC up as a webserver for other machines on your network.
But for a simple webserver on your PC only you do not need to enter anything here, comment this line out and Apache will listen on or 'localhost' by default.

# BindAddress *

This binds Apache to the specified IP addresses (or domain name) to listen on within your network. This is similar to the listen directive above and shold also be commented out unless you are setting up virtual hosts, and have more than one machine. For more specific details and differences consult the Apache documentation.

Port 80

This specifies the port that Apache will listen on, by default always port 80. There is no reason for you to change this. So don't!

ServerAdmin admin@yourdomain.net

This specifies a contact address that will appear in all administrative and error message that the server outputs.

ServerName website

This is the server name or title for the web service that Apache will provide. In this instance the server will respond to HTTP requests for: http://website

Note what the httpd.conf file says about creating hostnames, you will also need to identify this hostname to your PC so that it knows to direct requests for that host to and not to the outside World via your Internet connection. See the Virtual Hosts Config details for more information about how to set this up.

DocumentRoot "c:/website"

This is another critical configuration line, it points Apache to the top-level directory or 'document root' of your website files. If you do not intend to use the c:/apache/htdocs directory for your website you will need to modify this line accordingly and also make sure that you set up an appropriate <Directory "c:/website"> directive block for whichever directory you specify as your document root.

Now we come to the first of the directory directives. The first is for the entire directory tree and sets the overall security. Security directives act on all sub-directories below the specified location. The simplest and most secure way to set this is to deny access or features at the highest level and then specifically allow them at the required location.
So we have...

<Directory />
    Options Includes
    AllowOverride FileInfo

'Includes' enables SSI files but nothing else, and specifically not CGI execution!
'AllowOverride FileInfo' allows specific directories (and their subs) to have their configuration set via .htaccess files within the directory itself. This is a useful and very flexible method once you have figured out how to make good use of the .htaccess syntax and options.

The next directive is for whichever directory you want to set as the document root, this allows more options than the default system root config above.

<Directory "c:/website">
    Options Indexes MultiViews Includes ExecCGI
    AllowOverride FileInfo
    Order allow,deny
    Allow from all

Additional options here are:
'Indexes' - Allows directory indexing, a direct view of the files displayed within the browser window. Not always a good thing!
'MultiViews' - If Apache cannot locate the file it wants, the MultiViews option enables it to make 'an educated guess' as to which file or ehaviour is required. See the Apache documentation for more on this.
'Includes' - See above
'ExecCGI' - Vital if you want to run CGI programs, without this Apache will not invoke any executable resources anywhere that the ExecCGI option is not explicitly declared.
'Order' specifies whether to apply the allow rules before the deny rules. These rules determine which IP addresses or domain names the services should be allowed for or denied to. Not strictly relevant here as we have no deny rules set in this example, only an 'Allow from all' which should be fairly self explanatory.

You will need to set additional directory blocks for each additional directory that you will be serving web resources from that is not already within the scope of the document root else you will find that certain services do not work such as SSI files, .htaccess and CGI programs. This can cause some serious headaches so do be sure to get this bit right!

DirectoryIndex index.shtml index.html index.htm

This directive is only relevant if the Apache 'mod_dir.c' module is loaded. Make sure that all of the configuration for this falls within the directive block and also that the block is correctly terminated with </IfModule>.

<IfModule mod_dir.c>
    DirectoryIndex index.shtml index.html index.htm

The above directive controls how Apache behaves if a directory is requested but no file; http://localhost/path/
In this example Apache will search the directory for a file named 'index.shtml' and serve it if found. If it isn't found it then looks for 'index.html' and if that isn't found for 'index.htm'. If none of these are found it will then follow the behaviour defined in the directory configuration for that directory. If MultiViews and/or Indexes are specified as Options then a view into the directory is generated which shows a 'file-manager' type display. Depending on the demands on your website this may be a potential security issue. Either remove the config or if you are dealing with a remote host server for your live website add an index.html file into every directory with a specific HTTP re-direction to an appropriate location, even if it is just a page to say: "We do not allow directory indexing on this website!"

AccessFileName .htaccess

This specifies the name for the file-driven directory specific configurations. .htaccess is the traditional and default name, there is no reason for you to change this.
Note!You will need to have the AllowOverride FileInfo AuthConfig directive enabled for this directory else the .htaccess files will be ignored.
Note also the next section of the httpd.conf file which denies access specifically to the .ht* security related files. Make sure this remains consistent with whatever other changes you may make, otherwise your security files can be retrieved and examined by others, you certainly don't want that!
For more details and an example of this setup see the »Password Controlled Access page.

DefaultType text/plain

The majority of webpages have a content-type of text/html. If Apache cannot determine what the content type of a requested page is, this configuration option specifies what the default content-type will be. There is no reason to change this.

HostnameLookups Off

If this option is enabled (On) then Apache will look up every IP address and log the domain name in the access and error logs. Without it Apache will just log the IP address. You are advised against turning this on as it really slows things down as every request will involve an additional look-up request. And if you don't have a permanent outside connection then this will not work at all.

<IfModule mod_alias.c>

The following directives are only relevant if the Apache aliases module is loaded and so it all falls within the the <ifModule directive for the mod_alias module. Make sure that all of the configuration for this falls within the directive block and also that the block is correctly terminated with </IfModule>.

Alias /manual/ "d:/Apache/htdocs/manual/"

    <Directory "d:/Apache/htdocs/manual">
        Options Indexes MultiViews
        AllowOverride None
        Order allow,deny
        Allow from all

The above alias makes the Apache documentation available even though this is no longer under the document root. All occurrences of /manual/ in the request URL will be redirected to the specified location.
Note also that specific permissions and options are explicitly set for what is now an external directory.

And if you install Perl or MySQL then you may wish to link directly to their web-documentation which ships with the installation. The required aliases are:

Alias /perldocs/  "c:/perl/html/"
Alias /mysql/     "c:/mysql/docs/"

Alias /documents/ "c:/documents/"

Note also the option to link directly into your documents folder.
Access any of these by using a URL such as http://localhost/manual/ or http://localhost/perldocs/ and so on...
Note that the trailing slash is also part of the pattern, if it is present in the alias definition line but not in the URL then the alias will not be matched and no redirection will occur.

ScriptAlias /cgi-bin/ "e:/util/cgi-bin/"

Apache will treat all scripts within the specified directory as executable resources. This is where CGI programs should be installed. Note that ExecCGI is not required in the directory config for this directory as this behaviour is automatically implied in this directory.

Note also that the cgi-bin directory does need necessarily need to be under the document root, you may for example choose to keep your Perl programs under a separate Perl directory elsewhere on your PC. If this is the case make sure you have set adequate directives for this directory.

<IfModule mod_mime.c>

The following directives are only relevant if the Apache mime types module is loaded and so it all falls within the the <ifModule directive for the mod_mime module. Make sure that all of the configuration for this falls within the directive block and also that the block is correctly terminated with </IfModule>.

AddHandler cgi-script .cgi .pl

'Handlers' are 'Apache-speak' for denoting what to do with, or how to treat, a particular resource. In this particular instance we have identified all resources with a .cgi or .pl file extension as CGI-scripts. Apache will therefore 'know' that these files are executable and will hand them off for this task.

AddType text/html .shtml

Similar to the idea of a handler above, this directive tells Apache that .shtml files are of content-type text/html. Without this directive, .shtml files would be served according to the default content-type, in this case 'text/plain'.

AddHandler server-parsed .shtml

This handler is especially useful and not enabled by default, you will probably need to uncomment these lines to make it work...
This directive causes Apache to parse any outgoing file that has a .shtml extension and look for SSIs (serverside includes). These are instructions to stream the contents of a particular file into the main output stream. This method is invaluable for sharing common code between webpages in the most efficient possible way.

And that is it as far as running a single website on your PC is concerned. All that remains now is the virtual hosts configuration.

Configuring Virtual Hosts Under Win32

The configuration detailed so far above will cause Apache to serve the website on your PC from wherever you specify and include any resources that you have set up. The whole thing can be browsed as http://localhost/, or as http://website/. As long as you only need that one site you need read no further.

But if you want to develop several sites, or set aside a special website to access system utilities etc then you will need a way to make Apache serve more than one website simultaneously. Such a method is to set up virtual hosts whereby Apache responds to a number of different hostnames.

Note! Before you begin note the following warning within the httpd.conf file under the ServerName config regarding creating hostnames...
The issue is that when a particular domain is requested via your browser such as: http://requesteddomain/ your PC will have no idea where this domain might be located and so directs the request to the default gateway which will be your Internet connection. Eventually the request will reach the DNS servers of your ISP and start their journey across the 'net to the required domain.

But if 'requesteddomain' is in fact a virtual host set up in your Apache configuration then you need to instruct your PC that requests for 'requesteddomain' should be directed internally to 'localhost'.

Before referring HTTP requests to the outside World, Windows checks the local network looking for a local IP address to send the request to. In other words it needs to know where 'requesteddomain' is located.

Windows uses a file called hosts usually located in the windows directory; c:\windows\hosts. This is another unix echo and should be quite familiar to anyone who is familiar with /etc/hosts on a unix box!
Here a domain name is mapped against the required IP address, in each case on the local machine. website secondsite thirdsite

Note! Windows reads this file once on start-up. If you change it you will need to restart your PC before the new hosts are recognised.

NameVirtualHost *

To enable virtual hosts uncomment this line. The asterisk denotes that Apache should listen for all domains, alternatively it can be configured to respond only to a specific IP address or domain.

After the above line you will need to set a default VirtualHost directive and then a separate VirtualHost configuration lock for each host that you want to set up.
Each of these blocks resembles the global config in the main httpd.conf file in miniature. Any directive in the httpd.conf file is valid here and will of course be specific to the virtual host block that you set it within.

So starting with the default VirtualHost directive...

    ServerAdmin admin@website
    DocumentRoot "c:/website"
    ServerName localhost

No more config is required, this is the global config that you have already set up for Apache in the rest of the httpd.conf file.
Now you need to set blocks for each of the remaining hosts that you require. For each one that is outside of the default document root you will also need to add a specific directory directive.

    ServerAdmin admin@secondsite
    DocumentRoot "c:/secondsite"
    ServerName secondsite
    ServerAlias *.secondsite
    ScriptAlias /cgi-bin/ "c:/secondsite/cgi-bin/"
    Alias /ssi/ "c:/secondsite/ssi/"
    <Directory "c:/secondsite">
        Options Indexes MultiViews Includes ExecCGI
        AllowOverride FileInfo
        Order allow,deny
        Allow from all

And that just about completes this 'simple' tour of the Apache configuration file, there is enough here to get your server running with most of the useful options setup but there is so much more in there if you take the time to poke about in the documentation and experiment. After all, now that you have a webserver all of your own there is nothing to stop you!

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