Ok, in my previous post, which was a while ago now (I must make an effort to post more often), I wrote about installing FreeBSD and setting up your home router to give a fixed ip address for your server and forward some relevant ports on your router to make it accessible from outside of your local network. Up until now you should have a working FreeBSD server that you can ssh into using its local address. Your server so far does not do very much, lets install some software to make it a useful server.

Installing Apache

We are now going to install apache from the ports collection, remember I said the ports collection was important and that you definitely wanted to include it in the install process? The ports collection is a massive collection of free software, mostly source code which has been specifically ported to work on FreeBSD. You install a port by compiling the source code and copying the compiled binary files to the relevant places. Fortunately you don’t have to do this manually, the ports have a Makefile which will do most if not all the work for you.

Let’s start by installing the latest version of apache 2.2 which is located in /usr/ports/www/apache22, you will see there is a Makefile. You can install almost any port with a make file by just running make install clean, in some cases you can run make config to set any configuration options before actually compiling and installing, this applies here, run make config,  you will be presented with a window with some configuration options, you can change these if you want if you already know there are certain Apache requirements you want, otherwise accept the defaults, press the tab key so OK is selected and press enter. Then run make install clean, it will then go about downloading,  compiling the source code, install the files and any required dependencies. Make a cup of tea, this might take a while. Whenever you are installing software on your FreeBSD server it is always best to do it via the ports collection, firstly because you are getting the software that is most likely to work on your system. Secondly when you install a port, other ports will know about the installed software, thereby the installed port can be used by other ports as a software dependency because the system knows where those installed port programs should be. Thirdly the dependencies are all managed for you. If one port relies on some other software that is not installed, in most cases the make file will go about installing that port for you, in some cases, especially when installing an upgraded port you might run into problems you have to solve manually. For instance, when I tried upgrading apache, I ran into this problem:

Found libtool-1.5.26, but you need to upgrade to libtool>=2.2

The make process failed for apache because of this dependency that it couldn’t solve automatically, in this case I had to find out where the libtool port existed (/usr/ports/devel/libtool22) and install that first. You may run into this kind of problem along the way when administering your server but once you get used to installing ports you will find it a walk in the park,the internet is your friend if you run into any problems. The final reason why you should install from the ports collection is a combination of all three, it’s easier!

After apache has finished installing, you need to add a line in /etc/rc.conf so that apache will be started automatically when the computer first starts, as root edit rc.conf and add the following.


Installing MySQL Server

Now lets install mysql server, there are a few different versions to choose from, I would recommend going with 5.1, you can try 6.0 if you want. Go to /usr/ports/databases/mysql51-server and type:

make install clean

This is going to take a very long time, longer than apache. When its finished, type rehash, this will refresh you shell path variables so that you will have access to the new binaries installed with mysql server.  After that, you can run the mysql install script which initialises mysql server. Just type mysql_install_db. To make mysql automatically start like we did for apache you need to the following to /etc/rc.conf:


You will probably want to change the mysql root password, I think by default it doesn’t require a password and that is probably a bad thing. Just like in unix where the root account can do anything, so to in mysql the root account can do anything to any database on the system. To set a password use:

mysqladmin -u root password 'mypassword'

The quotes are important here. Now if you restart your machine you should have both apache and mysql running, but you don’t have to restart to start using them. In FreeBSD most software that runs as a long term process (i.e. a daemon) is stored in the rc.d directory and are avaible to start and stop. System daemons you will find in /etc/rc.d/, user installed programs such as mysql-server and apache are found in /usr/local/etc/rc.d/. These programs are actually known as rc scripts, many of them can be configured to start when the system starts up. They all usually have a common way to start and stop them, for instance you can do the following for mysql-server:

/usr/local/etc/rc.d/mysql-server start
/usr/local/etc/rc.d/mysql-server stop
/usr/local/etc/rc.d/mysql-server status

These are pretty self explanatory, the status option shows whether or not the daemon is running. These scripts start the processes making sure they run under the correct user (mysql runs under the user mysql, apache runs by default under the www user) and performing the necessary commands to start or stop the process. You can start and stop mysql server this way, but for apache there is a better command called apachectl. If you need to start apache you can run apachectl start, if you want to restart it (because you’ve made some config changes) its best to use apachectl graceful, this will keep any clients connected and do a safe restart.

Installing PHP 5

Now on to PHP and the php extensions, this port is located in /usr/ports/lang/php5. This has the same process, I’ll put all the steps in the one go:

make install clean
cd /usr/ports/lang/php5-extensions
make install clean

For the php extensions you can choose what you need, definitely enable mysql if you are planning to work with mysql and php.

Finally we have a few steps to perform on our apache config file to get php to work with it and to change which files our web server points to. As root edit the apache config file:

edit /usr/local/etc/apache22/httpd.conf

Change the document root to where ever you want, there are two places to change this. This is the default directory on the system that you want apache to serve on the web.

# DocumentRoot: The directory out of which you will serve your
# documents. By default, all requests are taken from this directory, but
# symbolic links and aliases may be used to point to other locations.
DocumentRoot "/usr/local/www/apache22/data"

# This should be changed to whatever you set DocumentRoot to.
<Directory "/usr/local/www/apache22/data">

Ok, now we need to make sure php files are recognised by apache, do a search for DirectoryIndex in the file and add index.php before index.html as below. You can change this according to which file you want apache to give preference to, if you put index.php first then apache will look first for an index.php before index.html in a folder to serve.

# DirectoryIndex: sets the file that Apache will serve if a directory
# is requested.
<IfModule dir_module>
 DirectoryIndex index.php index.php3 index.html index.htm

Now lets make sure that the php install process has added the php extension in apache. Make sure that this extension is in the exensions list, if not, add it.

LoadModule php5_module  libexec/apache22/libphp5.so

Nearly done, now add the two lines at the end of the file, which tell apache that php and phps files should be handled by php.

AddType application/x-httpd-php .php
AddType application/x-httpd-php-source .phps

That should be it, you now have a FAMP server! Now lets make sure you can get to it from outside.

Setting up Dynamic DNS

In order to get over the problem of your broadband provider assigning you ip addresses that can change at any time you use dynamic dns. This involves installing a program which periodically updates a server with your current IP address. I used dyndns for my home server. They are very good and charge nothing. The way it works is you can sign up for a free account with them, you get to pick a subdomain and one of their many domain names. For instance I chose chris.is-a-geek.net. You can then download their client program which periodically updates their servers with your current ip address, so that anyone that types in for instance, http://chris.is-a-geek.net will end up at my current ip address. Now luckily for me, my wireless router has a section in its admin interface for configuring dynamic dns and DynDNS.org (.org or .com its the same site) is a supported option. I just enabled the Dynamic DNS option on my router and entered my DynDNS account username and password. With this up and running it meant my router was now contactable via the domain chris.is-a-geek.net. Now together with the router port forwards that I mentioned in my previous post I now had a web server that is accessible via the internet, and you can too!

If your broadband router does not have an option for dynamic dns, don’t dispair! There is a port for a dynamic dns client on FreeBSD called ddclient, to get it working follow these steps:

cd /usr/ports/dns/ddclient
make install clean
cd /usr/local/etc
cp ddclient.conf.sample ddclient.conf
edit ddclient.conf

Do a search for a line that starts with use=web, remove the comment # to activate that line, it should say the following:

use=web, web=checkip.dyndns.org/, web-skip='IP Address'

Now uncomment the section for your dynamic dns provider and enter your account login details, domain name and save.
Remember I mentioned rc scripts, well this has one too, you can enable ddclient to start when the system starts by editing rc.conf and adding the following lines:

ddclient_flags="-daemon 600"

This tells ddclient to start on system start up and to update the dynamic dns provider with the current ip address every 600 seconds. You can change this value, don’t set it too low or your dynamic dns provider might get annoyed and block you, don’t set it too long either. As ddclient has an rc script you don’t have to wait to restart for it to work, just run as root:

/usr/local/etc/rc.d/ddclient.sh start

You should now have an accessible web server! You can point existing domains you own to your home server by adding a CNAME (canonical name) record in your domain dns records. For instance I have set up a CNAME dns record for the subdomain server.opencoder.co.uk to point to chris.is-a-geek.net (if you ping both of these you will see they resolve to the same ip address). This way you can point many domains to your home server and be able to run different websites for those domains by setting up apache virtual hosts (I won’t cover this here, maybe in a later post).

That’s it for now, there are many more things you can put on your server to make it even more useful. I may do more posts in the future covering a few of them. That’s enough of this for now, I need to get more techy and start writing about programming, anyway hope you found this info useful. By they way if you are interested in learning more about freebsd I’d highly recommend getting a copy of Absolute FreeBSD 2nd Edition by Michael W. Lucas and for instructions on using FreeBSD as a server, Building a server with FreeBSD 7 by Bryan J. Hong. There are also a few good posts about FreeBSD port management and installing FreeBSD with nice screenshots at my work colleague Luis’ blog http://www.lupomontero.com. We are working closely with Luis on an interesting project called StickyWorld, which involves posting stickynotes on work in realtime in a flash based ‘room’. I will no doubt be writing about that soon, until then, have fun with your server.

2 comments so far

Add Your Comment
  1. […] going to install Apache you might as well go all the way and have MySQL and PHP, see here and here posts on this. This guide is mainly for FreeBSD, although steps should be similar for Ubuntu, […]

  2. […] and keep my host ip address updated, but if yours does not, there are some instructions also in my older post to get this working on […]