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With an obsession with all web-based “things”, it should come as no surprise that I am obsessed with lightweight, yet highly-functional Windows web servers.
Not long ago, I covered XAMPP mostly because I was searching for a portable web server that I could use to develop and test changes for the design of my blog. I came across XAMPP after reading Dave’s article describing how to set it up on a PC. Since the blog has developed a fair level of traffic, the last thing I want to do is mess with the design, accidentally take the site down, and then damage the reputation of the site.
For the most part, XAMPP has served me well, but I’m always on the lookout for a competitor service that will do everything XAMPP does even better. I’m happy to say that I’ve discovered yet another lightweight web server application that fits that bill – called the Uniform Server.
Running The Uniform Web Server
Before I jump into telling you about the Uniform Server software, I should explain why I didn’t just stop looking when I found XAMPP.
The reason is that, while it installed a PHP/MySQL-based web server that could mirror my blog well – setting it up, configuring and maintaining the service wasn’t quite as streamlined as I would have liked. While it does come with the Admin PHP app for setting up MySQL, it is not quite as easy to configure the PHP install if you want to.
Uniform Server, on the other hand, does everything XAMPP can do, plus it gives you much easier access to configure and tweak settings as you see fit. It also allows you to enable Perl scripting if you so desire.
To set up Uniform Server, just download the ZIP file and place it on the USB device or PC directory where you want to store your web server files. In that root folder, you’ll find Start_as_program.exe and Start_as_service.exe. Running the program will launch the server configuration app.
It’ll also prompt you to immediately change your root MySQL password for better security. Once you’re done this, you’ll find yourself back on the main server setup screen of the program. Just like XAMPP, when you want to activate your web server, just click “Start Both” and both the Apache web server and your MySQL database will activate on http://localhost.
If you go to http://localhost/index.php before placing your own files in the /www subdirectory, you’ll see the following page. This is how you know the server is functioning properly the first time.
On the Uniform Server app, click on the “Server Configuration” button to see all aspects of the web server that you can modify from within this app. This is a bit different than previous releases of The Uniform Server, which used to use a web-based admin page for all of these configuration settings. Now it’s all done through this locally run, non-browser based app.
As you can see, from this app you can configure a list of server settings, without ever having to mess around with trying to track down the right config files on the web server. This app will find them all for you.
For example, click on the “Apache” button to see all of the Apache web server settings you can access and change, as well as the log files you can view all from here.
Click on PHP to access PHP settings you can alter on this server. This is really nice, especially after the experience I had trying to modify PHP settings on my XAMPP server. Never having done it before, it was a pretty frustrating experience. With The Uniform Server, it’s all laid out here for you. You’ll still need to know how to make the changes, but at least you won’t have to waste time hunting down the right ini and config files.
Click on “Edit Basic Configuration” to see all of the PHP settings you can quickly alter straight from within this app – no file editing required. It’s all menu-driven.
Also, doing MySQL DB backups is also included within the Uniform Server app as well. This is nice, because I have a built-in app on my web hosting account with InMotion Hosting that allows for a one-click DB backup – so it’s really nice to have that same feature with my locally installed version of my blog as well.
For me, the fastest way to test such a “lightweight” web server service to see if it is fully capable is to run the WordPress install script on top of the local web server install. In my opinion, if it can pull that off, then it can probably run just about any PHP-based blog out there.
So, using the Uniform Server app, I launched phpMyAdmin (I didn’t have to figure out where the tool was located), and created a test MySQL database table with a new user. Finally, I copied down the latest version of WordPress, edited the config.php file with the db name and user, and then ran the install script from http://localhost/wp-admin/install.php.
The install script ran on the local Windows web server without a single glitch. Very nice!
The bottom line is that after running all of these tests, I’ve decided to switch from using XAMPP to using Uniform Server instead. It’s just easier and faster to set up and configure.
Have you tried both XAMPP and Uniform Server? Which do you prefer? Do you know of any other lightweight web servers that work better? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.