Starting a Side Project

There’s a side project that I’ve had in my head literally for years. It will solve a minor annoyance I have that comes up a couple of times per year, and an extremely basic version should be quite quick to put together. Even though I’m snowed under with work, one of the annual events that the project will help with is coming up very quickly, so I’m going to get a rough version online to use, with my family, and see what works and what doesn’t. I also intend to blog about the process, and track the time spent on the project.

The nature of the project will be kept secret for a while.

Why now, After so many Years?

TL;DR: I think that web development has progressed to a point that I can get a lot of value out of the project for a reasonable amount of work.

For years this was “the project that I would learn Rails with,” back when Rails was the cool kid on the block. Now PHP, which I’ve worked with for years, has grown up and I don’t feel the same need to learn Rails. This is a chance to try some modern PHP techniques that are difficult to push into legacy projects, in an environment where I’m the one who will suffer if I screw up.

There’s a heavy mobile component, so I plan to use a Responsive design, which I haven’t gone all-in on before, and I recently learned a bunch of performance tricks, so stay tuned for some greased lightning.

SASS, and Grunt build routines for SASS, Grunt, and images have made their way into legacy projects but I’ve never started a project with these in place, and I’m excited to see how it goes.

Finally, by building on the old-fashioned LAMP stack I can host the project on existing servers at no additional cost so the only cost will be my time.

Source, Open and Closed

This unlike a couple of other projects, this one will be largely closed-source. I think it may be a viable business so I intend to find out before giving it away for free. This means I got to have adventures in setting up a Git server instead of relying on GitHub.

I will be sharing things that are not core to the business such as interesting techniques, and maybe my Gruntfile. If the project doesn’t become a business, I may release the source, only time will tell.

Get your Development Server Running after Upgrading to Snow Leopard

After upgrading to Snow Leopard today I tried to access my localhost versions of the websites I have under development and was met by this great message, (impatient? skip to the step-by-step solution):


You don’t have permission to access / on this server.

Great. I couldn’t even access http://john-mbp/ – my computer’s name, and the URL that the System Preferences’ Web Sharing pane tells me I can access. However, all is not lost.

Part 1: Get the Virtualhosts Online

The first place I looked was my httpd-vhosts.conf file, located in /var/apache2/extra, (this has not changed since 10.5), and as I suspected it had been reset to the Apache defaults, (thanks Apple). I suspected this might happen though, and had made a backup of the file, (actually, I backed up my whole hard drive, then made a separate, easier to find, copy of the file). Replacing the new httpd-vhosts.conf with the old one and doing an sudo apachectl graceful got the virtualhosts responding to requests again.

Part 2: Establish a MySQL Connection

While my virtualhosts were up and running at this point they did not have a MySQL connection. Maybe this is because my MySQL installation is from MacPorts so the socket is in a different place, or maybe not. Either way it had to be fixed.

Upon running a phpinfo(); I discovered a couple of things. First, the included version of PHP is now 5.3.0 and second, PHP was not loading any php.ini file, so I went on a php.ini hunt and found 2 files: php.ini.default and php.ini.default-5.2-previous, both located in /etc. Copying php.ini.default to /etc/php.ini and doing a sudo apachectl graceful brought my MySQL connections back online, leaving one final problem.

Part 3: Getting rid of the timezone warnings

Since I usually code with an error reporting level of E_ALL, and PHP 5.3 doesn’t seem to like not having a timezone set in the php.ini file, (it’s not set by default, at least not in Snow Leopard), I was getting a bunch of warnings whenever I used the date(); function in PHP, so, I needed to set a default timezone in php.ini. If you don’t already know the PHP name for your timezone, go to the PHP timezones page and find it, then open php.ini, (sudo vi /etc/php.ini the sudo is important), and search for “timez” to find the timezone section of the file. Now, on the line that says “;date.timezone = ” add the name of your timezone after the equals sign and remove the semicolon from the beginning of the line. Once you’ve done that, save the file, (it’s set as read-only for some reason so in vi you need to do :w! to make it save), then quit your text editor and do one more sudo apachectl graceful and you should be good to go.

Step by Step

  1. before installing, back up your computer
  2. before installing, make a copy of /etc/apache2/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf and put it somewhere safe
  3. install Snow Leopard
  4. replace the new /etc/apache2/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf with the old one you saved in step 2. If you don’t have a backup you’ll have to re-enter your virtualhosts in the new httpd-vhosts.conf file which isn’t the end of the world
  5. in Terminal type sudo apachectl graceful and enter your password if prompted to restart apache with the new configuration. Your virtualhosts should now be online
  6. rename or copy /etc/php.ini.default to /etc/php.ini (sudo cp /etc/php.ini.default /etc/php.ini)
  7. Find the name of your PHP timezone, (look on the PHP timezones page). Write it down.
  8. Edit the new php.ini file to have the correct timezone.
    1. open the new php.ini file (sudo vi /etc/php.ini)
    2. find the timezone section, (type /timez and press enter).
    3. move your cursor to the line that says “;date.timezone = ” using the arrow keys
    4. press the i key to edit the text
    5. add the name of your PHP timezone after the equals sign
    6. remove the semicolon from the beginning of the line
    7. press the escape key to stop editing the text
    8. type :w! to save the file
    9. type :q to quit the text editor
  9. One final sudo apachectl graceful and you should be back up and running.