Apache Guide: The Newbie's Guide to Installing Apache

In this week's article, I'll take you through installing an Apache server. I'm assuming you've never done this before, but that you know a few things about your operating system.

If you're beyond this stage, come back in a few weeks, as we'll move on to more advanced things from here. Are you a true Apache newbie, with literally no experience at installing and configuring Apache? Fear not: Rich Bowen is here to guide you through the process.

Acquiring Apache

Apache is free software. That is, it is Open Source, and can be downloaded, and redistributed, without any cost. You can read the full text of the Apache license (it's very short) on the Apache web site at http://www.apache.org/LICENSE.txt. But basically what it says is that you are free to use the product, as well as to redistribute it, without charge.

You can download Apache from the Apache Server web site, at http://www.apache.org/httpd.html There you'll find the Apache source code, as well as binary (precompiled) distributions for a large number of platforms.

Build it yourself

Unless there is some overwhelming reason not to do so, you really should get the source code and compile it yourself. There are a number of reasons for this.

  • Get the right combination of modules. When you install a binary distribution, that means that someone else compiled it, and made a decision on what modules to build into that binary distribution. They tried to make what seemed like the more reasonable choice, for the purposes of making the distribition usable by as many people as possible. This will invariably mean that there will be some modules in it that you really don't want, and there might be some left out that you would like to have.

  • Get is exactly right for your system. You may have something strange set up on your system that does not match the system of the individual that built the binary distribution. Perhaps a different version of some important libraries, Perhaps a newer version of some file that was used in the build process. And this may cause some problems when you try to use the file on your system.

  • The right file locations. Some binary distributions put files in very strange places. A notable culprit here is Red Hat. The RPM (Redhat Package Manager) installation of Apache puts files all over the place in the most obscure places. Of course, that's just my opinion. Apparently it made sense to somebody, because they keep doing it. Anyway, if you expect files to be in some reasonable place, and expect to be ablet to find them when you need them, don't install with the Red Hat RPM.

  • The right configuration. When you install the file yourself, it will end up with the configuration file that you expect. Binary distributions might have default configuration settings that are unexpected.

By building yourself from the source code, you'll make sure you have the Apache server that is right for you, rather than something that someone else thought might be best for you.

Quick form (guide for the impatient)

If you look at the file INSTALL, after unpacking the .tar.gz file that you downloaded, you will find the following instructions:

  1. Overview for the impatient

     $ ./configure --prefix=PREFIX
     $ make
     $ make install
     $ PREFIX/bin/apachectl start

     NOTE: PREFIX is not the string "PREFIX". Instead use the Unix
           filesystem path under which Apache should be installed. For
           instance use "/usr/local/apache" for PREFIX above.

This article was originally published on Jul 3, 2000
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