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Homemade Dot-Mac with OS X, Part 2

by Alan Graham

Jaguar has made significant improvements to aspects of Mac OS X. These features make setting up a home Web server easier and more powerful than ever, and I'll touch on some of them while digging deeper into the homemade Dot-Mac project.

Previously, you learned how to configure a home machine into a Web server, handle the dynamic IP address, and test connections. In this piece you're going to learn how to:

  • Setup a firewall.
  • Setup a Web site.
  • Register and move a domain name.
  • Create your own version of iDisk.
  • Use ftp.

I also have some exciting news at the end of the article, so stay tuned.

Up and Running

Assuming that everything went well in the last article, you should have your home Web server up and running. At any time you can type in your "virtual domain" or IP address and see the default Apache Web page found on your computer. If this is the case, you are ready to move onto setting up a firewall to protect your computer. If not, you can Email me.

A reader pointed out in the last article that some cable providers are blocking users from running their own Web servers. If this is the case, I suggest you vote with your dollar and look into switching to another ISP.

Setting up a Firewall

A firewall is a security measure to prevent unwanted users from gaining access to a LAN (Local Area Network). Usually, a firewall consists of one computer that acts as a gateway to the Internet. All Internet traffic must pass through that computer.


Prior to Jaguar, Mac OS X had firewall protective measures built into the OS, but configuring these settings was a complicated task. A gentleman by the name of Brian Hill solved this problem with a shareware application called BrickHouse.

She's a Brick ... house

BrickHouse helps you to configure Mac OS X's firewall so you can filter out unwanted traffic to your computer or network. The importance of this is simply to keep private information private and keep nasty people from nefarious tasks.

BrickHouse makes setting up a firewall almost child's play by using a handy wizard which configures your system. It's as easy as ...

One ...

Screen shot.

Two ...

Screen shot.


Screen shot.

On the final configuration screen you should hit the button to install a startup script before you apply the configuration. Unless you wish to set up more advanced options, like IP sharing, you're finished. As a quick test you may want to ensure you can still access your Web server.

New Jaguar Firewall Settings

The new features in Mac OS X 10.2 now feature a GUI for configuring the firewall, although you won't find them as flexible as BrickHouse. Regardless, let's go ahead and set up a basic firewall using Jaguar.

Step 1: In the Services Tab under System Preferences -> Sharing, select the checkboxes to enable the services you'd like to be able to access. In the case of running a Web server, we absolutely want to select Personal Web Sharing and turn it on.

Screen shot.

Next, select the Firewall tab and press the Start button for the Firewall.

Screen shot.

After you've completed these changes, it's a good idea to go to the browser, type in your domain or IP address, and see if your Apache Web page is still up and running. One problem I've found in the Jaguar GUI is that you cannot make changes to your firewall settings for port forwarding. This may be important to you if you have multiple machines, so unless you're well versed in the command line, you'll require something like BrickHouse for this.

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