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Homemade Dot-Mac with OS X, Part 2
Pages: 1, 2, 3

Make Your Mark

If you are serious about the identity of your URL, you may want to take this moment to register a domain name. So far, everything we've done has led up to this moment. If a domain name is unimportant to you, save a few bucks and skip this section.



When you register a domain name, the registrar requires that you point the name to the ISP's name servers. Since we are using a Dynamic DNS service to point to our own server, we'll be using their name servers in place of an ISP's. In the last article we used a service called DynDNS.org. You can find instructions on how to point your domain to the DynDNS.org service here.

iDisk

One feature that I occasionally use on .Mac is iDisk. The problem in the past was that I was unable to store large amounts of data without paying Apple large amounts of cash. Even with the recent increase to 100MB with the .Mac account, many of the files I deal with daily have a cumulative storage space of several gigs.

I travel a great deal, and all of my clients are located hundreds of miles from my location. I just don't keep every file I ever created on my laptop, and I backup to an external drive connected to my home server. My clients are also PC users, and I find file transfers easier when I can just connect to my home machine versus dealing with my laptop and their networks. I often need access to large database and graphics files, so I love being able to connect to my home server without being concerned about their firewalls.

There are several ways to ensure you can get to your files no matter your location. In this piece we'll set up one option and talk about another.

Related Reading

iPhoto: The Missing Manual
By David Pogue, Joseph Schorr, Derrick Story

Home iDisk Solution 1: FTP

File Transfer Protocol is one of the most common ways to move files between locations. What I like about ftp is that I can use it from almost any Web browser with a connection to the Internet. Lucky for me Mac OS X has an ftp server built in, and it starts with one click of the mouse.

Now I want to mention that for certain reasons, ftp is not the safest way to connect to your computer remotely, but it is by far the easiest.

Enable FTP

In the Sharing Preferences Pane, check "Allow FTP Access." You're now ready to login to your computer remotely. Different browsers and operating systems handle it differently, but the end result is always the same.

From a Mac

Open a browser window and type in ftp://youripordomainname. You should then be prompted to type in your username and password. That's it.

From a PC

In general you can open a browser and type ftp://yourusername@youripordomain. The browser should then request your password.

I will point out that one of the most common security violations when using ftp is often a silly mistake. If you logon at a remote location and don't clear that browser's cache, you may have left the door open to the next person who uses that computer.

Home iDisk Solution 2: WebDAV

Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning(WebDAV), is an emerging Web-based collaboration standard. WebDAV allows you to use a remote Web server as if it were a local drive. iDisk is an example of a WebDAV solution. If you use Mac OS X and iDisk, you've probably noticed that your iDisk mounts on your computer as if it were a regular hard drive. What makes WebDAV particularly useful is it works well as a collaborative tool. A group of people can remotely develop, edit, and manage any content, all sharing the same WebDAV "drive."

It is not only a safer solution than ftp, but also possible to enable WebDAV on your OS X Web server. However, due to the complexity, we'll cover that in a future article.

Recap

Now that we've set up the basics of our home Web server, we have a platform for a wide variety of options and fun projects that we can build upon. Our very own James Duncan Davidson and I are planning to introduce some of these issues in future articles. James will be introducing you to the more technical "Unix" aspects of controlling your Web server, while I'll be introducing a number of new projects. Look for upcoming articles on setting up a mail server, Quicktime streaming, MP3 streaming, database hosting, blogging, home automation, and much more.

Alan Graham is the creator of the Best of Blogs book series and is a frequent writer on the O'Reilly Network.


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