Setting up an OS X development server

Posted on January 29, 2008. Filed under: Apache, Hosting, Leopard, OSX, Servers, Software, Web Development | Tags: , , , , , |

Okay, so this was very much a case of fumbling around in the dark until stuff worked, lot’s of Googling and breaking stuff. The end result is a dev server on OS X that is running Textpattern with clean URLs and a copy of WordPress for good measure. These notes are primarily so I don’t forget how I did it, if they are useful to someone else, great! Be warned, though, I have no idea how secure this set up is and what flaws it has, so you follow these instructions at your own risk! Also, I am using OS 10.3.9 so I don’t know if this would work on Tiger.

Turn off Personal Web Sharing

OS X does, as you probably know, ship with Apache and it’s real easy to switch on and for a while I did use it. I am quite interested in learning a bit more about the whole serving up websites business, so first job is to do away with all the pre-installed Mac stuff.

Go to System Preferences > Sharing and make sure Personal Web Sharing is stopped.


I started off with Mamp and that is probably good enough for a basic set up but I wanted to run Textpattern with clean URLs. Getting mod_rewrite to work on Mamp just wouldn’t happen for me. So after a bit of Googling I came up with these downloads in preparation for my mission… gulp!


You will need to have at hand Terminal in order to do some of the stuff. This is located in Applications > Utilities. This is the best bit actually because you get to feel like Neo for five minutes! Be careful though, I am told you can do some serious damage with Terminal.

Show hidden files

Having already had a play with Mamp, I noticed that I couldn’t see .htaccess files. Also when installing Complete MySQL there was another hidden file I needed to get to. Eventually I found a note on Apple’s developer site that describes how to show hidden files. It’s gonna make your Mac look at little messier than before but it’s kind of essential:

Open up Terminal and type in the following:

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles true

And that should be that.

Complete installs

The links to the three Complete packages are self explanatory. Each comes with a detailed Install document, follow them and you can’t go wrong, much.

The only problem I ran into was creating a .bash_profile document in the home directory. With hidden files now showing I could see that my home directory (the house with my name on it) had no .bash_profile in it, so I created one with TextEdit. Again, something to watch out for is TextEdit saving it with an extension e.g. .bash_profile.rdf. If this happens click on the file and press COMMAND + I which will bring up the File Info panel and you can simply delete the .rdf from the Name & Extensions panel

In truth this had little effect for me when trying to access mysql via Terminal, unless I used the complete path i.e. /Library/MySQL/bin/mysql. Given that I have no intention of using Terminal for accessing MySQL I didn’t worry about it and it has not had any impact on this setup thus far. Note: If anyone does know why I was getting a command not found error, I’d love to know.

One other note with these complete installs is the location they end up in. Obvious now but it caused me a bit of confusion, they are in the root library file and not the library file in you home directory. To find this spot open up your hard drive and look for the Library folder

phpMyAdmin versus CocoaMySQL

I had a bash at installing phpMyAdmin but to be honest they may as well have written the instructions in Wookie. I stumbled across CocoaMySQL after a bit of Googling, opened it up, it found the path to my MySQL server and within five minutes I had created a database as was running a local copy of Joshuaink. I thoroughly recommend it for the less technically minded.

Also worth noting is that which ever way you access MySQL, you can use your root account and the password you set when setting up MySQL for all your databases which is pretty damn convenient.


Certainly if you are going to be experimenting, the httpd.config file will come into play. I started off with the Web Control app because it makes back ups, reverts easily back to the original file if you mess it up and it can check your syntax for you and if you aren’t feeling confident it’s a great way to start. It soon started to get a bit frustrating though because I couldn’t do a find search to locate bits of the document.

I ended up going back to TextEdit but found I could no longer save the file from that app (though I could from Web Control). I am not sure if this happens by default or whether Web Control did it when it first ran but it turned out that the conf directory, located at /Library/Apache2/conf was locked, so again clicking on the directory and COMMAND + I brings up the info and I changed the Ownership & Permissions details from Owner: system to Owner: [my username]. I also did the same to the httpd.conf file for good measure and made sure they were both set to Read & Write for owners.

Virtual hosts

Virtual hosts were one of the big things I wanted to get done and I found two tutorials. One over at Mezzoblue and one over at SitePoint (scroll down the tutorial a bit). In the end I opted for the SitePoint one because it was getting late and my head seemed to manage with it a little better, though the URLs it produces are no where near as cool as Dave’s. Again something to consider if you do use the SitePoint one, be careful with your naming conventions because it can impact how you use the web. For example I had a directory called joshuaink and where I used to just type joshuaink — as opposed to the full URL — into Firefox to reach my live site, I was now being taken to my localhost.


It wasn’t until I opened up the WordPress admin that I noticed I was getting a directory listing and had to manually click on index.php to get to the login page. This seems to be something to do with the DirectoryIndex bit of httpd.conf. Initially I was dropping the .htaccess file that ships with Textpattern into each and every directory with an index.php as it’s starting point and it did solve the problem but that was getting a bit tiresome. Eventually I found out that there is something called DirectoryIndex in the httpd.conf file and having located it I changed it to this so that Apache recognises an index.php:

DirectoryIndex index.html index.htm index.php index.html.var

I really don’t know if that is correct but it seems to have solved the problem.

Deleting .htaccess files

My final problem was deleting those .htaccess files I had spread everywhere and OS X wouldn’t let me because it is a hidden file. To solve this I renamed it to .htaccess.txt and then I could delete it.


I have got a lot to learn about Apache but it was an interesting start and well worth the effort. With my iBook mostly offline, security is not a big deal for me. No doubt I will continue to fiddle until it breaks. If you have any tips or see something very wrong with the way I have setup, please do say.


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One Response to “Setting up an OS X development server”

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I’d just like to express my gratitude. I’m running a MAMP and trying to allow wordpress to create permalinks for my pages. Ive just spent the best part of the day chasing .htaccess files around my system after losing my whole site. Im new to terminal so your show hidden files terminal command really helped me to locate the files and delete them.

My advice to anyone whose new to MAMP would be that they make backups of all original folders, especially when you begin to tinker with files in terminal.

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