considering a website..
(This page isn't public! I'm just riffing, for now..)
First step, buy a domain! Go on! They're cheap, and you'll need it. Forget the "I'm not ready yet" nonsense and go visit namecheap.com. Think of something cute for the name, something perfect, take time over this bit, but hurry, once they're gone, they're gone!
Owning a domain is about more than virtual real-estate. It's your place. I spent about three years dotting about in other folk's subdomains, and sub-folders, it's a joke. Your website is your virtual home. Make it so! So the decoration might be a bit amateurish at first, but that's okay, that's real. In years to come, you will browse the wayback machine and laugh, enjoying your evolution.
When I visit the machine, I see my first few years totally blank. It's like I wasn't there! Think about it. Obviously you're keen to have a virtual presence of some sort, or you wouldn't be here, so get a domain. we are talking eight bucks (dollars) a year, tops.
Move in.. Twice!
Imagine if you could have two homes. Perhaps you are fortunate enough to already have this. If so click my PayPal button. hah! gotcha! In one home you get to dance around naked and no one sees you, you can throw spaghetti all over the floor, just to see what it looks like, and no one else will see it, it will leave no stain. In the other home, a public home, everything is just the way you want it. Your private home has had a dozen colour schemes in the last week, and when you finally found the one you liked, the one that fitted just so, that became the colour scheme for your second home, your public home, the one people see.
I'm talking about your "development mirror".
Because we are dealing with the virtual world, you can have as many homes as you like, but it makes sense to have at least two. One is your real domain, the other, your development mirror. One is a replica of the other. One is inside your own computer, or somewhere on your LAN, the other is "live", on a proper webserver. You create, experiment, mess about and test, at home, on your development mirror, and when it's right, when it works the way you want, it gets uploaded, goes "live", where your hungry public can see it.
That's how I like to do things. You may have a different plan. So long as you have a plan. I make no claim that my methods are the best, but I strongly, and passionately claim that they are the best for me, so feel free to soak in what you need, and discard the rest, as befits a living, breathing human being. If you are brave, you put your own home sever on the web I have, and I love it! And I don't mind at all if folks drop in in the middle of redecorating or renovations, it's my real actual home, and that's expected. If they wanted the polished version, they'd be at corz.org.
There are a million geeks who can better me in all sorts of uber-clever unix tasks, and I salute them, and move on, I have work to do. My work relies on theirs, but I'm not much interested in the inner workings; I go only as deep as I have to, to make it work. But, importantly, I do respect their work, and I will make the time to read the MAN pages they have so lovingly crafted.
I will make the time to test end experiment with the sublime functionality they have made available, and make the most of the tools that have been provided. I owe them that much; most of the tools we need have been provided for free.
Time is the most valuable thing we have and coding does use up a lot of the stuff. Before you go installing whatever server you are about to let loose, consider the countless man-hours; that is, a human spending actual Earth hours perfecting the programs which we will, without the slightest thought, complain about on mailing lists and moan about on forums and STOP! Your feedback is appreciated, but keep in mind the effort involved in creating the things we will, almost as soon as this paragraph ends, take completely for granted.
Light a LAMP on the world!
For around fifty bucks, you are God!
Okay, we can't be God, that's not possible. But thanks to the current technologies available, namely; Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP, you can be as near-as-dammit the almighty in your own, and possibly, in ever increasing circles, a lot of other people's "universe".
The Holy Quadrio are each completely and utterly FREE. All you need to make the alchemy happen is an Intel-compatible box that can run these beautiful binaries. The TCO of said equipment is at the very most, fifty bucks.
I'm Scottish, and so I mean "pounds", but for citizens of the USA (if there are any left), that means "fifty dollars", or thereabouts, think: the price of a decent second-hand television. You need a machine that will ONLY be your server. Yeah, yeah, I know, you can run a webserver on your regular desktop machine, in the background, as a service, whatever, STOP! Yes, you can do this for a time, until you save up the fifty bucks to get a dedicated machine.
Creating one computer that is known and loved as "the server" will be an illuminating, enabling, and liberating experience. The server is available twenty-four hours a day. It exists "to serve". You want to watch movies on your desktop, play Quake Arena, cool, but let the server work unimpeded by our whims and fancies, the need to reboot, or whatever.
In your future, others may want to access your server. You may want to open the ports on your router and let the lost souls of the internet drop in. You might want a secure FTP facility so folk can upload files to you, or some other task.
Let "the server" carry the burden of real work, while your desktop machine frolics and mooos at leisure. It will free you, trust me. You won't have to think "shit! the FTP will go down" whenever you need to reboot "that bloody Windows machine".
And yes, I recommend a Linux OS on the server (or any free *NIX, BSD, etc.). Horses for courses - Linux was built to serve. Aye, the desktop has jumped leaps and bounds in the last few years, mainly thanks to the KDE and Gnome teams, and you really can do everything you might ever need to do on Linux, but I'm not interested what desktop you use, I'm interested in a machine that can run 24/7, 365 days a year.
My current server is an old laptop I got for nothing (my previous server was the same - the screen was smashed - I didn't need a screen and removed the lid altogether). It's old but plenty fast enough to run even the most demanding server software. It is energy efficient (being a laptop), so I have no problmes leaving it running 24/7. And it's small, which means I can fling it away under a desk and forget about it's physical presence.
To get your server set up the way you want it will take time. No where near the time it took to create Apache, or PHP, or MySQL, but a few hours, anyway. It will require dedication, patience, and work on your part. You will get frustrated. You will get annoyed. But you will triumph.
At the end of it, you will understand a whole lot more about what's going on behind your website, and this is a Very Good Thing.