Apache for kids

Geek Culture

You may know Apache as the most popular web server, powering many of the internet’s biggest sites. It’s the A in LAMP, the gold standard in flexible open source architecture making web 2.0 scale cheaply.

It’s also a great way to teach your kids HTML. When my daughter wanted to learn how to build web pages, I found it to be the easiest way to get her up and running with a place to play on her own computer. Just go to the download section of apache.org and grab the latest version of the file labeled Win32 Binary (MSI Installer). It’s a very easy install, don’t worry about the settings along the way, you can always change them later. (Apologies but these are Windows instructions.  Perhaps one of my colleagues can describe the Mac side of things)

When the installer is done, you’re up and running. You may have to unblock Apache in any software firewall
(like Windows Firewall), although on my daughter’s system the firewall software automatically asked if it should be unblocked. I would suggest two additional tricks to make things simpler for your child.  First, go to "C:Program FilesApache Software FoundationApache2.2" and make a shortcut to the folder "htdocs" on your kid’s desktop. That’s where the web files actually go.

Second, create a link or bookmark to  "http://localhost/" in your child’s favorite browser. That’ll be how they find their web content.

From there, the web’s the limit. Starting with Notepad as the text editing tool and Webmonkey as the bible, my daughter got to work with the same trick as any top notch web developer: View source. By stealing HTML from other web sites and editing as necessary, kids learn the tricks of the trade pretty quickly. They can even embed YouTube videos and other widgets in their desktop website.

Depending on how sophisticated you are with your home network, fixed IP addresses, firewalls and routers, you can decide if you want to make your child’s site public. On most standard home networks, your child’s site should not be available on the public internet.

All of the necessary commands to start and stop your server will be in the Apache folder in the Start Menu, as well as the configuration file if you feel like editing some of the settings. You’ll find it’s remarkably easy to play with and a great way to experiment with the same tools the big kids do.

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