This month, I was drafted into running the meeting of our local FOSS user’s group. The group’s founder was off on vacation in France. While we were meeting, he and his tech-savvy wife were drinking honest French wine with real French cheese and speaking real French (with a strong American accent, from what he reported by email).
That meant preparing demonstrations. They were fun to develop, lots of html coding. One of the topics involved demonstrating the forum software phpbb. I didn’t put the software on my hosted server. That seemed too permanent. If we decide to run a forum for the group, it makes sense to do it on a server “owned” by the group, not on mine. So I set up a “sandbox” installation on my home server. That meant getting the group access to the server.
Recently, I read in Linux Journal, about doing a little trickery to make “do-it-yourself DNS” which seemed cool. The forum demo was a chance to put the trick to the test. As you may know, the Internet-facing IP address of a home router isn’t a fixed IP. Verizon, like many other service providers, can change the IP address as often as they want.
Some people use a Dynamic DNS service. That costs extra to do it well and the concepts from Linux Journal article worked for me. I ultimately did a script which hourly contacts my hosted server and executes a php file there which makes a text file to give me the current Verizon-assigned IP.
The problem was, I also needed to make it easy enough for the FOSS group’s users. My initial efforts involved too many link clicks. Eventually, though, all the coding study of recent time came together.
I read about server-side-includes and was able to use the tricks from that to add a link to the changing IP address (within an hour, anyway). That link went into the demo page and got the group users to my home server’s index page. There were still too many links to click to reach the server.
Some of the members of the group are new to FOSS, and some are also self-styled novice computer users. The fewer clicks necessary to reach the forum, the better.
A bit more study to understand how concatenation works in PHP and there we were. PHP concatenation is tricky because it isn’t coded the way concatenation is done in other programming languages.
Now all a group member needs to do is reach my main hosted server and with a single click on the forum link, they are there. Two steps. I’m happy.
Coding is fun. For me, there are usually many tries and retries. That’s OK. The feeling of getting a working solution is marvellous!