UniServer, Part 1
Uniform Server really is an interesting WAMP stack for two reasons. First, it was designed to be portable, small and secure, and second, the TCP ports can be reassigned with just a button push so that multiple copies of the stack can run at one time. The developers also claim that it can be secured sufficiently to be used as a production stack. In addition, there’s a well-maintained wiki for documentation and a forum for support. The tray control (UniTray) is very comprehensive, and the welcome and server administration panels have many options and effectively show the system status.
This is also a very simple WAMP to install, since it merely self-extracts to the desired location. It makes no registry entries, nor puts any files outside its own directory tree.
The main site is The Uniform Server. I think that some people haven’t used this package because many of the illustrations still show earlier versions, implying that the actual system is not up-to-date. Additionally, earlier versions used a substitute drive letter to implement the operation. This is not the case anymore (version 5), as a visit to the wiki will show you. Even the download page on Sourceforge shows a lot of current activity, but the main site can be a bit confusing. Nevertheless, I think this is a good package to use for testing.
Let’s download the package, install it and take a look. The download is here at Sourceforge, and is currently version 5.5. The team has code-named their releases, with the version 5.x series being called Nano. All the Nano systems are very similar; this wiki page shows the exact differences, as well as being the latest introduction to the system.
Installation is simple: start the downloaded executable. It will ask where you want to extract to. The best location is the root of a drive, like C:\ or E:\. As usual, I’ll use C:\ for these articles.
So you’ll click “Extract” and the files will be unpacked to C:\UniServer:
Then it just stops, which is okay. Now let’s use Windows Explorer to look at what we have. (Remember that you can click on the images to see them full size; use the browser’s “back” button to get back here).
This is clearly different than XAMPP’s directory structure. Even many of the names have changed. Instead of htdocs, we have www, and the apache2, mysql and php directories are under usr/local/. Not to worry; we’ll get to this all later.
The important entry is Start.exe. Click on that, and you should get a new pop-up window. There’s also a little blue square with a “1” in the system tray.
Short and sweet, it gives you the essential information to view the UniTray Control. It refers to this icon down in the tray. If we left-click the icon, we get the UStandard menu, and if we right-click it, we get the UService menu:
With the two menus side-by-side, you can see that the only difference is in the top two lines.
Let’s left-click now to get UStandard and select the first item, Start UniServer (Apache MySQL). Several things will happen at once….
There’s our friendly firewall raising the alarm about Apache, and right on its heels is the second message about MySQL. Be sure to use the “Allow” button when dismissing the firewall screens. To top all this off, the browser opens and presents the Welcome splash screen from Uniform Server.
So we’re sure that the basics are working properly now. In addition, under the banner we have what appears to be just a title that says “Server Administration”; in fact it’s a link to that page, which we’ll click on now.
The security status is in the lower right, and it shows us that we have a few things to fix. Since we’re working in a test environment behind a router, we’ll postpone dealing with the Server Security page until later.
The left-hand column on this page has several useful links. We’ll look at a few in the Configurations section first, starting with the Apache Configuration.
It’s not likely you’ll need to change anything here just now, so let’s look at the next configuration page.
Again, not any need to change things here now, but keep in mind the entries for time, memory and post sizes. You might need to change them later on.
Aha. Here’s something we may want to change. If you’re on your very own private network, with no Internet opening through the router, you could skip this, but just to be safe, change BOTH the username and password to something memorable. The two initial values, “root” and “root,” should be changed. There’s a second step that the page tells us to do to make it functional; we’ll do that a bit later.
This last configuration page should be required, if only just for the practice. It is for the MySQL root account, which is the master access to MySQL and is also the account used for phpMyAdmin access. It’s a good place for a memorable but unusual password; you’ll be using it whenever you do a database change or a backup.
Interestingly, we have not only looked at a few configuration points, but we also have resolved a few of the security questions. Speaking of security, let’s take care of that change the Admin Panel Configuration told us to make.
Use Windows explorer to get to C:\UniServer\home\admin\www. Among the files there, you should see .htaccess, which is an Apache configuration file. Open this in Notepad or some other text editor, and look at the last several lines:
# Activate this section to use the Private Server Feature!
# Defaults: Username - root; Password - root
# Note AuthUserFile: File path is relative to server root
# To lock server, uncomment the next 4 lines. (A name and password is required)
#AuthName "Uniform Server - Admin Panel 2.0"
So if you remove the ‘#’ in front of the last four lines, your password will be activated. The next time you want to access the Admin Panel, you will be asked for your account and password. You remember them, right?
In the next segment, I will get into setting up some of the popular applications, which for UniServer have been simplified as plugins.