11 Thursday Sep 2014
Uniform Server is a portable version of WAMP. Apologies if you are an expert developer but some people arriving here may not be so let me explain a little.
What is WAMP?
WAMP means Windows Apache MySQL PHP. It is a bundle of web server, database server and PHP language that we download onto our Windows laptops so that we can develop new websites locally.
What is Uniform Server?
What does portable mean in practice?
Uniform Server is a portable version of WAMP. You can install it on a USB stick and use it without installing it on your laptop. This is very useful when you are working in situations such as universities where you may not want to lug your laptop around with you. You can take your USB stick from office to library to lecture hall and plug it in to whatever computer is there. When you pull it out, you have left no “registry dust”, i.e., you haven’t changed the configuration of the computer at all. But you may have changed the content on the USB. The equivalent for Word would be that Word has been installed on the USB rather than on the computer.
What happens when I buy a new laptop before my project has ended?
A portable server is also useful when we have a long project because over the life of a long project, a laptop is likely to be replaced. By having everything to do with a project on a standalone portable server, we simply plug the USB into the new laptop. We don’t have to stop and think – what software is on here? What needs to be installed? Will the versions be compatible, etc.?
How do I make backups?
Having server, software and data in one place is also handy for backups. Though this makes for a big file, we usually handle backups in three levels. The server is backed-up. The program files are backed up. And the data files are backed up. Backing up at three levels is good practice and makes sense when the server is shared, when the program files are common and when data is specific. But for many researchers, a failure is a nightmare. We aren’t thinking in terms of three levels and panic ensues when something fails. Sorting the mess out can take days because we are unfamiliar with the processes. A bundle on a USB obviates that panic. Back up nightly. It is a bit slow but if the work is important, back up onto another USB or even onto your laptop and backup again via a tunnel to the university’s servers. Then the worst case scenario is a 24 hour loss. Just pick up yesterday’s USB and begin again there.
The flaw in Uniform Server
But I have discovered a flaw in the system. I had an old version of Uniform Server running on my laptop: 8.6.4. I started it up and it threw an error.
1. C:\my_uniform_server_directory_name\my_website_folder\usr\local\php\php5ts.dll was present.
2. I had other versions of Uniform Server on my laptop. Shutting down the first and starting up others threw the same error.
3. There was sometime between last time I started up Uniform Server and the error. It seemed unlikely that multiple versions of php5ts.dll had been corrupted and much more likely that something downloaded to my computer since I last used Uniform Server was clashing.
4. And here is the flaw. Though Uniform Server is fully portable, the path name set up within Uniform Server does not explicitly reference php5ts.dll. This means that when this .dll is called, Windows looks at it generic path statement and accesses the php5ts.dll in other versions of PHP on your computer (or fails to find it).
The fix for the php5ts.dll error
1. For each and every version of Uniform Server on your computer or USB stick, edit C:\my_uniform_server_directory\my_website_folder\usr\local\apache2\conf\httpd.conf to include a direct reference to the php5ts.dll file that came with Uniform Server. Simply add the last line to the list of code shown below.
5. Save, stop Uniform Server if it is running and restart. All should be well.
In short, phpt5ts.dll and Uniform Server
1. If you have an error message about pht5ts.dll, then check the file is present.
2. Think if there is any reason that if could have been corrupted.
3. Check the httpd.conf file and add the direct reference.
In all likelihood, Uniform Server was not picking up its own version of pht5ts.dll.