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Starting XAMPP Apache from Aptana IDE

In the first five chapters of the upcoming book on Web development we use Aptana IDE. It’s free, easy to use, has a simple internal Web server, and is Eclipse based. All this makes it a perfect IDE for teaching Web development with HTML and JavaScript. While working on a jQuery.ajax() code sample for the upcoming book, I wanted to show how to make an AJAX POST request to the server side script with the manual form serialization. Since knowledge of Java is not a requirement for reading this book, I found myself in an unfamiliar territory of using PHP.

Disclamer: I’m not a PHP developer, and have no intention to become one.

I just needed a simple script that would echo the data it received. Writing such a script is not a rocket science, but now I need a Web server that would support PHP, which means pretty much any server other than the toy one that comes with Aptana.

xampp_UI

OK, I’ve installed the XAMPP package that includes Apache Web Server and supports PHP. It comes with a nice little UI with the buttons to start stuff. It’s shown on the right and can turn on/off Apache, MySQL, and FTP with a click of a button, which is perfect solution for everyone, but me. Remember, I want to do it from Aptana, and not from and external UI panel. But first things first, let me check that my PHP script even works under Apache.

This part went through fine. I created an Aptana project right under the document root of Apache, which is the htdocs folder, put there helloworld.php, html, JavaScript – he whole shebang. Then I opened the Web browser, paster the URL there, and it worked like a charm – I’m da man!

But the fact that I had to leave Aptana bothered me and I decided to configure an external Web server in this IDE. I did similar thing in Eclipse and Apache Tomcat a million times, but this is different – I needed to start a prepackaged Apache Web server from XAMPP.

First, I learned how to do this from a command line in the Terminal Window (I use MAC OS):

To start apache do this: sudo /Applications/XAMPP/xamppfiles/xampp startapache

To stop apache do that: sudo /Applications/XAMPP/xamppfiles/xampp stopapache

But I knew it wouldn’t be that easy to do from the IDE, casu when I do stuff as a sudo user, I get a command line prompt to enter the admin’s password. OK, let’s try and see what happens. Right-click on the Aptana’s project, then Run Configurations, then the link Configure next to the “Use selected server”. Then I’ve entered everything about my Apache Web server:

ApacheServer_Aptana

Aptana has created the Servers view with this server entry, but when I tried to start the server by clicking on the green play button it gave me this error: “no tty present and no askpass program specified”. I knew it! Aptana doesn’t know where to ask for the sudo’s password!

How can I turn this stupid password off? Google helped – there is a system file /etc/sudoers that has to be edited to allow certain users to sudo without being bothered with the password. Can’t edit it – not enough permissions. That’s an easy one. The unix command chmod works fie on Mac. Being a lazy person I did sudo chmod 777 sudoers. It did the job, but it was a mistake – stay tuned. Opened the file, figured out that I need to uncomment one line and specify my ID with the NOPASSWD option.

OK, but the warning in this file reads “# This file MUST be edited with the ‘visudo’ command as root. Failure to use ‘visudo’ may result in syntax or file permission errors that prevent sudo from running.” Uuuh, getting dangerous, nice! I still remember a couple of vi commands – did the editing in the Terminal window, saved the file… and got the error message that the “/etc/sudoers is mode 0777, should be 0440 “. Man, that was my laziness with chmod 777. Let me change it to 440. Not that easy now! It doesn’t allo me to change the permissions back. Am I screwed or what? Did a backup to my external disk last week – shouldn’t be difficult to recover the original file sudoers.

But let me google first – it helped again – was there a life before Google? Some kind soul suggested to run Disk Utility, which has a button “Repair Disk Permissions”. It repaired a bunch of files including this one keeping my corrections intact.

Voila! Now I can start my Apache Web Server without leaving Aptana IDE by clicking on the Play button in the Servers view! Great! But how to stop it? Eclipse IDE has a red little square next to Play? The right-click menu doesn’t exist in the Servers view in Aptana Studio 3 IDE – I guess their developers are as lazy as I am. I’m not going to continue my research though. Nough! If anyone knows how to stop the server started from Aptana IDE – please do let me know.


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More Stories By Yakov Fain

Yakov Fain is a co-founder of two software companies: Farata Systems and SuranceBay. He authored several technical books and lots of articles on software development. Yakov is Java Champion (https://java-champions.java.net). He leads leads Princeton Java Users Group. Two of Yakov's books will go in print this year: "Enterprise Web Development" (O'Reilly) and "Java For Kids" (No Starch Press).