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I found several possibilities, all written in PHP which is supported for normal web pages by both of my web site hosting packages. For a Blog the software needs to be able to write files and send emails which is normally restricted. I narrowed down to SimplePHPblog and WordPress. The two are however quite different in their detailed requirements. To find out if PHP is on your server create and upload a file called phpinfo.php containing the single line
<?php phpinfo() ?>
and then enter your.web.site/phpinfo.php in the browser - that will probably be the simplest script program you will ever write and you will use it often for useful information!
SimplePHPblog looks a perfect solution for portable no-frills blog software that didn't rely on a back-end database, however the consequence of no database is that it needs to be able to write files directly. The installation instructions therefore indicate that PHP must not be running in 'Safe Mode' and that you may have to sort out the file and folder permissions and possibly the owner. This means that it is very dependent on your server set up if you are on a Linux (Apache) server but probably in good shape on a Windows server which takes no care over security and permissions.
My Fasthost server runs under Windows NT and SimplePHPblog worked straight off with only one file to configure and that was just a cut and paste from the installation. One downloads the installation as a zip file, Extracts it to a folder and then uploads the whole folder to your web space. One then accesses it with your browser and that set off the installation process and configuration during which a few lines of code are produced with instruction on creating a file from it and where to upload it. Even that is only done for security as you are uploading your password to an area inaccessible via the web. The only precaution I had to take was to use an email address with the same domain name otherwise email notifications failed - that is a Fasthosts feature to protect against spam. You can see the result on my Uniquely NZ Feedback Blog
Installing on Freezone was another story and I never cracked it fully. Firstly I knew that my Apache server was running in Safe Mode but Freezone support are extremely flexible and offered to change that if required. The install failed saying it could not create directories and told me how to do it and the permissions required and after that to seemed to work but I quickly found that it could still not write any of the files and folders needed for storage of posts. A look at the folders and files showed that most were owned by me as pcurtiscom but the program was running as apache hence the problem. I put the project on hold whilst I tried installing WordPress.
WordPress has three server requirements:
PHP version 4.3 or greater
MySQL version 4.0 or greater
Apache mod_rewrite module (for clean linking linking URLs known as permalinks (Optional)
Permalinks are the permanent URLs to your individual weblog posts, as well as categories and other lists of weblog postings. A permalink is what another weblogger will use to link to your article (or section), or how you might send a link to your story in an e-mail message. The URL to each post should be permanent, and never change — hence perma link. In my case the Freezone Apache server has the mod_rewrite module loaded so I will be able to implement permalinks in due course. I have MySQL available at no additional cost and it was trivial to activate and set up in Plesk control panel which Freezone uses. Three pieces of information from the SQL set up (database name, username and password) have to be edited into one of the files before you upload it - there are other settings but normally the defaults are used. The first access then takes one through a brief set up and that is it. I found an email reminding me of the password had been sent. It took little more than the five minutes they promised.
WordPress seems to do most of what I believe is needed for my original object of a secure discussion area for a group I belong to - it tends towards the Blog (horrible word) format rather than a Forum format in that the initial Posts are by an administrator after which anyone can contribute to the discussions with further posts. I have set it up on my site and password protected the folder again using the Plesk control panel so one needs to log in every time at present and I can not give a link to it. WordPress also has an internal mechanism for password protecting individual postings which may be good enough. Personally I hate the word Blog sufficiently that I propose to call it a Discussion Area or Feedback Area when I start to use it. Overall WordPress looks more comprehensive than SimplePHPblog and has nice touches like formated posts and a spell checker (which I definitely need). You can also use a huge number of themes some of which effectively hide that it a blog! The options on 'moderation' are excellent. I ahve not checked if one can run two blogs, if so I will replace the SimplePHPblog with a WordPress one for our own site.
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