free software Highlights Mobile

Running a web server, WordPress on my phone

I was finally able to run an Apache, PHP, MySQL server on my Sony Ericsson K750i. I did it on my second attempt, the first was disastrous, and that’s putting it mildly, as I crashed my phone and I had to reformat its memory card, wiping out several photos I haven’t been able to save to my PC yet.

I have long wanted to set up a development web server in my K750i, which also serves as my primary USB drive.

wordpress in k750i WORDPRESS ON MY PHONE. Installing WordPress on my K750i, using Uniform Server. The phone doesn’t actually run it, its memory card is merely being used by the PC to run the server. Click on image to enlarge.

I use my shared hosting space for my WordPress-related work and experiments as well as tests on PHP/MySQL scripts that catch my interest. This setup is such a hassle. I have to FTP files to and from the server and sometimes connections can be so slow that frustration creeps in.

The files in my account have also become such a mess because I’ve tried quite a few scripts, each with its own sub-domain.

I decided I should have a “web server on a stick,” a functioning Apache, MySQL and PHP server on a thumb drive. The Sony Ericsson K750i, as with most multi-media phones, also serves as a USB mass storage drive. This makes it possible to set up an Apache server on its memory card.

I first tried installing the server in August using Xampp Lite and I failed. Not only did I fail to make it run, my phone crashed, the screen just froze and I had to turn it off by taking out the battery. After I turned it on, my PC couldn’t connect to it through its USB cable and the phone had intermittent problems detecting the memory card.

I reformatted the card and reinstalled its drivers in my PC and it fixed the errors. But in the process of fixing it, I lost several photos I wanted to use for my blog entries.

After that fiasco, I stuck to using my shared account for testing and experiments.

K750i directory SERVER SPACE. I placed the Uniform Server files in a Server folder in the MSSEMC\Media files\ directory. Click on photo to enlarge.

The need to have a portable web server on a USB drive resurfaced this month, when I took on projects that required me to present proposals and show files offline to a group of people still not comfortable with sharing files online. The K750i was out of the question as portable storage for me because the drive isn’t recognized when you first plug it into a PC or laptop, you need to install drivers.

I bought a cheap USB drive for the sharing of the files and decided to try installing a portable web server again. I successfully set one up using Uniform Server, which is easy to install (just unzipping of files really) and comes in a very small package: 33MB on the disk for an Apache, PHP, MySQL web server that also comes with PHPMyAdmin, among other things.

I’m now using the USB drive as my primary testing and development server. But the ease by which Uniform Server was installed got me into wondering whether I could also install it in my K750i.

I backed up all my data, copying everything in my memory card to my PC and using Float’s Mobile Agent to back up phone data such as contacts, messages and calendar items.

I unzipped Uniform Server into my phone, creating a Server folder in the MSSEMC\Media files\ directory. After everything was copied, I started the server but the admin panel, which is opened right after you start the server, wouldn’t start. It turned out that there is a bug in the release if you use any other drive letter assignment apart from the default “W.”

Uniform Server in K750i ADMIN PANEL. The admin panel of Uniform Server running on my phone. Click to enlarge.

I downloaded the patch and then started the server again. This time it worked. The admin panel opened and I could start administering my site. I then tried installing WordPress and Drupal, copying and editing the files using a file manager and then creating databases using PhpMyAdmin. Oh, an if you’re wondering what MySQL username and password to enter in your installation config, it’s root (username) and root (password), unless you change it.

The WordPress installation went without a hitch. I set up a perfectly functioning blog in a couple of minutes. The installation of the latest Drupal beta, however, did not work. I got a server timeout error involving one of the files that appeared to be populating my MySQL database with data.

The only hitch in the setup is that it is slow, way slower than it is with my cheap USB drive. And the server appeared to choke after I got a series of text messages and one call, which I didn’t answer.

After playing with it for a couple of hours, I deleted the installation. I checked my phone and everything seemed to be working. If I didn’t need to share data by actually plugging a USB drive into other people’s PC and laptop, I would have continued using my K750i as portable web server. As it is, my phone is connected to my office PC most of the time.

Still, it was a fun experiment.

By Max Limpag

Max is a journalist and blogger based in Cebu City, Philippines. He is co-founder of the journalism start-up InnoPub Media.