Uniform Server is a self-contained server product that lets admins deploy the Apache HTTP server, MySQL database server, and PHP and Perl programming languages in one no-hassles package for Windows. The package can be used to run all these applications without installing anything or making any changes to the registry. It unpacks in a single directory, runs there, and can be removed simply by deleting the directory.
Uniform Server is not the only "WAMP" (Windows/Apache/MySQL/Perl) package. One of the best I've seen is XAMPP, which in its Windows incarnation not only gives you Apache, MySQL, PHP and Perl but also the FileZilla FTP server and the Mercury SMTP/POP mail server. (Versions of XAMPP for Linux, Mac OS and Solaris also exist.)
As with other self-contained server systems, the idea behind XAMPP is that you can uncrate the program into a single directory, run a configuration script and then get right to work. The only changes made to the Registry are to install Apache and other programs as services. However, this is optional; if they're installed as services, they can be stopped and removed without rebooting the computer. This is a good way to get experience with any (or all!) of the applications in this package without worrying about setting up a separate machine for them, or figuring out how to clean up after them.
Once you run the setup script, you can run the XAMPP Control Panel application to stop or start each component, perform administrative tasks, or install XAMPP as a self-starting set of services. Apache and MySQL can be administered directly though a Web browser, but FileZilla and Mercury must be administered directly, through their component applications.
(Side note: I've used Mercury as a mail server on one of my own servers and have been quite happy with it, but I understand it may no longer be actively developed by its original programmer [the author of the Pegasus mail client] due to a lack of funds.)
The XAMPP distribution is kept extremely up-to-date with current versions of each component. The most recent version for Windows, 1.5.5, was updated as of November 26, 2006. Best of all, it's completely free of charge—although there may be specific licensing restrictions on certain components, such as FileZilla.
About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Insight, (formerly the Windows Power Users Newsletter), a blog site devoted to hints, tips, tricks and news for users and administrators of Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. He has more than 12 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.
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