August 29, 2004
Installing Movable Type: Before You Start
Before you install Movable Type there are three fundamental questions you need to ask yourself, 1) should you really be using Movable Type as your blogging software?, 2) do you have everything you need to use Movable Type? and 3) should you do the install yourself or should you pay someone else to do it?
1. Should you really be using Movable Type?
As weblogs gain more public visiblity, more and more people are setting up their own blogs. Many turn to Movable Type as it is one of the more established and powerful tools available. Movable Type however requires much more technical expertise than hosted blog services such as TypePad and Blogger. The first requirement is that you know some HTML. HTML - HyperText Markup Language - is not that difficult to learn, but there is a learning curve of more than a few hours. If you don't know any HTML, and don't want to put in the time and effort to learn about tags and how they work, you should stop now and head over to Typepad or Blogger. (Of the two, I recommend TypePad as it is more powerful than Blogger, has a more active community, and it is based on the same code-base as Movable Type.) The second requirement is that you know some CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets. CSS is the set of style commands that determine what your weblog looks like. If you want your weblog to look anything different than the most plain vanilla default style, you need to know, or be willing to learn, some CSS.
An essential question to ask at this point, is "are you a tinkerer"? If you are, by your nature, someone who likes to get under the hood, someone who likes taking things apart to understand how they work, you may be very well suited to Movable Type. Building a blog with MT is like wanting to drive and buying a car assembly kit, instead of going to the local dealer and buying a car off the lot. If you have the time and inclination, it can be a lot of fun. If you don't, it can be a huge headache. (See Typepad or Movable Type?) A good reality check is to review the Movable Type User Manual. Although there are now some books available on Movable Type, which may be helpful, if the MT User Manual seems too difficult, you may be happier with one of the hosted blogging services.
2. Do you have everything you need to use Movable Type?
Movable Type requires that you have a webserver, either your own or through a web host, that supports Perl, custom CGI scripts, MySQL, PHP, and enough server space. (Actually your server doesn't really have to have MySQL or PHP to run MT, but it really should. See MySQL or Berkeley DB? and HTML or PHP?). See Movable Type friendly web hosts for a chart of web hosts that are compatible with Movable Type. Six Apart used to recommend 20 megs of server space for your Movable Type files. The application files themselves are a little over 3 megs. You will need space to hold the files for your entries as well.
To install Movable Type, and to occassionally make changes once MT is already installed, you will need to use an FTP program to load files on to your server. See FTP, File Formats, and Permissions for links to some of the more popular FTP programs. MT system requirements are listed on the Movabletype.org website.
3. Should you do the install yourself or pay Six Apart or someone else to do it for you?
The first time I installed Movable Type it took me about 4 days of fiddling with it to get it to work. I had installed perl scripts before, but the MT documentation was confusing and quite frankly, I really didn't know what I was doing. The next time I had to install Movable Type (after my web host changed servers on me rendering my at-the-time Berkeley DB fueled MT install inaccessible) I happily paid Six Apart to do it. On a dollar-per-hour-saved-from-frustration basis, it is one of the best investments I've ever made.
You should know what you are doing before you attempt an install. You should have an FTP program and know how to use it, understand file formats and permissions, know how to un-comment a line from a script (remove the #), have a text editor (Notepad for Windows and BBEdit for the Mac) that creates plain text files suitable for uploading to a server, and be comfortable with installing scripts on to web servers. Read through the Movable Type Installation Instructions. If they seem completely understandable and straightforward to you, you most likely have the expertise necessary to do a pain-free successful install. If not, I highly recommend paying Six Apart to do the install; they know what they are doing. You will most likely save a lot of time and prevent unneccessary aggravation. Besides, the sooner MT is installed, the sooner you can start blogging!
Simplified Movable Type Installation Instructions - not exactly simple, but still a help.
MT for Beginners: Installing Movable Type
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