Using a Virtual Machine for Development Environment

During development of web applications it is a good idea to use a development server instead of the live production server. There are many reasons for this such as a simple coding error taking down the entire production server and all of your client’s web pages with it.

You could try to running a web server directly on your Windows or MacOS operating system. However, this can be a pain to set up and get going and chances are that the differences in the environment between your personal OS and the production server will be enough to cause headache when it is time to deploy.

At Hutz Media, we use a dedicated CentOS Linux server running 24/7 for development and testing. For part time developers a virtual machine running in the background will work just as well.

We also CentOS on our production servers. I find that it is always best to have your development environment as close to your production environment as possible.

In this post we will be using VMware Player 7 to setup and install as LAMP web development environment for CentOS. You can also use VirtualBox.

Download CentOS

CentOS is a Linux project that is derived from sources freely provided by Red Hat. Download the latest minimal ISO image at The file should be around 566MB.

Create a New Virtual Machine

Once you have finished download the CentOS ISO image open VMware Player and create a new virtual machine.

Create a virtual machine

If using the Easy Install Wizard, VMware Player will try to install the GUI Desktop version of CentOS. We want to install the server version so we need to avoid the Easy Install process and install CentOS manually.

Select “I will install the operating system later”. On the next window select “Linux” and “CentOS Linux 64-Bit”. Under the Hardware settings window select the ISO you downloaded as the startup CD and also change the network settings to “Bridged”. Click “Finish” and power up the virtual machine.

Follow the directions to install CentOS. While it’s installing you can setup the root password. This should only take about 10 minutes.

I will install later. Custom hardware. Select CentOS 7 iso image. Bridged network.


Setting up network

CentOS minimal is installed by default with the network turned off. Type “nmtui” in the console to get to the network adapter settings. Set the ethernet device to automatically connect through DHCP (or configure your connection manually). Restart the network service.

service network restart

Setting up network

Using yum to install services

Now that CentOS is installed on your new virtual machine it is time to get your web development services installed and ready.

First you will want to update your server. Using the virtual machine window and the username and password you setup in the Easy Install wizard, log into your root account.

Use the yum command to update your server software to the latest.

yum update

Now install the services you’ll need for your LAMP environment.

yum install php php-cli php-pdo php-mysql php-gd httpd mod_ssl mariadb mariadb-server

Starting and configuring services

Let CentOS know you want to start these new services on bootup.

systemctl enable httpd.service mariadb.service

Start the services.

systemctl start httpd.service mariadb.service

Allow http and https traffic through the firewall.

firewall-cmd –permanent –zone=public –add-service=http
firewall-cmd –permanent –zone=public –add-service=https

Test your new LAMP server. Find out your virtual machine’s IP address by typing:

ip addr

Open up your browser to http://MY_IP/. You should see the following page:

CentOS test http page.

Your new virtual machine is now setup and ready for development. You can enjoy low latency development that is nearly identical to your production environment without any additional hosting costs or having to purchase a stand-alone server.

10 Steps to Improve SEO

SEO or Search Engine Optimization is a process of improving the visibility of a website in a search engine’s organic (un-paid) results. Improving your website’s visibility on a search engine can be a great way to bring interested customers to your website.

Compared to the costs of other forms of advertising such as pay-per click advertising or social media advertising, SEO provides a better overall ROI.

In this article I will explain ten ways that you can improve your web page’s search engine optimization using webpage best practices and Google Webmaster Tools.

Google | Yahoo | Bing

1. Page Navigation

In order for a web page to be effective with your users it should be easy to navigate. It is recommended that you set up breadcrumbs at the top of your page’s content. A breadcrumb is a secondary navigation scheme that reveals the user’s hierarchical location in the web page. This will allow the user to identify where they are in a website and how they can get back to what they are searching for.

As an example and breadcrumb for this blog post:

Blog / Home10 Steps to Improve SEO

2. Page Titles

The page title tells users and search engines the topic of the page. If the user’s search terms are included in the title tag they will be highlighted in bold. This allows the user to quickly identify that your page contains the term they are searching for.

Don’t just fill the title with every search phrase that applies to your product. Search engines like Google typically display only the first 50-60 characters of the title tag. Keeping a title in this range will result in the title displaying correctly.

Page title:

Okanagan Web Developer – Kelowna Penticton Web Developer

3. Page Sitemap

Creating a public sitemap will help search engines learn which pages it should index on your website. It also helps users locate the page they are looking for.

You should also create a XML sitemap and log in to Google Webmaster Tools to direct it to your XML sitemap.

4. Content Keywords

When writing content for your website such as a new blog post you should focus on phrases that a user will be searching for. Users won’t necessarily have the same level of understanding of a subject as you do. They may search for something generic like “web page company” when you have focused on advertising yourself as a “web application software developer”.

Google provides an excellent tool for searching for the popularity of a phrase and identifying new phrases and their popularity.

5. Anchor Text

Search engines prioritize text that is located in anchor links. They give a quick preview to the search engine that can improve visibility of the targeted URL. Try adding your own targeted search phrases to links in your articles or web pages.

Below is an example link:

Contact us for a free quote today.

A more search engine friendly link would be:

Contact us for your web development. Get a free quote today.

6. Image Descriptions

Not only does adding descriptions to image tags improve usability of your website, but it also improves your search engine visibility. An image description can be added in the “alt” attribute of the “img” tag:

<img src="image.png" alt="A nice picture of a cat.">

An alt attribute allows you to specify alternative text for an image if it cannot be displayed. Why use this attribute? The alt text for an image will be treated similarly to the anchor text of a link.

You should also optimize your image filenames to make it easier for image search engines to understand and index your images.

7. Heading tags

Use heading tags to emphasize important text. Heading tags are used to emphasize sections of page’s content. Search engines treat text inside a heading tag as important. Consider placing search phrases that you want targeted inside a heading tag in your content.

<h1>Web Developer</h1>
<h2>Hutz Media Ltd. provides web development services to the Okanagan.</h2>

8. Mobile Content

Response Web Design

Mobile web page design is becoming more important every year. Search engine companies have also noticed this trend and are considering adjusting their algorithms to reward mobile-friendly websites with a ranking boost. It is also important to have a mobile-friendly website from a user experience perspective as well.

A mobile friendly website should automatically adjust itself to fit inside the viewport of a browser, mobile or desktop with the need to zoom in or out.

There is no reason to wait for Google to change their ranking algorithm. Have your website upgraded or created to support responsive web design.

9. Utilizing rel=”nofollow”

Setting the “rel” attribute of an anchor link to “nofollow” will tell search engine’s that links on your site shouldn’t be followed. This will prevent your page’s reputation from being shared with the page that is linked to.

<a href=”” rel=”nofollow”>Google</a>

Obviously when creating content that links back to your own content you will not need to worry about this. If your blog or website has user editable content such as a blog comment or a message board you should set all links to nofollow by default.

Linking to websites that search engines consider spammy or malicious can affect the reputation of your own website.

10. Back linking

The core of the search engine ranking system is links. Each link from a website with high reputation to your own website will increase your own website’s reputation. A higher reputation will mean that your website is more likely to appear in the search phrases that you are targeting.

  • Consider adding your website to a free listing service. Find listing websites that are related to your website’s business and get them to link back.
  • Post your content on social media such as Twitter or Facebook.
  • Submit your blog’s RSS feed to public RSS feed directories.
  • Post video content on Youtube or other video sharing websites relating to your product or business.

Bryan Wiebe is a web developer for Hutz Media Ltd. Hutz Media provides SEO content creation and optimization.