How to Set Up Your Own Domain Name

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Geek!This is Jonathan Bressie’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

Having a domain name tied to your own computer is an extremely useful thing. You can remotely administrate your system with a greater degree of ease, run many kinds of servers, or one of a million other possibilities. Getting a domain name also tends to be a rather simple task, but there are a few things to watch out for. I aim to list the steps clearly, and you should be able to access your box from anywhere in the world in hardly any time at all.

  1. The first thing you’ll need to do is get an account with a Domain Name Server (DNS). I use DynDNS.com. An account is free and even comes with some support documentation. Since I will be using this site throughout the how-to, replace the name accordingly if you chose a different DNS. Head to the site and create an account.
  2. You’ll need to choose your DNS host, which will be the URL that you use to access your computer. Log in, and click on the “Account” tab. Underneath “My Hosts”, select “Add Host Services”, and you will be presented with a simple interface. You can type your user name in the “Hostname” box to keep things simple and select the domain name you would like to use from the drop-box to the right. In the “IP Address” section, I would suggest clicking on “Use auto detected”. The detection is accurate. There is no need to change any of the other options for a normal PC setup, so click “Create Host”. You may wish to write down these details for later.
  3. You will likely need to configure your router and/or firewall for the services you’ll be accessing. Each service generally has its own assigned port or port range, and it needs to connect through to the PC you wish to access. If you aren’t sure, listings are easily obtained online. Since routers vary, you will need to consult the manual, but most newer routers have a fairly simple interface compared to the horrible ones 5 years ago. My router even has an extremely easy to use “Virtual Server” for managing this. Regardless, you need to communicate through your router and into your box, and thus forwarding the port(s) is necessary so that the router knows where to send the connection. For SSH, you would want to enable TCP on port 22. I recommend security testing, as well.
  4. The last part is where an OS will differ. Unless you have a static IP address (meaning that it never changes), you will need a program called an “update client” that updates the IP address that your host name points to. Fortunately, DynDNS.com has update clients for the three major operating systems on its site. After clicking the “Support” tab, click the tab labeled “Update Clients”. If you are on Linux, you would be better served to simply download ddclient with your distribution’s package manager. If you are on Ubuntu, you can install ddclient with the simple command “sudo apt-get install ddclient”. On Windows, download the DynDNS Updater, and follow through the configuration. The DynDNS Updater for Mac is also a simple GUI configuration. Once the packages are installed on Linux, you would be presented with a text-based GUI for the initial configuration. Choose the web interface and an interval of 600 or higher.
  5. Now, just try logging in with the service you allowed access to. For SSH, you can log in normally with “ssh username@hostname.dyndns.org”, where username is the log-in you would use when normally logging into the machine, and hostname.dyndns.org is what was chosen in step 2. Note that trying to log into your domain name from the same machine it points to with SSH will probably NOT work. You need to be on another machine, even if you simply used SSH to access that one too!

Now you can access your computer from anywhere in the world! It’s powerful tool to have. I don’t think you can consider yourself a geek without it! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post. Thank you for reading, and have fun.