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First thing is to check your network connection - try hitting your homepage directly on the machine (that is not via the network). Thereafter verify that system resources are not being exhausted on the server. Since its a test environment, it may be a good idea to bounce your web server as well and see what that does.
From your client machine (i.e. NOT the webserver) run ping -a FQDN (where FQDN is your fully qualified domain name, in your case webby.joneas.com or whatever)
It should give you an ip with the bounce back.
Go into your web browser and type http://ipaddress where obviously ipaddress is the actual ip address, not the word
Does it load faster? I bet it does. If so, you likely have apple talk on your network. Other than ripping that shit out, you're SOL. If it's still slow, there's something drastically wrong with your networking. Is your client machine windows or *nix? If it's windows, try going into the configuration for the network adapter and changing the duplexing from being auto-sense/auto-link to 100Mb/Full or 1000Mb/Full, whatever your network supports. You can also go into teh advanced properties and disable all checksum offloading.. that will help boost performance.
If after all of this, you are still slow as hell, download and install ethereal on your client machine and ettercap on your linux box. Start a network trace on both machines AT THE SAME TIME and then load the webpage. Stop the trace and examine... what you are looking for is a ton of retransmits, dropped packets, anything weird.
Did you hit return twice? (i.e. enter an empty line?)
 Rereading... Did you think the "host:" line was the answer from the server? You can omit the host line at first, you should at least get SOME reply if you hit enter twice after the "GET" line....
You have to send a request header. A header can consist of many separate lines, and the server only starts processing it once it gets a complete header. The end of the header is signified with an empty line.
(reduce the time of the "sleep" once you have this working. You said it was slow. )
Next you can put this in a script that might take the URL as an argument....
Another way to reach the virtual hosts on the local webserver is to mess with the networking setup. Note that this will deliberately create an invalid networking setup, so it's not for the faint-hearted.
Setup your test-server with the official IP address(es).
next, on your Linux workstation do: route add <officialIPaddress> eth0
Now your linux workstation can no longer reach the official webserver for your domain! it will look for that IP address on the local network and find it there!
Note that for example sending and receiving mail might end up going wrong in this setup. It's very likely that you'll mess up more than you're supposed to. So only try this if you really know what you're getting into.