Development in the Cloud

I’ve recently made an effort to stop using local virtual machines. This has not been by choice, but rather because OS X has become extremely unstable as of late with VirtualBox and seems to show similar behavior with VMWare. Rather than trying to find a version of VirtualBox that is more stable, I’m making an effort to develop on cloud servers instead.

First off, to aid in the transition, I’ve started using Emacs in a terminal exclusively. While I miss some aspects of GUI Emacs, such as viewing PDFs and images, it generally hasn’t been a huge change. I’ve had to do some fiddling as well with my $TERM in order to make sure Emacs picks up a value that provides a readable color setting.

Another thing I started doing was getting more familiar with byobu and tmux. As Emacs does most of my window management for me, my use is relatively limited. That said, it is nice to keep my actually terminal (iTerm2) tabs to a minimum and use consistent key bindings. It also makes keeping an IRC bouncer less of a requirement because my client is up all the time.

The one thing I haven’t done yet is to provision a new dev machine automatically. The dev machine I’m on now has been updated manually. I started using a Vagrantfile to configure a local VM that would get everything configured, but as is clear by my opening paragraph, frequent crashes made that less than ideal. I’m hoping to try and containerize some processes I run in order to make a Vagrantfile that can spin up a cloud server reasonably simple.

What makes all this possible is Emacs. It runs well in a terminal and makes switching between local and remote development reasonably painless. The biggest pain is the integrations with my desktop, aka my local web browser. When developing locally, I can automatically open links with key bindings. While I’m sure I could figure something out with iTerm2 to make this happen, I’m going to avoid wasting my time and just click the link.

If you don’t use Emacs, I can’t recommend tmux enough for “window” management. I can see how someone using vim could become very proficient with minimal setup.