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Maybe I'm alone here, but I don't like developing apps directly on my laptop.

Not only do you need to install a bunch of libraries and databases only needed to develop that one app -- and then never clean it out -- but you're probably running different library versions, and a different OS, than your server environment.

So when you go to deploy, there's no end to the fun you can have. Of course, CI can protect you from trashing your production machines, but you still need to troubleshoot your CI server when the build breaks.

The solution to all of this is to develop either in a virtual machine, or on a remote server, but there are drawbacks there, too.

You have to remember to SSH to the virtual machine when you want to run commands, network lag makes editors a pain in the ass to use, and you've got none of the tools on your local machine.

Enter Workspace: Smooth integration between your laptop and your remote and/or virtual development boxes.

Workspace requires only ssh, sshfs, bash, and git to run, and has been tested on OS X and Ubuntu Linux, with both rbenv and rvm (although shims don't work with rvm -- see below)

Repositories live on the remotes, and are mounted locally via sshfs.

Workspace provides shims in your path to seamlessly run commands on your development machines when you are in the repository, and this works seamlessly over any number of hosts.

You can also namespace your work for clients, and move projects on or offline as you need to -- no need to keep everything mounted all the time.


  1. Put the ws script into your personal bin directory.

  2. Run echo 'eval "$(ws init)"' >> ~/.bash_profile

  3. source .bash_profile or restart your login shell.

Using The Damn Thing

My next genius idea is microblogging for LISP programmers. I've got a Rails app on Github, and I want to start working on it in virtual machine called jayne.

I start by adding the project to my Workspace:

ws add jayne

The repository is checked out into ~/ws/thwitter on jayne, which is mounted via sshfs on my local machine

Let's make sure everything is set up on that machine with Bundler:

cd ~/ws/project
ws exec bundle

Now, that's all fine and well, but I'm going to be running rails, bundle, and probably rake all the time. It would be nice if when I'm in the project, those commands get run on the remote host, without having to type a whole eight extra characters. If only there was a way...

ws shim rails rake bundle

Now, whenever I run a shimmed command anywhere under ~/ws/thwitter, that command is run on the remote. Outside of the project directory, commands are run locally. Which means I can do this:

cd ~/ws/thwitter
rails server

And then get to work.

Note to rvm users.

Workspace works fine with rvm, with one exception: shims.

Fortunately, you can still use the rest of Workspace, including ws exec, to run commands on your remote machines. I've got a handy shell alias set up for that to cut down on the typing:

echo 'alias r="ws exec"' >> ~/.bash_profile
source ~/.bash_profile

Which means that this now works just fine:

cd ~/ws/thwitter
r rails server

Why, you ask? rvm hooks into the shell very deeply, in order to ensure that it comes before anything else in your $PATH, and it checks -- early and often -- to ensure that you have no other gods before rvm.

Since ws shim also wants to be before stuff in your $PATH, there's a pretty clear conflict of interest. But since Workspace doesn't hook into the shell at all, rvm shoves it out of the way in short order.

I don't have a clear path (ha-ha) to resolve this at present, so if you're using rvm, shims are out for you.

But, if you're an rvm expert and can tell me how I can make this work -- or better yet, want to submit a pull request -- then I'd be very happy to update Workspace to offer full support for rvm.

Extra Free Stuff!

If you have a machine that you regularly develop on, you can set it as the default host for new projects:

ws set host [hostname]

Workspace also provides a one-level namespace so you can, for example, separate out client projects. This will put my project in ~/ws/lispers/thwitter:

ws add jayne lispers

If I want to unmount that project:

ws down lispers/thwitter

And I can bring all the projects for that client back up with:

ws up lispers/%

Or you can just shell in as well:

cd ~/ws/project
ws shell

See ws help for more details.

Speeding Things Up

Add the following to your ~/.ssh/config:

# Re-use connections.
ControlMaster auto
ControlPath ~/.ssh/tmp/%r@%h:%p
ControlPersist yes

# Use a faster cipher by default.
Ciphers blowfish-cbc,aes128-cbc,3des-cbc,cast128-cbc,arcfour,aes192-cbc,aes256-cbc

# Maximum data-squeeziness.
Compression yes
CompressionLevel 6


Painless-ish development environments via SSH.




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