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Need help (LINUX): How to run VSCode on a remote ubuntu cloud server?

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Hello everybody!

I'm trying and trying and can't seem to get this working. I've recently been evaluating different cloud providers and while playing around with all this fancy, scalable, flexible (and quite cheap!) cloud stuff I thought, "what if I created an Ubuntu dev server for all my web development?". That's nothing new, you might think, and you are partly right, because that's what we are all doing with our live servers. BUT: I wanted to access the whole dev server remotely with a GUI, so that I can install and use VSCode directly on the server. That would have major benefits to my current setup (local Win10 laragon + VSCode).

The pains:

  • I have to keep VSCode in sync between different machines (Desktop, Laptop, weekend home)
  • I need to take care of backups
  • When I share work with clients my PC has to be turned on (ngrok)
  • It's a windows system and not always behaving same as my linux live server
  • Slooooooow internet connection at my weekend home in the mountains...

That would all be solved if I could move my dev environment to the cloud. Of course, I'd need an internet connection (so it wouldn't work that great in a train/airplane), but that's fine I guess. Currently I'm using a VSCode extension to map remote file systems via SSH into the IDE. That works great for little edits, but it has three major drawbacks:

  • I still need to keep different VSCode installations in sync (themes, settings, extensions, php path variables etc... you know all that)
  • I don't have a "search in files" feature, which is VERY important for my work
  • I don't have code intellisense available for the project, which is also very important

That's why I thought: Why not use something like a remote desktop, install a desktop on the Ubuntu server and use it from wherever I want, always with my common settings and highspeed internet. I failed 😞 I'm not good at linux, so maybe it was my fault, but I could not get a remote connection working properly via xrdp/rdp. Via teamviewer I got only 800x600 screen resolution (was not able to change that) and the commercial license is too expensive. Also VNC did not seem to be a good option (didn't try that, though).

Then a friend of mine mentioned X11-forwarding and a tool called MobaXterm. It's a tool where you can forward the program's execution from the host via SSH and display the GUI on the client. Awesome. Exactly what I'd need. Have a look at MobaXterm, it seems to be a great alternative to WinSCP or Putty or FileZilla. I managed to run the xclock program of the Ubuntu 18.04 host server on my Win10 client. Very nice! But unfortunately I couldn't get vscode to run 😞

error while loading shared libraries: libXtst.so.6: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

I have no idea what that means. It seems that the X11 server I'm using on Windows does not work for vscode. I found this issue: https://github.com/Microsoft/vscode/issues/65232 where byates says:

Quote

We run VSCode remotely from WIndows machines to Linux boxes. Normally we use MobaXterm or Bitvise with VcXsrv. Prior to v1.30 this works very well. The upgrade to 1.30 broke something so that now we can't resize or move the VSCode application window.

So it seems to be possible. Some comments seem to confirm that. But I don't know how to use MobaXterm with VcXsrc and I can't comment the issue on Github to get some help of those users 😞

Maybe some linux gurus here can help me with this problem? Maybe someone likes the idea of having a remove coding environment (also found https://coder.com/ ) and wants to try this himself? Especially the VSCode Users on Windows? @kongondo

Thank you!

PS: This video shows what I'm talking about (using Putty: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNuXpk10zXE )

 

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Wow... that video is old... but as I see it I remember things I have tried to do with Cygwin (https://www.cygwin.com/) a decade (or so) ago.

Back to your question... I recently had similar thoughts and ideas and started trying things.

  1. Virtual machine
  2. Docker
  3. WSL (Windows Subsystem Linux)

At first I installed Linux in a virtual machine (to save that cloud hosting step) which worked quite well. It ran stable and almost fast enough but even those tiny tiny lags annoyed me that much that I just stopped trying. If a virtual machine can't do it... how should it work via internet and via SSH or whatever? I would need a super fast 1Gbit line but all I get is just enough for Netflix. 😉

Haven't done anything with Docker yet but installed the WSL and play around with it at the moment. I try to find a workflow that involves my tools, Git (github or Bitbucket) and some kind of easy sync to my hosting-destinations.

To be honest... I'm far away from a perfect or even reliable solution.

Unless I have to update things in the database - SSH and git on my hosting is almost enough to get things updated within a minute or so.

Local Laragon -git-> dev.devdomain.tld -git-> clientorprojectdomain.tld

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40 minutes ago, wbmnfktr said:

Unless I have to update things in the database - SSH and git on my hosting is almost enough to get things updated within a minute or so.

Maybe you want to give (Rock)Migrations a try 🙂 I usually just do a git pull (and modules refresh) and that's it. But as I said (or tried to), that's not the problem. The problem is that I have 3 machines that I want to use for development and all should have the same experience with no effort. That could work when the environment is centralized. But maybe I want too much...

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That migration-thing is nothing I want to use a module for while syncing dev/test/stage/qa/live environments.

I used to use Site Profile Exporter for the most part but once in a while - my own projects - I need a different way that just works of some kind I still try to figure out. But yes... I could and should give your module a try.

Besides that... your wish of an independet environment is exactly what I'm looking for as well. Right now im tinkering on a old Thinkpad from 2008, an hour ago I was on a X1 and an hour before that I used my Surface... I wish I could just fire up or log in to whatever to have my dev-environment but actually I haven't found anything that really works.

I thought about https://shadow.tech/ and installing everything on that system but still I'd need a fast internet connection which isn't always available. I also thought about slimming down my dev-setup that much that I could easily sync it as a package through Dropbox, OneDrive or any similar solution. VS Code is available as portable version but my Laragon folder is about 6GB which could be a show-stopper somehow.

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8 hours ago, bernhard said:

Slooooooow internet connection at my weekend home in the mountains...

I wish I had that problem too lol #1stWorldCodingProblems

As everything in VS Code, there will be extension to solve your problem.

Have you looked at this?

https://marketplace.visualstudio.com/items?itemName=Shan.code-settings-sync

Or if you want the same Development experience no matter the machine or location, have you considered setting a dev environment in Docker?

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Personally I'd look into making rdp work and maybe even just tunnel it over ssh and not even caring about securing the rdp service (port opening and stuff like that). I really like rdp for it's "virtual desktop" approach, which is way more sane than sending basically a video of the server side monitor. X11-forwarding afaik works similar, but I'd rather try to emulate rdp on the linux system then X11 on windows (or potentially other clients) 😄

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8 hours ago, wbmnfktr said:

Maybe way to linux-ish but... that will work even on a poor SSH connection.

Thx. That seems to solve the intellisense issue, but really like VSCode and want to use it for my everyday work 🙂 

2 hours ago, FrancisChung said:

As everything in VS Code, there will be extension to solve your problem.

Have you looked at this?

https://marketplace.visualstudio.com/items?itemName=Shan.code-settings-sync

Or if you want the same Development experience no matter the machine or location, have you considered setting a dev environment in Docker?

Thx Francis,

both solutions do only solve one problem (but not all). I have a settings sync extension in place, but it does not work perfectly. I also need to install VSCode on all machines and - that's the worst part - need to copy over all files+DB before I can switch the machine. I need to make sure that all installations are the same (same php versions, same php path etc). It works. It's my current setup. But it sucks 😉 

I have no experience with docker, but wouldn't that have similar problems and just solve the problem of having different setups? I'd still need to setup all my VSCode instances, php executable paths, install composer, npm etc....

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56 minutes ago, bernhard said:

I have no experience with docker, but wouldn't that have similar problems and just solve the problem of having different setups? I'd still need to setup all my VSCode instances, php executable paths, install composer, npm etc....

I only did a basic course years ago, but once you build a Container with all your dev env set up, it's just a matter of using that same container in different machines.

Any future updates or changes, you can just do it the reference container and reuse the same container in as many places as you wish.

Also, sounds like an awesome excuse to try out Docker and see if you like. I know a friend whos been doing this for years and always trying to get me to do it, but laziness wins sensibility most of the time 🙂

UPDATE : Looks like coder solves the running vscode in Docker problem
 

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1 hour ago, FrancisChung said:

laziness wins sensibility most of the time 🙂

Unless of course, you get your German mate to set up coder in a server running in his lounge room (he did it in like under 10mins) and first impressions are pretty impressive.

I'm using Coder from Australia connecting to a home server in Germany, and the limited experience I have is pretty good. Latency is expected but better than I thought.

I haven't installed extensions that I normally use and I should sftp across a project I'm working on to fully test it out. But just opening/editing files seem pretty good so far.

A bit busy at the moment, but when I get a chance to test it out in anger, will let you know.

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On 4/26/2019 at 1:55 PM, bernhard said:

Hello everybody!

I'm trying and trying and can't seem to get this working. I've recently been evaluating different cloud providers and while playing around with all this fancy, scalable, flexible (and quite cheap!) cloud stuff I thought, "what if I created an Ubuntu dev server for all my web development?". That's nothing new, you might think, and you are partly right, because that's what we are all doing with our live servers. BUT: I wanted to access the whole dev server remotely with a GUI, so that I can install and use VSCode directly on the server. That would have major benefits to my current setup (local Win10 laragon + VSCode).

The pains:

  • I have to keep VSCode in sync between different machines (Desktop, Laptop, weekend home)
  • I need to take care of backups
  • When I share work with clients my PC has to be turned on (ngrok)
  • It's a windows system and not always behaving same as my linux live server
  • Slooooooow internet connection at my weekend home in the mountains...

That would all be solved if I could move my dev environment to the cloud. Of course, I'd need an internet connection (so it wouldn't work that great in a train/airplane), but that's fine I guess. Currently I'm using a VSCode extension to map remote file systems via SSH into the IDE. That works great for little edits, but it has three major drawbacks:

  • I still need to keep different VSCode installations in sync (themes, settings, extensions, php path variables etc... you know all that)
  • I don't have a "search in files" feature, which is VERY important for my work
  • I don't have code intellisense available for the project, which is also very important

That's why I thought: Why not use something like a remote desktop, install a desktop on the Ubuntu server and use it from wherever I want, always with my common settings and highspeed internet. I failed 😞 I'm not good at linux, so maybe it was my fault, but I could not get a remote connection working properly via xrdp/rdp. Via teamviewer I got only 800x600 screen resolution (was not able to change that) and the commercial license is too expensive. Also VNC did not seem to be a good option (didn't try that, though).

Then a friend of mine mentioned X11-forwarding and a tool called MobaXterm. It's a tool where you can forward the program's execution from the host via SSH and display the GUI on the client. Awesome. Exactly what I'd need. Have a look at MobaXterm, it seems to be a great alternative to WinSCP or Putty or FileZilla. I managed to run the xclock program of the Ubuntu 18.04 host server on my Win10 client. Very nice! But unfortunately I couldn't get vscode to run 😞


error while loading shared libraries: libXtst.so.6: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

I have no idea what that means. It seems that the X11 server I'm using on Windows does not work for vscode. I found this issue: https://github.com/Microsoft/vscode/issues/65232 where byates says:

So it seems to be possible. Some comments seem to confirm that. But I don't know how to use MobaXterm with VcXsrc and I can't comment the issue on Github to get some help of those users 😞

Maybe some linux gurus here can help me with this problem? Maybe someone likes the idea of having a remove coding environment (also found https://coder.com/ ) and wants to try this himself? Especially the VSCode Users on Windows? @kongondo

Thank you!

PS: This video shows what I'm talking about (using Putty: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNuXpk10zXE )

 

I'm doing something similar with MobaXterm. My dev machine for this project is an Acer W10 laptop, then I use MobaXTerm's VNC (as well as SSH & SFTP tools) to remote into a CentOS 7 server running TigerVNC server. If using VNC, you should set it to only serve on localhost, then you're SSH-ing into that securely. Haven't tried VcXsrc, but VNC in this setup has no noticeable latency.

While I also have Ubuntu running though Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) on my dev machine, the MobaXTerm tools wrap up the remote access tools in a decent desktop GUI, and also serve as a good multi-tabbed, configurable terminal frontend to WSL (which appears to use the same basic wretched Windows teminal as CMD.exe). Coder.com looks interesting, will have to check that out!

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Having just set up Settings Sync across just 2 machines, I can see why Bernhard said it is clunky.

Entering Tokens / GistIds for each new configuration is a pain.

Something more integrated or baked into VS Code would be the ideal solution.

Or Coder.com. Will load up my extensions there and see how that goes.

 

Update : I mentioned running Docker in an earlier post. Perhaps it is not the cure-all I thought it was.
https://medium.com/canal-tech/why-using-docker-in-your-local-dev-environment-is-probably-not-a-great-idea-3836c6823d60

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I have a Digital Ocean CentOS cloud server that only exposes the web server and SSH to the outside world, and SSH only with passwordless key-based logins.

Linux has a program sshfs (ssh file system) which allows you to mount a remote directory tree via ssh, and then the mounted files act just like they were local files on your workstation, and you can run vscode on your workstation using the sshfs mounted filesystem as the workspace.  sshfs has a user/group map file you can use to properly map the user account from your workstation to the user/group account on the server, so files you edit/create end up with the proper file ownership on the server.

The hitch in the gitalong is that I've never found a satisfactory sshfs implementation for windows.  I've read there is some sshfs extension for vscode but haven't ever tried it.  For myself, since I have a full-time linux server here that I use as a file server for my windows machines, I also have samba running on the linux machine to expose directory trees to windows, I can sshfs mount the cloud server files to a mount point on my local linux server, then I can expose the sshfs mount point through a samba share to my windows 10 workstaiton, fire up vscode in windows 10, navigate using windows file explorer to the mount point where the remote cloud server is mounted, and voila!  Plus I can open a putty connection to the cloud server and have command-line access to the remote files.

Works for me, ymmv.

 

 

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Hey everybody, thx for all your great input! 🙂

After trying lots of different things, watching lots of youtube videos and reading lots of tutorials and docs I'm one step further (or not 😄 )... 

I've tried devilbox, I've installed ubuntu on my laptop, I've tried nomachine, I have -not- tried https://remmina.org yet (got that hint yesterday from @Christophe ), I've forgotten what else I've tried 😄 Somehow I'm going in circles...

giphy.gif

Everything has its pro's and con's...

 

Ubuntu (18.04)

Really nice experience! VSCode works perfectly and development would be on a linux machine. I'd also learn more about linux, which would always be a good idea. The problem is that I'd then need to maintain 6 environments instead of 3 (3xWin10, 3xUbuntu). Maybe I could do a mix. A friend mentioned https://www.ansible.com/ - but I guess that makes things just even more complicated. I guess some manual work will always be necessary to some extent. Another problem using Ubuntu is the server setup... how to handle different vhosts, different projects, different php versions?

Devilbox

Devilbox should solve that problem. It should also work on all platforms that support docker. But it is quite complicated to setup (compared to laragon, that will even run on a USB drive) and it's quite slow on windows. Apart from that it looks great, especially on ubuntu, so I'll give it a chance!

Nomachine

This is a remote desktop like teamviewer. The connection via SSH is not available in the free version. The screen was recognizably pixelated (the one you know from high jpg compression), so I guess this would not be fun to work with. I've given up this idea of remote editing from one single computer.

 

So after all I get the feeling that the best experience will be to have a local dev environment. Whatever that might be... Another problem is that if you are working in a team environments WILL be different. So devilbox could help in such a scenario, while a single specialized dev-vps that is highly customized for my needs would not help at all.

 

On 4/27/2019 at 11:39 AM, FrancisChung said:

Also, sounds like an awesome excuse to try out Docker and see if you like. I know a friend whos been doing this for years and always trying to get me to do it, but laziness wins sensibility most of the time 🙂

Yeah. Tried docker now and it looks quite nice. Still a little complicated for me, but devilbox builds on docker + docker-compose and I totally get why it is so popular 🙂

18 hours ago, FrancisChung said:

Having just set up Settings Sync across just 2 machines, I can see why Bernhard said it is clunky.

Entering Tokens / GistIds for each new configuration is a pain.

Something more integrated or baked into VS Code would be the ideal solution.

On 4/27/2019 at 12:53 PM, FrancisChung said:

I'm using Coder from Australia connecting to a home server in Germany, and the limited experience I have is pretty good. Latency is expected but better than I thought.

I haven't installed extensions that I normally use and I should sftp across a project I'm working on to fully test it out. But just opening/editing files seem pretty good so far.

Yeah. All those things always sound great at the beginning but then there is some point where you start hitting walls. I was using the portable version for some time, but then It was not integrated in the context menu (I use "open in vscode" quite often) and some other parts where also not perfect (no auto updates, etc... things that you don't realize first but that start getting annoying lateron).

20 hours ago, WinnieB said:

I'm doing something similar with MobaXterm. My dev machine for this project is an Acer W10 laptop, then I use MobaXTerm's VNC (as well as SSH & SFTP tools) to remote into a CentOS 7 server running TigerVNC server. If using VNC, you should set it to only serve on localhost, then you're SSH-ing into that securely. Haven't tried VcXsrc, but VNC in this setup has no noticeable latency.

While I also have Ubuntu running though Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) on my dev machine, the MobaXTerm tools wrap up the remote access tools in a decent desktop GUI, and also serve as a good multi-tabbed, configurable terminal frontend to WSL (which appears to use the same basic wretched Windows teminal as CMD.exe). Coder.com looks interesting, will have to check that out!

Interesting. Maybe Ubuntu was the problem. Or the cloud server setup. Who knows 🙂 

18 hours ago, Doug G said:

I have a Digital Ocean CentOS cloud server that only exposes the web server and SSH to the outside world, and SSH only with passwordless key-based logins.

Linux has a program sshfs (ssh file system) which allows you to mount a remote directory tree via ssh, and then the mounted files act just like they were local files on your workstation, and you can run vscode on your workstation using the sshfs mounted filesystem as the workspace.  sshfs has a user/group map file you can use to properly map the user account from your workstation to the user/group account on the server, so files you edit/create end up with the proper file ownership on the server.

Also very interesting, thx! But does "Find in Folder..." work on that setup? And what about the fuzzy file search (ctrl + P, then type "wir arr")? Does it work? Is it performant? Can't believe that those things are nearly as performant as on a local machine...

aEBWHtS.png

18 hours ago, Doug G said:

The hitch in the gitalong is that I've never found a satisfactory sshfs implementation for windows.  I've read there is some sshfs extension for vscode but haven't ever tried it.  For myself, since I have a full-time linux server here that I use as a file server for my windows machines, I also have samba running on the linux machine to expose directory trees to windows, I can sshfs mount the cloud server files to a mount point on my local linux server, then I can expose the sshfs mount point through a samba share to my windows 10 workstaiton, fire up vscode in windows 10, navigate using windows file explorer to the mount point where the remote cloud server is mounted, and voila!  Plus I can open a putty connection to the cloud server and have command-line access to the remote files.

Works for me, ymmv.

I have some ssh plugins installed. They are good for some special tasks but not more than that. It's not a replacement for a local dev setup. I use one to quickly edit files online (that's great if you need it, just browse the file tree as if it where on your pc, open the file, save it, done) and one to connect to my servers via ssh in the integrated terminal (ctrl + shift + p, type "sshlogin", choose the server and you are logged in).

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Remmina has always worked well for me when I want a visual interface to a remote machine. As @FrancisChung mentions, the probable latency would make remote development aggravating at least regardless of the chosen application.

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I don't have much time to review these.  Not sure if it helps, but here's some of my notes:

Online Editors
  1. https://c9.io/ - Amazon’s Cloud 9
  2. https://www.koding.com/ - can work on local files and sync remotely
  3. https://gitpod.io - open any github page in an online VScode editor that can create a pull request back to github. Uses Docker.  Prefix any github page with https://gitpod.io# ex. https://gitpod.io#https://github.com/arunoda/learnnextjs-demo
Test and Share code - Web based IDE
  1. https://stackblitz.com/ - online VSCode Editor than can run react like CodePen
  2. https://hyperdev.com/ - like http://plnkr.co/ but better to test and share your code
  3. https://codio.com/ - full dev stack testing
Maybe one of these would fit your needs?
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On 4/30/2019 at 4:34 AM, bernhard said:

Maybe Ubuntu was the problem. Or the cloud server setup.

If you're in the mood for trying out a different distro, I can heartily recommend PopOS.

I've been using it for a year now, and I will never go back to OS/X as a dev environment.

https://itsfoss.com/pop-os-linux-review/ 

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10 hours ago, gmclelland said:

I don't have much time to review these.  Not sure if it helps, but here's some of my notes:

Online Editors
[…]

Online Editors/IDE's look great from the outside, but personally I'd rather be in control of my environment. E.g. I had to disable tests in one project for my CD pipeline (and run tests on gitlab instead) for about a year because the platform only supported hardcoded databases, but I needed to run postgres with the (rather popular) postgis extension. They since switched to allow for custom docker containers as additional services, but it show's how limiting platforms can be. At least for me it's hardly just about having a fancy text editor on the web, but there are quite a few more components to a usable dev environment.

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2 hours ago, LostKobrakai said:

At least for me it's hardly just about having a fancy text editor on the web, but there are quite a few more components to a usable dev environment.

Agree after doing a lot of testing during the last days...

Wow, thx for that list @gmclelland! c9 looks promising, but I want to stay with vscode. Something like c9+vscode would be awesome. I decided to stay with a local dev environment for now.

Thx @FrancisChung for the popOS link. I've watched some youtube reviews. It looks nice indeed.

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17 hours ago, FrancisChung said:

PopOS

it's still some kind of a Ubuntu-based distribution. 😉 But yes... they do several things different and right.

I played a lot with linux the past days and to be honest... Ubuntu seems to be the perfect fit for developers (or at least me) as there are so many ready-made packages for Ubuntu or at least .deb packages available. Tried Manjaro in all its flavours (Gnome, KDE, XFCE, i3) but I haven't had the option of packages I wanted. Now on Ubuntu it's a complete different thing. I can change from Gnome to KDE or i3 almost instantly if I wanted.

And in terms of an editor or IDE I saw a lot of really nice things that were done with VIM.

Screenshot-20190501-203241.png.9d68c5a55a774d13349c8063b6ce8e75.png

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Yeah, I'm also running Ubuntu (18.04) on my X1 Carbon. It looks great, it works great... And it would be the exact same OS as most of my servers 🙂 And free, which is also great 🙂 

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+1 for X1 Carbon. Hope yours works the same as on day one. Mine is f*cked up as hell already. 😂

I'm on 19.04 but ok... it's almost the same actually. Gnome is quite slow compared to KDE or XFCE or i3 but it's super customizable which I like. And I know it from the past already. I'd prefer Manjaro but for said reasons Ubuntu seems to be the better choice for now.

My "servers" or hosting environments run under several different systems. From Debian to Ubuntu to WaitWhatIneverHeardOfThat so I really don't care about that.

I tried to to get a new system under control which allows me to establish a workflow of some kind that it's more customizable than Win 10 and I guess I'm almost there. In addition to that I get some of my tools I need. Prepros and ScreamingFrog work way better here than on Windows.

I wrote some .bash scripts to implement my version of Laragon and even git with some aliases and custom .bash scripts seems to work.

I will see if this is my long-time setup or just a journey through another OS.

Free should never be an argument for something. 😉 But that's another story.

Screenshot-20190501-225028.thumb.png.512345c3fe041c494c00ea1ce9768908.png

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9 minutes ago, wbmnfktr said:

I wrote some .bash scripts to implement my version of Laragon and even git with some aliases and custom .bash scripts seems to work.

Laragon? On Linux? Or what are you talking about? 😮

10 minutes ago, wbmnfktr said:

+1 for X1 Carbon. Hope yours works the same as on day one. Mine is f*cked up as hell already. 😂

Don't work often with it. Only when I'm at clients and then I mostly do just taking notes etc...

14 minutes ago, wbmnfktr said:

My "servers" or hosting environments run under several different systems. From Debian to Ubuntu to WaitWhatIneverHeardOfThat so I really don't care about that.

I just try to stick with one - at least as long as I'm more experienced with linux 🙂 

Thank you for the discussion 🙂 

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Just now, bernhard said:

Laragon? On Linux? Or what are you talking about?

I try to create a script that allows me to "rebuild" the Laragon features I liked. Starting the script, entering a name and all I need gets set up. Dev folder, vHost, database, and my pre-built PW profile.

1 minute ago, bernhard said:

Don't work often with it. Only when I'm at clients and then I mostly do just taking notes etc...

You should. It has one of the best keyboards you can get. Unless your keyboard is broken as mine. Military standard was way better on my old X201, X220 than on my X1 but I don't want to blame Lenovo here.

1 minute ago, bernhard said:

I just try to stick with one

I'd like to do so as well but clients prefer to choose their own hosting company.

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