If you use a Windows machine, I don’t have a recommended virtual machine but I bet Parallels Workstation is reasonable.
HOLD IT! I’m not going to BUY software!
Then fine, don’t. Enjoy your fiddling. Enjoy tweaking. Enjoy not working. My goal is to just get stuff done. And besides — how much money do you make a year doing this stuff anyway? If you can’t afford $80 in tools to do your job better, you’re doing it wrong. If you really can’t afford it, make the case to your boss. Download the demos and see the value. Don’t have a boss? Then you’re really in trouble.
I say your favorite linux distribution because it really doesn’t matter. The more you know about it, the less time you spend fiddling. For me, that’s CentOS. For you, it could be Dumbledebian 5.4.2 XXL. It doesn’t matter.
First, install your virtual machine. Set it up so it can talk to your computer, and the internet at large.
Next, decide a name for it. I call mine ‘linux’. Fancy, eh?
Now, edit your /etc/hosts file on both your local machine and your VM. Add your VMs IP and point it to ‘linux’. This is important. Now ‘linux’ refers to the VM on both your computer and the VM. That means in your db config, you can say to use ‘linux’ as the host, and it will work locally and remotely.
Here’s my /etc/hosts addition:
Now it’s time for the special sauce. The magic. The thing that makes this all worth it.
For this purpose, I will assume all of your development stuff lives within ~/Projects
On your Mac, export your home directory over your VM’s network (/etc/exports):
Now to assist your path parity (so that things understand where they live, since OS X uses /Users and linux uses /home), what I did was simply symlink /Users to /home on my OS X and symlink /home to /Users on the VM
Restart your nfsd locally, and apache remotely, and remount /home/user on your linux vm, and you should be ready to enjoy some frictionless development. Work locally in your favorite IDE (I like PHPStorm), and via the magic of NFS, your changes are automatically running in an actual linux environment.
If you have (or use) a Brother printer, you know EXACTLY what I am talking about.
EVERY time you restart your computer, you get the obnoxious control center which wants to run an install (on a printer you probably don’t have connected) and takes a minimum of 2 (3 in my case) clicks to dismiss, and it’s slow to boot!
Then you remember, click on the system icon, go to preferences, uncheck display at start up, hit ok, and you’re done.
Then you reboot again and BAM! There’s Brother right back in your face with the obnoxious control center again.
You angrily click through to close it out, go BACK to preferences, UNcheck the startup option, and hit Ok. Now, because you’re NOT crazy, it’s time to make sure it saved what you did. You go BACK to preferences again AND IT IS STILL CHECKED!
But let me share a secret with you.
Let me save your sanity!
Open up a terminal, and type the following:
Now, go back, one last time, into Preferences, and uncheck on startup, and press Ok.
Ok, fine, you can go check it again, but look! It’s listened to you!