Let me just put this right out there; Virtual Machines are awesome, but not
for me in this use case.

For the last 6 or so months I have been developing in separate environments.
Using VMware Fusion for Mac OSX has enabled me to create virtual computers that
facilitate complete separation between my main machine and dev environments.
I will explain what I did followed by why and how it worked out.

The creation of an OSX Mountain Lion VM is painless. After creation I went in
and removed a bunch of non-necessary apps. After all, I was mainly interested in
using the VM to develop, not manage pictures or play with GarageBand. Removing
the unnecessary apps made the VM footprint a lot smaller, which was another nice
side effect.

I keep most of my important configurations in a version control system called
git. I store these repositories at Github, which makes retrieving and
subsequently installing them super easy. Once the machine was provisioned with
my configurations, I used my laptop script to install the apps and packages I
use for developing and managing.

Up to this point I have a few hours invested and I figure I can make a copy of
VM for future use. Lets call it the base VM. From here I can experiment with
new packages, modules and code. I install items without regard for my system as
I can simply roll back the changes or start anew. Life is good...

The problem I have experienced with this setup is managing what is installed,
where it is installed and how to keep track of it all. This gets really
complicated when I have 4 or 5 VM's that are purpose built for different
programming languages and/or tools. I often need to modify my path or another
config file, for example, in each VM. This is a managerial nightmare as I have
4 or 5 different dotfile configurations to stay on top of. Yuck.

What I've found is that I am unable to really stay on top of each VM and my main
machine when I really just want to focus on getting something done. Conversely,
I can't get anything done when I spend all my time making sure all of the repos
are up to date. Houston we have a problem.

My hat is off to those of you with more than one computer and also manage to
keep everything sane. I have toyed around with the idea of one main computer and
another traveling computer or something like that. This experiment has taught me
that I am a one computer man. I guess my particular OCD dictates that I keep my
config files up to date and if my computer blows up, I can simply move to another...
but not more than one at a time.

472 words ~ 2 min read

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