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What's a low-effort option for a Codidact development machine? Question

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I would like to be able to work with qpixel in a development environment so I could (try to) fix small bugs and build and test locally. I don't have a developer setup now and my OS is apparently too old for some of our tools. Changing the OS on the personal machine on which I depend is not an option.

However, I'd be perfectly happy to get another machine (presumably Linux) for this purpose, ideally one I could connect to remotely instead of needing to clear more table space for another monitor/keyboard/mouse.[1] I'm assuming that this needn't be an expensive proposition; somebody told me it could be done on a Raspberry Pi, for example.

I'm not a hardware or OS tinkerer by inclination. I'm very goal-oriented when it comes to stuff like this, and I'm willing to trade money for time and aggravation. What is the minimum reasonable "off-the-shelf" (or nearly so) hardware and Linux environment that would let me accomplish my goal of a Codidact dev environment?[2]

To clarify "nearly off-the-shelf": I'm fine with "download this thing from here and install it" level of work, but not with "figure out how to get X working at all" and "make these decisions that would require research to do". I don't need the best environment, IDE, etc; I just need something that works, and I don't want to start from bare metal with setting up an OS. Depending on the specifics, I'm probably willing to pay somebody for something that's already mostly set up.


  1. I don't see well enough to be able to just use a laptop for this purpose. ↩︎

  2. Side benefit: maybe I'll want my next personal machine to be Linux, and this seems like a good way to find out what the UI is like. I've only used Linux via ssh, not its desktop environment. ↩︎

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General comments (2 comments)
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While I haven't gotten to doing it myself yet, my recommendation, except for those who have to work totally offline (which would cause problems for any content coming from a CDN or other sources such as Sefaria), my recommendation is to use Amazon Web Services (AWS). This happens to be the same system used for the production environment.

While you do need to have a credit card or other payment method set up to get started, much of the basic level is either totally free or free for 12 months - what Amazon calls Free Tier. This includes:

  • 750 hours of t2.micro or t3.micro (effectively one tiny server on 24/7, but could be more if you turn them on/off as needed) (Need to check specs to see if t2.micro or t3.micro is big enough.)
  • 5 GB S3 storage - enough for a basic system with a bunch of test image uploads, etc.
  • 750 hours of RDS, which means if you want to use a small RDS database instead of running MySQL within EC2, that is an option at no extra charge.
  • 30 GB Elastic Block Storage, which works with EC2.

The alternatives are either a small-but-dedicated Linux system or a virtual machine (e.g., VirtualBox) within a Mac or Windows system.

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General comments (3 comments)

Comments on What's a low-effort option for a Codidact development machine?

General comments
Monica Cellio‭ wrote 6 months ago:

Oh interesting; it didn't occur to me, even though it should have, that I don't need my own hardware for this. I don't know very much about getting set up on AWS; do you tell them "I want an Ubuntu image", or do they give you an endpoint and it's up to you to install an OS, or what? I assume I would have sudo privs on it so I could install whatever I need? (I mean, it's just a VM to them so that should be safe, right?) I don't think I want to try to add a VM to my poor little Mac.

manassehkatz‭ wrote 6 months ago:

Essentially you pick an operating system to install on a server (which can also be one of your own previous servers with other stuff already installed, and can also be a 3rd-party server with particular applications/environment installed). AWS has its own default of sorts (a customized Linux) but you can also install Ubuntu or other things. The primary disadvantage is you are in a (when going beyond the free tier) paid system. The HUGE advantage is not being reliant on your own hardware, plus

manassehkatz‭ wrote 6 months ago:

scalability, backups and many other things.

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