The Unchained Developer — Free Your Workflow and Become Device Agnostic

Ben Lobaugh
9 min readMay 5, 2020

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Back in 2011, I was getting frustrated with my aging development machine. It could barely keep up with me, though I resisted getting a new machine, because it can be so frustratingly time-consuming to set up a new machine. As I pondered what to do a thought struck me, “you are a WEB developer Ben…. DUH!!” Right, thanks self. The web does not care what device is connected to it. Why couldn’t I also be device agnostic?

With that in mind, I set off to see if I could truly unchain my development, and work needs, from a specific device and operate from anywhere. Not only was I successful, but I have also been using the same setup for nine years. I have even created patches from my iPhone while riding a city bus to meet a friend for coffee!

If you’ve been pondering the same, I would like to share how, with a little effort and very little cash, you too can become an unchained developer.

I started out with some strict criteria in mind:

  • Cheap
  • Accessible from anywhere
  • Simple file management
  • Strong security
  • FAST
  • Flexible
  • Ability to tap into other systems
  • Smooth editing experience

Step One — Decouple the development environment

Like many developers, I was running a (M/L)AMP stack on my machine. That meant installing Nginx or Apache, MySQL, PHP, and all other necessary packages directly onto my machine, but what is a web server? Generally, for my work, Nginx or Apache, MySQL, and PHP. It was easy enough to transition those components to a remote machine.

After some research, I selected Digital Ocean as my host of choice. Digital Ocean has been very good to me, over the years. Their offerings are easy to understand and their cost is super cheap. I started with the $5/mo server, and, if your criteria are similar to mine, I recommend you do the same.

Ben Lobaugh

Director of Engineering at Mindsize. 20+ year technology veteran. Providing leadership insights, mentorship, and coaching to new and existing leaders.