My Development Setup

I've been seeing a lot of these going around lately and thought it might be fun to write up my own. I have no idea if this is typical or super bizarre, but it has worked extremely well for me for the last few years.

Development Hardware

  • Raspberry Pi 4
  • KODI Raspberry Pi 4 Case: Link
  • Fideco M.2 NVME External Enclosure: Link
  • WD Blue SN550 1TB SSD: Link
  • Anker Powered USB hub: Link
Beautiful collection of loose wires

Traditionally I've been a desktop person for doing Serious Work ™ but most jobs have gotten rid of the desktop option. With the lockdown and remote work becoming the new normal, it's unlikely we are ever going back to a desktop lifestyle. However, the benefits for me of a desktop still remain, which are a stable target of hardware that lets me maintain the same virtual terminal for weeks or months, easily expandable storage and enough CPU and memory to let it sit unattended.

While the $75 Raspberry Pi 4 probably doesn't seem like it would fall into that category, it is actually plenty fast for the work I do with the exception of Docker. Writing Terraform, Python and Go is fast and pleasant, the box itself is extremely stable and with the new option to boot off of USB, I have tons of storage space and a drive that is work ready with lots of read/writes for me. While the Raspberry Pi 4 as my headless work machine started as a bit of a lark, it's grown into an incredibly useful tool. There are also a lot of Docker images available for the Raspberry Pi 4 out of the box.


I know there are more options for Raspberry Pi OS than ever before, but I've stuck with Rasbian for a number of years now. A number of other folks swear by Ubuntu, but I've had enough negative experiences that I'm soured on that ecosystem. Raspbian has been plenty stable for development work, mostly getting rebooted for kernel upgrades.

I have no opinion on the merits of Vim vs emacs, I've only ever used Vim and at this point my interest in learning a new text editor is extremely low. Vim works reliably, never seems to introduce anything I would consider to be a shocking change in behavior. I understand that Vim vs NeoVim is really a conversation about community based development vs a single maintainer, but in general I don't really care until I'm forced to care.

If you are interested in learning how to use Vim, there are a ton of great resources. Vim itself has a tutorial but I've never seen newcomers get a lot out of it. For me Vim didn't click until I worked my way through the Vim Bible. In terms of hours saved in my life, working through that book might be one of the best decisions I ever made for my career. Easily thousands of hours saved. If you prefer a more practical tutorial I love Vim Golf.

  • Tmux terminal multiplier

I used Tmux a few hundred times a week and have nothing but good things to say about it. For those who don't know, Tmux allows you to have several terminal windows open and active at the same time, while still allow you to disconnect leaving them running. This means when I start working in the morning, I connect to my existing Tmux session and all of my work is still there. You can do things like run long-running scripts in the background, etc. It's great and you can get started using it here: Tmux tutorial.

  • Environmental variable management with direnv

I might be the last person on earth to discover this. For a long time I've been overloading my ~/.profile with all the different environmental variables needed to do my work. Since I spend a lot of time working with and testing CICD pipeline, serverless applications, etc, environmental variables and their injections are how a lot of application configuration is handled. Direnv is great, letting you dynamically load and unload those values per project by directory, meaning you never need to think if a program isn't working because you accidentally used the same environmental variable twice.

  • Manage my various dotfiles with chezmoi

Chezmoi is an interesting tool and one whose utility is so obvious that I'm shocked nobody made it before now. It's a tool that allows you to manage all of those various configuration files with git, a tool you likely use a hundred times a day anyway. Basically you add dotfiles to a repo with the chezmoi tool, push them to a remote repo and then pull them down again on a new machine or just keep them updated across all your various work devices.

None of this is too amazing if all it did was make a git repo, but it also includes tools like templates to deploy different defaults to different machines as shown here. It also does all the hard work to make secret management as easy as possible, integrating with my favorite password manager 1Password. See how that works here. With Chezmoi the time I spent customizing my configurations to match my workflow exactly is not time wasted when I switch jobs or laptops and I can easily write setup scripts to get a new Raspberry Pi or Raspbian install back to exactly how I want it without having to make something like an Ansible playbook.

I just started using Starship a few weeks ago, and I'm still not sure if I love it. Typically, this sort of stuff annoys me, overwhelming my terminal window with useless information. But I have to say the team behind this tool really nailed it.

Very simple and easy to read

Without any configuration the tool understood my AWS region from my AWS Config file, told me my directory and otherwise got out of my way.

Even reminds me I'm inside of a virtual environment for python!

Inside a Git repo it tracked my git status, Python version for this project and even let me set a fun emoji for Python which definitely isn't required, but I also don't hate. One problem I ran into was not showing emojis by default correctly. I solved this by installing this font and setting it to be my font in iTerm. However, if that doesn't work Starship has more troubleshooting information here.

I use SSH all the time, my keys all have passphrases, but I hate entering them a million times a day. Keychain manages all that for me and is one of the first things I install.

If you write in a language where you want to trigger some action when a file changes, entr will save you from rerunning the same six commands in the terminal a thousand times. I'll use this constantly when writing any compiled language.

Moreutils is a collection of tools that you would think came out of the box. Tools like sponge which write standard input to a file, isutf8 which just checks if a file is utf8 and more. I use sponge on a weekly basis at least and love all these tools.

CLI tool to work with PDFs. I've used this in serious business applications all without issue for years. Lets you combine/modify PDFs in shell scripts.

I work with Git and GitHub all day every day. Hub lets me do more with GitHub, almost everything I would normally do through the web UI through the terminal. While I like GitHub's interface quite a bit, this just saves me time during the day and keeps me from breaking out from my task and get distracted from what I'm doing. For GitLab users this seems to be roughly the same: link

When you work with web applications in Docker, you spend a lot of time curling to see if stuff is working. I use this for healthchecks, metrics endpoints, etc. So imagine my pleasure at discovering a nicer to read curl with httpie. With options like --session= which lets you simulate having a consistent session and --offline to simulate the request without sending it off. I use this tool all the time.

I use man a lot with my command line tools, but sometimes I don't want to get into all the millions of options a tool has and just want some examples of commonly used things. For that, tldr can save me some time and tealdeer is a very nice interface for those pages.

Datamash is one of the weirder tools I use. Basically it allows you to run operations against txt files and sometimes do analysis of those files even if the format is messed up. I'm not exactly sure how it works, but sometimes it really saves me a ton of time with stranger files.

If you work locally with remote APIs, get ngrok. It handles all the tunneling for you, allowing you to simulate basically having a publically available server on your local laptop. It has revolutionized my workflow and I cannot recommend it highly enough.