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TLDR: Use one machine as full-time online server, and sporadically as workstation with monitor attached: what software setup, considering ease of use and security?


A little bit of context: I just bought parts for a PC build that our team will be using as a server to make builds, run tests, run gitlab, publish complete software packages, host the website. Now that I came to think of about: it would be nice to use this horsepower for good and let me use it as a high performance workstation as well, in comparison to my 5 y/o MacBook Pro.

Question: So, what should I use as software setup (OS, virtualisation, software, ...) to make this work nicely? I'd like to be able to log off my account, and have all server processes keep running. I'd even like to completely stop all workstation-related processes (GUI, login screen, etc).

My thoughts: I'm guessing some virtualisation, as we don't want potential vulnerabilities in the HTTP server to expose our entire internals. LXD/Docker? I'm guessing you would want to run the workstation in some virtualised environment, to make sure that if I'm interacting with it, the server is pretty much guaranteed to remain operational, even if I make the server crash? Or would that not by any of your concern, since I'd mainly run vim/gcc when I'm working.

  • Just don't. Hardware is cheap. Buy a proper workstation, buy a proper server or use linode.com or amazon or some other VPS provider – ivanivan Dec 6 '17 at 13:13
  • @ivanivan: "Hardware is cheap"... No? 900 euro for this server is a lot, given we are a small team of 3 university students, in the middle of a startup. – Martijn Courteaux Dec 6 '17 at 13:33
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    While we're not "hardware consultants" here or give advice for general machine setup: you don't want your development workstation being a remote, believe me. The horsepower might be there, but the latency will kill you in the long run – especially when working with graphics-heavy GUIs. Several companies I worked for tried that (thin clients and centrally hosted VMs mainly). All of them are back to "local metal" for their developers due to massive drops in productivity. – Izzy Dec 6 '17 at 16:44

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