Hackernoon logoHow You Can Set Up Remote Development Workflow With VS Code in Your Browser by@thesanjeetc

How You Can Set Up Remote Development Workflow With VS Code in Your Browser

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@thesanjeetcSanjeet Chatterjee

Member of the Homo Sapien species.

In this guide, I will be walking through VS Code-Server setup with DigitalOcean, as well as tweaks I have used to create a clean, simple workflow.
Code Server runs Visual Studio Code on a remote server, which is accessible through the browser.

Why Do I Need This?

  • Consistent environment: With such a setup, you can code on your Chromebook, tablet, and laptop with a consistent development environment, with a feel-at-home setup.
  • Multi-platform: You will have the power and flexibility of VS Code, accessible from any browser, including tablets.
  • Server-powered: You can take advantage of large cloud servers to speed up tests, compilations, downloads, and more. With this DigitalOcean setup, servers can be scaled up to any size.
  • Battery life: You will preserve battery life when you’re on the go since all intensive computation runs on your server.

The Setup

I have found the following setup very useful, in terms of flexibility, productivity, and cost-efficiency.
  1. Create Droplet from pre-built image, from mobile.
  2. Pull from GitHub for latest update. (startup)
  3. Provide VS Code in browser, with Code-Server.
  4. Do stuff.
  5. Push to GitHub.
  6. Destroy Droplet.

Droplet Creation

For the guide, I have opted to use DigitalOcean due to their simple and intuitive setup process — however, other platforms will also work.
Sign up
To get started, create an account on DigitalOcean, if you don’t already have one.
Create Droplet
Now it’s time to create our Droplet — the virtual server in which VS Code Server will run, as well as your project.
Now hit that create button!
Connect with SSH
Personally, I use Termius, however any SSH client works. Here’s a neat guide by DigitalOcean.

Code-Server Installation

It’s time to set up Code-Server. Head over to the latest releases page and copy the link to the latest release for Linux.
Execute the following commands in the console:
# Download latest release from Github (insert copied link)
wget https://github.com/cdr/code-server/releases/download/{version}/code-server{version}-linux-x64.tar.gz

# Unpack tarball
tar -xvzf code-server{version}-linux-x64.tar.gz

# Run Code Server
cd code-server{version}-linux-x64
./code-server
Retrieve your Droplet’s public IP address from the DigitalOcean control panel and point your browser to http://{PUBLIC IP ADDRESS}:8080/.
Copy the generated password from the console output, and log in to Code-Server.
You should now have full VS Code functionality, directly from your browser — how cool is that?

Customization

Authentication
By default, password authentication is enabled, with a randomly generated password. You can set the PASSWORD environment variable to use your own:
sudo nano /etc/environment

# and append the following:

PASSWORD= “Your Password”
sudo reboot
Extensions
As the official VS Code Marketplace cannot be used, Coder has created a custom marketplace that manages open-source extensions.
Fonts
All fonts work as normal, provided you have them installed on your local machine, as it is your browser that renders the text. For example, FiraCode:

Building Image

Start on boot
For the setup, I added the following cron jobs, in order to have the latest code pulled from GitHub on boot, and available in Code-Server from the get-go.
crontab -e

# And add the following (just an example): 

@reboot cd /root/AwesomeProject && git pull
@reboot /root/code-server[$VERSION]-linux-x86_64/code-server
Take a snapshot
DigitalOcean provides an easy way to create perfect images of servers, from which identical Droplets can be built in the future. Rename and take a snapshot. Once finished, you can destroy your current Droplet.
Rebuild
During the Droplet creation process, click Snapshots and select your newly created image.
Note: Region and base plan settings are restricted to the Droplet from which the snapshot was created.
After creating your Droplet, you should be able to access Code-Server like before, and carry on where you left off.

Going Further

To conclude, now you can start up and access your favorite development setup at a click of a button, regardless of network or computer, with minimal costs accrued.
Personally, I would love to be able to access my DigitalOcean control panel, on-the-go from my phone. There are unofficial apps available that use their API, although with limited functionality. (Android or iOS.)
From testing the Android client, it works well enough for just creating droplets.
Possible upgrades
  • Auto-terminate Droplet using the API after 24 hours, after running Git push, in order to avoid costs from forgetting to destroy running Droplets.
  • Use block storage for programs and development, to preserve exact state since last access, dynamically mounting to new Droplets on creation, in order to avoid constant pushing to GitHub.
Thanks for reading! It would be great to hear your thoughts and suggestions below.

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