The Adventures of Systems Boy!

Confessions of a Mac SysAdmin...

Web Programming and MacFUSE

I'm not a web programmer by any means. But a component of the department I work in deals with the web from an artistic standpoint, and a subset of that group does, in fact, do programming. We have web programming classes.

Recently, one of the teachers of one of those classes made the charge that our approach to web programming is old and outmoded. Whether this is true or not is not really the issue. I've been looking for new ways to think about the systems end of that workflow because, well, that's my job, and because it's an inherently interesting challenge to me. How can we make our web development environment more user-friendly?

One general suggestion has been to make the experience more "OS-like." And one step in this direction is to have the web server mount on the Desktop, allowing the developer to work on her site as if it were local. That is, rather than firing up one of the popular SFTP clients and transferring files back and forth from the local machine to the server, the developer could mount her site — or actually, the share her site lives on — directly on the local filesystem. I have two options here: MacFUSE and NFS. I'm testing both currently. So far I've had a couple minor hiccups with MacFUSE's, but it looks to be a fairly smart and user-friendly implementation that web developers here might benefit from. And the NFS approach would work well also, though only from inside the network.

I'm curious what other Lab Admins are doing with regards to web development in their environments. How have you facilitated ease-of-use for a process that's inherently complicated? Or have you? Also, I'm curious if anyone is using MacFUSE — specifically the sshfs component — and what experiences you might have had with it, either positive or negative.

If any of you fine readers have any thoughts on this I would really love to hear them. I've been querying students, staff and faculty for ideas, but haven't come up with much. Maybe things here are perfect, but somehow I doubt it. And, as always, I really just want to make things better.

Please sound off in the comments if you're so inclined.

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9:50 AM

Are these personal computers or lab computers?

I've always had a struggle with this one. In the lab setup, you don't want them to lose their work ever, and doing whatever you can to mount the dev storage as a drive makes total sense. (I've heard some mention of colleagues at NCSU trying sshfs+MacFuse in lab settings, but nothing really definitive)

However, the educational part of me likes the "develop here, upload here" model even when it's cumbersome, because it teaches the students (or tries to) that there's a difference between local and remote resources, and it teaches adaptability and good workflow practices. If it there own laptops/studio desktops, then I'm all for them learning how to create a small local development environment, and use something like a class subversion server as a deployment tool.

Of course, all that's complicated itself and not all that germane usually to the constraints of the class, so volume mount away! :-)    

10:55 AM


Hey, thanks for the comments.

I'm mainly concerned with lab computers. People are using MAMP on their home systems, I'm told, but MAMP just doesn't work in our lab.

And I totally agree with teaching students the difference between local and remote, and all the workflow practices you're talking about, and I do worry that that gets lost with locally mounted network shares. And part of me is against the idea of local development precisely because I don't think it's what's done in the industry where these kids are headed. But something tells me the process could be better — more sensible and straightforward — in our lab and, perhaps, even in the industry. Or maybe this happens less on the systems side and more in how this stuff is taught. I'm still in the generating ideas stage, really.

In any case, from my end it's probably more about providing options at this point. Giving users and students the option to mount the dev drive locally doesn't preclude them from doing things the old fashioned way. Then it just becomes up to the teachers to decide how best to teach.

Anyway, just thinking out loud. Thanks again for the comment. Sometimes it's good to have a sounding board.


5:42 PM

Check out MacFusion, the GUI for MacFUSE. It gives you a little menu extra to toggle ssh/ftp drives, etc.

Mac FUSION    

11:57 AM

Thanks, MatX. I'll check it out.


4:15 PM

I'm just starting to learn about MacFUSE and, by extension, MacFusion. Could you post back when you have more relevant info? Maybe just a little more sense of how it's all working for you, if/when it is?


2:00 PM

Mac Doctor,

I've posted a follow-up to my MacFUSE article. I hope you find it useful.

BTW, thanks for the post idea. Lately I've had no time to even consider what would make a good post. Great to have someone just hand me an easy idea.


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