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What's the difference between VirtualHostX and Hobo?

Friday, January 23, 2015

This morning, a user emailed me with the following question...

I just noted your new app Hobo. With local virtural machines, is VirturalHostX still part of the mix? I'm confused as to how these two apps might intergrate, if at all.

I took a few minutes and sent a long overview of when you might use each product and how they relate. I'm posting my reply below because I thought other long-time VirtualHostX customers might like to know, too.

Here's how it all breaks down...

If you want to use the web server that is built into your Mac, or you want to use MAMP, you can use VirtualHostX to configure those two web servers to use virtual hosts - so you can test more than one website at a time.

Hobo, on the other hand, is a tool built on top of an open source project called Vagrant. Vagrant lets you very easily create and manage virtual machines on your Mac. A virtual machine is a completely independent, fully self-contained computer running inside your Mac. Anything you do to your Mac won't effect your virtual machine. And anything you do inside your virtual machine won't effect your Mac. The benefit of using a virtual machine is that you can install an operating system like Linux and setup the machine to exactly 100% mirror your real web server running on the internet. This gives you confidence that whatever works locally inside your virtual machine, will work exactly the same way when you publish your website online.

For web developers like you, another benefit of using a virtual machine is what I said above. Nothing you do on your Mac can interfere with it. So, if you've ever installed an OS X update from Apple, only to find that their updated screwed up your virtual hosts, this won't ever happen with a virtual machine.

All that said, setting up a virtual machine really is like having your own web server inside your Mac. And that does typically require some extra technical know-how to setup.

With Hobo, someone with that technical know-how can setup a virtual machine exactly they way they like it, and then share a .hobo file with their employees or friends. Those people then just open that .hobo file and Hobo creates the virtual machine for them exactly the way the other person set it up. This lets the non-technical user get started without having to know any server setup knowledge.

To make getting started easy, we offer a few example .hobo files that do standard things like install WordPress. You're welcome to use our example .hobo files, or you can create your own, or you can continue to use VirtualHostX as you always have :)

Later this year, I'll be updating VirtualHostX to allow it to reach inside your Hobo virtual machines and configure them the same way you use it to configure your Mac. But that's all still a few months away.

Sorry for the long winded response. But I wanted to be sure to start from the beginning in case you hadn't used a virtual machine before :)

Do let me know if you have any questions.