Does it make sense to use a hosted Windows desktop for development?

Maybe this is a goofy idea, I am just thinking about it.

I do casual development on OSX and Windows. I probably do more on OSX but would like access to both environments.

So I’d like to have a windows desktop machine with a full windows dev environment, all kinds of dev tools installed, pointing to my source libraries and storage. And I want it available to me everywhere — at home, at work, on the road, wherever.

Today I have all this set up on my home office machine. But that limits me, I can’t do dev at work, or on the go.

I could carry a windows laptop but…I already carry a Mac laptop and don’t want to walk away from that. I could put a vm on my mac laptop i guess, but I don’t always have a laptop with me, sometimes like today I am tablet-only, but would still like to do some work.

So I am wondering if maybe I should pay for a hosted windows desktop somewhere. And then remote into it from whatever machine I am at right now. But I am seeing prices of $25-40 a month for a full hosted windows desktop and this seems expensive. I am not using this machine 24/7 so I want a price much more suited for casual use.

Of course I could remote into my home machine. But a) this requires me tearing thru firewalls and nat and I find this to be unreliable, and b) this requires me to open up the home machine to remote ops and that makes me a little nervous about security implications, and c) this requires me to really manage that home machine well, keep it backed up and updated and running perfectly, and I tend to want to tinker on that machine and not be held to this level of reliability.

Another alternative is to accept that the entire tool chain just lives on the one machine, and of course I’ll use github or the moral equivalent for source storage, and all I do on other machines is edit. That is not a terrible outcome but I’d like to do better.

What I’d really like is something like which would let me develop win phone apps, as well as a variety of other targets.

Advice welcome!

4 thoughts to “Does it make sense to use a hosted Windows desktop for development?”

  1. Do you think you are *actually* going to do development on a tablet? It’s a nice idea, but practically it sucks (some tasks still do require a keyboard for productivity). I like the idea of cloud IDEs, but for reasons other than accessibility from a tablet.

    I use a MacBook Air with multiple VMs for Windows, Linux. My whole drive (and thus all my machines) is backed up in TimeMachine. With shared folders you can even work on the same codebase simultaneously between multiple systems, which is even better than having to sync through a version control system.

    At this point I personally can’t see using any other setup.

  2. Beginning to see cloud fundamentalists everywhere 🙂

    For your use case renting an EC2 Windows Machine per hour can do the trick?

    I hear someone who needs something along the lines. Because their company built games remotely for consoles and sending the whole game (a DVD with the game + videos + other assets) to Japan (Sony, Nintendo) was slow the best thing was to compile the whole product in Japan and just update the changes via a control version system. Japan and South Korea have big pipes, so a remote machine was the best thing to do.

    In my case I prefer to have a notebook with VMWare to run different operating systems.

  3. Have you considered sharing a full hosted windows desktop with 2-3 of your buddies? Seems like the hosting cost would be reasonable if you split the tab, and your usage pattern seems like it would be so minimal that you’d barely even notice the others, assuming you’re all using it for the same purpose as a remote dev box.

  4. Sebastien that is a cool trick, basically shipping a VM instance around to people. Clever.

    Adam — do I want to do a lot of dev on a tablet? No. Will I sometimes do some minor edits and changes on a tablet? Sure. And more importantly I will do dev from 3 different machines regularly — a desktop at work, a desktop at home, and a laptop. And I’d like to have full access to my source and tools from all. And 2 are macs and 1 is windows, and sometimes I need the full OSX toolset and sometimes I need the Windows toolset. A VM solution is an option and I am thinking about that.

    Someone else suggested just using LogMeIn to get to the Windows machine from anywhere and maybe that is worthwhile as well.

    Thanks for all the ideas!

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