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Developing Web Apps On Windows


One thing that always bothered me when developing on Windows was the limits I had when it came to the hosts file. You can setup your local development and use localhost with subdirectories easy enough, but what if you want to setup your own domains? Out of the box the only option is to edit your hosts file for every new domain you want to add. That just seemed like such an unnecessary step to me.

In the past I overcame that limitation by running Treewalk on my computer. Treewalk is a Bind implemntation for Windows. This worked out great, but really seemed like an over kill. My whole goal was to simply set up a custom top level domain for my system and create new domains off of that. In my case I wanted to set up a .dev TLD. Hosts won't let me do wildcards and Treewalk became way too much for such a simple task.

Finally I got tired of going through all that and spent half a day on the Google and finally found a much better solution - Acrylic DNS Proxy. So what is Acrylic? I'll let them tell you:

Acrylic is a local DNS proxy which improves the performance of your computer by caching the responses coming from your DNS servers.

When you browse a Web page a portion of the loading time is dedicated to name resolution (usually from a few milliseconds to 1 second) while the rest is dedicated to the transfer of the page contents to your browser. What Acrylic does is to reduce the time dedicated to name resolution for frequently visited addresses closest to zero possible. It may not seem such a great optimization but in a few weeks of internet browsing you will probably save an hour or so, which is definitely not such a bad thing. With Acrylic you can also gracefully overcome short downtimes of your DNS servers without disrupting your work, because in this case you will at least be able to connect to your favourite websites and to your e-mail server. In addition Acrylic can help you to effectively block unwanted ads prior to their download through the use of HOSTS files, optimizing your navigation experience even further.

Another good thing is that Acrylic is released as open source, which means that it's completely free and its source code, written in ObjectPascal with Borland Delphi 7, is freely available to anyone under the GNU General Public License.

With Acrylic you now have a much more powerful hosts file, allowing special characters like * and ?. Now I have a simple entry in this new hosts file, giving me my own .dev TLD for my development system: *.dev

I've been using the system for a few months now and couldn't be happier with it. If I start working on a new site I just got to create the VHost directive now. When I'm working on a site with multiple subdomains, like Crooks and Liars, I can setup a wildcard alias for the VHost. Everything is simple and sweet again.