Simplify Local Development with Dnsmasq

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Ever wanted to be able to set up your local domains instantly and never have to worry about your /etc/hosts again? Me too! A bit of looking around and I discovered a wealth of information about a small DNS Forwarder called DNSMASQ.

So, this is great. We have our solution - it’s a tiny program barely taking 700KB of RAM, and it’s a cinch to set up. By the end of this post, you will have a working TLD for use with your local development applications. No more playing with your /etc/hosts file every time you want to add a new domain.

In this tutorial, I will be focusing on Mac as it is the OS I use, however, the instructions should be fairly similar on linux. It has been tested in Mountain Lion and should work without a hiccup all the way down to Leopard (probably lower).

First of all, if you haven’t installed it already, we will install homebrew - the missing package manager for OS X. To install, just follow the instructions available on the homepage or just copy and paste this snippet into terminal:

/usr/bin/ruby -e "$(/usr/bin/curl -fksSL https://raw.github.com/mxcl/homebrew/master/Library/Contributions/install_homebrew.rb)"

Once brew is installed, we’ll install dnsmasq using brew install dnsmasq

Next, let’s activate dnsmasq. Homebrew should have output some hints on how to get started, but in case you missed it should be something along these lines.

cp /usr/local/Cellar/dnsmasq/2.57/dnsmasq.conf.example /usr/local/etc/dnsmasq.conf
sudo cp /usr/local/Cellar/dnsmasq/2.57/homebrew.mxcl.dnsmasq.plist /Library/LaunchDaemons
sudo launchctl load -w /Library/LaunchDaemons/homebrew.mxcl.dnsmasq.plist

Brilliant, now let’s modify our configuration file at /usr/local/etc/dnsmasq.conf:

We’ll add two rules. The first is the address, or TLD, we will listen to. In this case we will use .dev, but you can use anything (except .local - not a good idea)

address=/dev/127.0.0.1
listen-address=127.0.0.1

To start and stop dnsmasq, simply use

sudo launchctl stop homebrew.mxcl.dnsmasq && sudo launchctl start homebrew.mxcl.dnsmasq

However, I found it even easier to just kill the script in the Activity Monitor. For the final step, add 127.0.0.1 as a name server in System Preferences -> Network -> Advanced -> DNS. You can add it along with some other DNS records, just make sure it’s at the top. For example, I use Google’s Public DNS - 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4.

Now in whichever language you are writing in, you should be able to easily set up your virtual hosts for use on the .dev TLD. You should be even able to see your name server setup using scutil --dns.

References:


Questions? Ask me on Twitter or in my repo.