August 03, 2021
Read Time: 6 mins

Setup a restricted machine for node development

Recently I've been asigned an Linux machine with an Ubuntu standard installation for node development. Where all the tools "that I need" are already there.

I can only access this machine using Vmware Horizon, I can not install anything from what is already there, and I can only access the corporate GitHub and the local npm registry. There is no access to Google, StackOverflow, npm, etc.

In theory I can develop in this machine just fine. But since I'm old and old dogs can't learn new tricks I was having a hard time to do so since none of my regular tools was available. Tools like:

  • A heavily configured NeoVim with CoC
  • Zsh with Oh My Zsh
  • VMD to preview markdown files
  • A very stiled tmux terminal multiplexer
  • A very personalized Alacritty terminal emulator
  • LazyGit to review git changes and commits

So here is how I tried to personalize that machine so I could be more comfortable while developing:


Enable global packages for NodeJS

One of the most problematic things I found with the handed setup, is that I could not install npm packages globally.

Most of the time this is not an issue since I try to include everything a node project needs inside the project itself. This leaves me sometimes with big package.json files but that's a trade off I'm willing to make for the sake of universal compatibility.

But in this case, I needed to install eslint and prettier globally to verify stand-alone .js scripts.

The solution to install global packages "locally" is to create a ~/.npmrc file with the following contents:

registry =
prefix = ~/.npm-global

This changes the behaviour of npm in 2 ways:

  • It will look for packages in the local registry
  • Any package installed with the -g (global) flag. Will be saved in ~/.npm-global directory

This way, I don't need special privileges to install global packages.

There is still a missing piece for this to work and that is to change the .bashrc file so bash to change the path. That's what comes next.

Configure Bash

What I missed the most from oh-my-zsh was the fact that it showed the git branch and git status of the current repository if the current directory was a Git project.

To solve this issue I created the following .bashrc-personal file. Which, aside from including the "new" global npm PATH, it also changed the prompt to include the current git branch and status.

# Increase the history size

# Change the default editor from nano to vi
alias vim="vi"

# I only use one tmux session at the time
alias tm="tmux attach || tmux new"

# Since I can't install packages globally... (needs the .npmrc file)
export PATH=$PATH:~/.npm-global/bin
# Showing the git branch and status on the bash prompt
PS1='╭─${debian_chroot:+($debian_chroot)}\[\033[01;32m\]\u@\h\[\033[00m\]:\[\033[01;34m\]\w\[\033[01;31m\] $(__git_ps1 "(%s)")\[\033[00m\]\n╰─\$ '

To make this file work, I have to change the ~/.bashrc file, adding the following at the end:

# ...
source ~/.bashrc-personal

And now I have git information in the prompt.

Changed Terminal

Git aliases

I love using the terminal. And there is no better git terminal tool than lazygit.

There is no way I can replicate the functionality of lazygit using dotfiles. But I can make the git command more useful and colorful by creating a couple of aliases:

	name = Mario Yepes
	email =

	name = Mario Yepes

	l = log --graph --pretty=format:'%Cred%h%Creset -%C(yellow)%d%Creset %s %Cgreen(%cr) %C(bold blue)<%an>%Creset' --abbrev-commit
	s = status
	co = checkout
	tags = tag -l
	branches = branch -a
	remotes = remote -v

	branch = auto
	diff = auto
	pager = true
	status = auto
	ui = true

[color "branch"]
	current = yellow reverse
	local = yellow
	remote = green

The coolest change is with the log command. Which now it is git l:

New Git Log view

Much more compact and friendly than the original one.

Vi configuration

Yes, vi not vim... It's a standard Ubuntu installation. And that excludes vim or NeoVim:

So, to make vi bearable this is the configuration I used in ~/.vimrc:

" Mario's vimrc

set nocompatible
set number                " Show numbers on the left
set relativenumber        " Its better if you use motions like comfortable or 5yk
set hlsearch              " Highlight search results
set ignorecase            " Search ignoring case
set smartcase             " Do not ignore case if the search patter has uppercase
set noerrorbells          " I hate bells when an error occurs
set belloff=esc           " Disable bell if type <esc> multiple times
set tabstop=4             " Tab size of 4 spaces
set softtabstop=4         " On insert use 4 spaces for tab
set shiftwidth=0

set nowrap                " Wrapping sucks (except on markdown)
set noswapfile            " Do not leave any backup files
set showmatch             " Highlights the matching parenthesis
set termguicolors         " Required for some themes
set splitright splitbelow " Changes the behaviour of vertical and horizontal splits

set foldlevel=1           " Better for markdown and PHP classes
set cursorline            " Highlight the current cursor line (Can slow the UI)
set hidden								" Enable more that 1 unsaved buffer

" Keep Visual Mode after indenting a block with > or <
vmap < <gv
vmap > >gv

" Move Visual blocks up or down with J an K
vnoremap J :m '>+1<CR>gv=gv
vnoremap K :m '<-2<CR>gv=gv

" search will center on the line it's found in.
nnoremap n nzzzv
nnoremap N Nzzzv


On the handed setup, Gnome terminal was available and it has support to multiple tabs which makes it A-OK with me. But still I preffer tmux multiplexing.

So I did 2 things to work with tmux:

  • I added the tm alias in .bashrc-personal to start/resume tmux sessions
  • I changed the style and behaviour of tabs:
# Increase the scroll history
set-option -g history-limit 9999

# It's easier to change windows if we start from 1 instead of 0
set -g base-index 1

# Start pane number from 1 similar to windows
set -g pane-base-index 1

# Allow mouse scrolling
set -g mouse on

# Attach or create a new session
new-session -n $HOST

# True colors on Vim+Tmux
set -g default-terminal "tmux-256color"
set -ga terminal-overrides ",*256col*:Tc"

# Fix home-key issue on 256 terminal
bind -n End send-key C-e
bind -n Home send-key C-a

# Remove the ESC delay. It's a nightmire with Vim.
set -sg escape-time 1

# re-number and re-name windows dynamically
setw -g automatic-rename on
set -g renumber-windows on

# Theme based in
set -g status-justify left
set -g status-bg "colour236"
set -g status-fg "colour14"
setw -g clock-mode-colour "colour14"
setw -g status-left " #S "
set -g status-right-length "100"
# 24 hour time: `%H:%M`
# 12 hour time: `%-I:%M %p`
set -g status-right "#[bg=colour239,fg=white] %H:%M #[bg=colour14,fg=black] #h "
setw -g window-status-format " #I: #W "
setw -g window-status-separator ""
setw -g window-status-current-format "#[bg=colour239,fg=white] #I: #W "

And this is how it looks like now:

Tmux changes

Final toughs

With this article I hope that if you are in a similar situation, where you are not the owner of the work machine, you can make your file more bearable with the examples I gave.