Automation challenges surrounding work on remote & virtual machine

While I use mac hardware extensively and employ many of the popular tools on these forums, I’ve often run into difficulty when attempting to optimize my workflow when the work is being completed on a remote machine or virtual machine (typically windows or linux).

For example, if I want to do some of the cool contextual computing ideas recently discussed, I’m not sure of a way to click on a link in my mac env and have it load remotely on a pc I’ve remoted into (usually via RDP) or a VM I might be running (using VMWare).

Similarly, if I wish to capture a snippet from a remote or virtual machine, my ability to capture text and or images can be limited.

I’ve developed a few strategies to overcome these limitations, but they are onerous and brittle.

For example, in terms of capture from remote → local, I’ve created an ad hoc queuing system where I can print a pdf on my remote pc (with autohotkey) that saves to a specific dropbox directory. I’ve got a hazel rule on my macos computer that will import the pdf into devonthink. I also take lots of screenshots and then try to OCR out the relevant text using either the native devonthink OCR functionality or textsniper.

As far as automation going in the opposite direction local → remote, pretty much everything I do is clipboard-mediated. Here I can, for example, trigger an alfred script that copies some data from my mac to the clipboard, which is configured to be shared with my local VM or a remote machine. I then must paste the text on the remote machine. I haven’t been able to automate keyboard combinations on the remote machine using keyboard maestro, but it might be possible.

I don’t know if many other users employ automation across multiple machines like this. There are a ton of interesting possibilities I’ve experimented with:

  • triggering an ssh command remotely
  • mounting shared drives across virtual machines and hosts and using text files as “messages”
  • creating webservices that listen for commands from the other machine

…but few of them seem to work reliably. Many seem to take more time to set up and maintain (and remember to use) than is worth it for the few modest advantages afforded by automation.

I would be interested to learn if others have faced similar challenges and addressed them with some methods I may not have considered.

1 Like

The only things I can think of are keyboard maestro’s webserver, and remote trigger, (neither of which I’ve used).

1 Like

I use those - and SSH is the way I get into my various Raspberry Pi machines. (Native SSH (I think) in Mac and Prompt app on iOS /iPad OS.)

Also I would consider tame web servers running eg PHP.

Thanks! These are some good considerations and I’ll try to test. Sorry for the delayed reply, but I must have missed the notifications.