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My /etc/hosts file looks like this:

127.0.0.1       localhost
10.20.7.67      testsitealpha.dev
othersite.dev   testsitebeta.dev

The first two work. The last one doesn't. Why not? How do I make it work? The reason I am doing this, is because I have a test server (othersite.com), which is on the local network, but it's ip can vary. e.g. 10.20.7.98 one day, 10.20.7.35 another, etc.

So, how do I make my system always resolve testsitebeta.dev to the same ip as othersite.dev?

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Just make it 172.17.53.22 othersite.dev testsitebeta.dev. –  ott-- May 30 '13 at 9:20

2 Answers 2

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As Chris already wrote, the problem is that "othersite.dev" is not a number. The format you need is IP hostname1 [hostname2] [hostname3].

The deeper problem however is a misunderstanding about the host file and possibly about DNS in general. Basically the host file was not designed for redirections. It was a simple solution back from when CPU cycles where expensive. It lacked features such as the ability to adjust to rapidly changing IP addresses without manually needing the edit a file. These problems were solved by switching from the host file to network based resolver system.

The real answer to your problem therefor is not to use /etc/hosts, but use this hierarchical distributed naming system instead. You can do that in several ways. One way is the CNAME as suggested by Chris. Another way would be to give the second server a fixed IP address. Both a real static address, or make a reservation in the DHCP server.

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Not the kind of answer I'm looking for. This is for development; I don't want to modify any other machines, since the domain name (testsitebeta.dev) does not need to be accessible from anywhere but my local. I just want a way to tell my computer "treat name X like it was Y". –  Benubird May 30 '13 at 10:16
    
In that case you want to insstall a local DNS server and use that as resolver. –  Hennes Jul 16 at 7:54
    
Local DNS server seems to be the solution. For future visitors, I found this helpful: superuser.com/q/45789/75287 –  Benubird Jul 16 at 10:40

Format of /etc/hosts is "IP" "Hostname" - like 127.0.0.1 localhost

You need a CNAME in your local DNS server to achieve what you need. You could get the IP of the "othersite.dev" and link it to "testitbeta.dev" like you did with "testitalpha.dev" but when that IP changes you will have to change your /etc/hosts file as well.

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