TL;DR: I had to do a bunch of research in order to set up pretty URLs to apps running on my localhost at a particular port, so I decided to write up the steps I followed in one place in case anyone else wants to do this. Scroll down past the reasons I wanted to do this for the instructions.

I recently decided to use a non-admin user with OSX Yosemite on a daily basis, mostly on the recommendation of a security researcher who discovered a vulnerability in OSX, and because it sounds like a good idea in general.

The only problem I've encountered so far is in installing Pow-- the script to install it wants sudo, but it also wants to be run as the current user. There are instructions on the wiki for installation as a standard user, but they appear to be out of date; I got errors when trying to use npm run-script. I also got errors when trying to install it from source. So ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

The thing is, I was only using Pow for its pretty URL creation anyway; I use foreman or grunt to run my apps instead of Pow's rack server. So I set out to get URLs like http://my-project.dev to serve up a rails app that I would usually access at http://localhost:3000.

My first thought was that I could just use /etc/hosts, but that only works for host names, not host names and ports. Luckily, Apache can do this and, conveniently enough, is included with OSX!

BUT WAIT! I do still need to use /etc/hosts, so that the host goes to localhost where Apache will handle it.

Instructions

So, to spell it all out, I logged in as my admin user (since I'm running from a non-admin day-to-day now) and edited /etc/hosts using sudo:

$ login admin
password:
admin$ sudo vim /etc/hosts

In order to add a new entry for my-project.dev. So now, my /etc/hosts file looks like:

##
# Host Database
#
# localhost is used to configure the loopback interface
# when the system is booting.  Do not change this entry.
##
127.0.0.1   localhost
255.255.255.255 broadcasthost
::1             localhost

127.0.0.1       my-project.dev

At this point, still as the admin user, I started up apache by doing:

admin$ sudo apachectl start

And then I could go to http://my-project.dev and see the Apache "It works!" page. We're halfway there!

Now, edit /etc/apache2/httpd.conf, find this part about Virtual Hosts and uncomment the Include line so it looks like this:

# Virtual hosts
Include /private/etc/apache2/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf

Then, edit THAT file, /private/etc/apache2/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf, remove the two sample <VirtualHost>s, and insert a new one that looks like this, as recommended by this ServerFault answer:

NameVirtualHost *:80

<VirtualHost *>
    ServerName my-project.dev
    ProxyPreserveHost On

    # setup the proxy
    <Proxy *>
        Order allow,deny
        Allow from all
    </Proxy>
    ProxyPass / http://localhost:3000/
    ProxyPassReverse / http://localhost:3000/
</VirtualHost>

Then restart apache:

admin$ sudo apachectl restart

And, if you've got your app running at port 3000, you should be able to visit http://my-project.dev in your browser and get to your app!