I have started to use virtual machines to develop sites rather than installing a local web server. This allows me to replicate the exact setup of the server I will be deploying to with ease. For each virtual machine I set up a shared folder which allows me to store the files locally whilst being able to run the code on the virtual machine. One thing I missed was the ability to use xdebug to debug the sites through Netbeans, so I set about trying to set up the virtual hosts to allow me to use xdebug remotely.
All that is needed was to add a xdebug.remote_connect_back clause to the xdebug.ini file found in the PHP configuration. Set this value to 1 to automatically connect back to any xdebug session that is created on the server.
xdebug.remote_connect_back = 1
Remember that you will also need to setup the correct hosts directive on your system to allow your web browser to open up and accept the xdebug session. Additionally, because I was using virtual machines I could never be sure that the IP address of the host computer was going to be the same. For this reason the xdebug.remote_host clause should be removed so that xdebug was IP address agnostic. I sill needed to tweak my hosts file every now and then, but I wouldn't need to edit the xdebug.ini file and restart Apache.
I should note here that if you are doing this on a server the removal of the xdebug.remote_host clause will mean that anyone will be able to create an xdebug session on the server. Which is a bit of a security problem.
Here is the xdebug configuration on my virtual servers in full. The first clause (for the xdebug binary) might be different on your setup.
zend_extension=/usr/lib/php5/20100525/xdebug.so xdebug.remote_enable=1 xdebug.remote_port=9000 xdebug.remote_handler="dbgp" xdebug.remote_connect_back = 1
If you have a development server then you should remember that xdebug will only be able to create one debugging session at a time.