Recently I had to set up virtual-private-server (VPS) for both my personal blog the Good, the Bad, and the Curious and Linkqlo's website. Here is my workflow to set up Ubuntu Linux, Apache server and the server environment on Linode, which is one of the more popular VPS service providers along with Digital Ocean. Linode's Getting Started Guide is a helpful reference for the basics.
Activate New Instance on Linode
Pick Linode's cheapest VPS tier Linode 1024 at $5/month with 20GB storage, 1 CPU Core and 1TB XFER.
Choose a location. I just go with Fremont, CA, which is the closest one from where I live. When a new instance is created, it will get assigned an IP address. Its server status is
Enable backup for $2/month. Pick a weekly backup window of 0200-0400 on every Sunday.
On Dashboard, deploy an image to choose a Linux distribution of Ubuntu 16.04 LTS. By default, the largest available space will be allocated. Enter 20224 MB for Deployment Disk Size and 256 MB for Swap Disk. Pick a strong root SSH password. Server status now reads:
Click Boot to turn on the instance. Server status is now changed to
When a new instance is created, it will have a random serial number. Go to Dashboard/Settings/Display Settings to change it to a more meaningful name (save your Greek mythology vocabulary for later use, not here).
Set Up SSH Access
I use iTerm2 on MacBook in place of the default Terminal.app from OSX.
My current favorite color theme is Arthur, which can be downloaded from iTerm2 Color Theme Collection.
Go to Linode's Dashboard, pick the newly created instance, go to tab Remote Access. Note down the public IP address in IPv4 format. Say, it's 18.104.22.168.
Log in for the first time as root
yes when prompted for continuing connecting to this new host, where authenticity cannot be established yet. After 22.214.171.124 is permanently added to the list of known hosts, the connection will be closed.
SSH as root again, with password this time:
Upon successful login, Ubuntu's welcome message will be displayed, displaying it's on 16.04.2 LTS distribution.
Add New Sudo User
Digital Ocean's Guide is a helpful starting reference.
Provide answers to complete creating
- Full Name (optional)
- Room Number (optional)
- Work Phone (optional)
- Home Phone (optional)
- Other (optional)
Grant this new user sudo privilege,
usermod -aG sudo userjoe
Check all current users with sudo privileges:
getent group sudo
Provide the following info to user
IP: 126.96.36.199 Username: userjoe Password: joespassword
Test the new user login. Logout from
root, then login as
userjoe with the assigned password.
Once sudo user
userjoe is created, it's better to complete the rest of the server setup with
userjoe (by using
sudo command) rather than
root. Login with
root should be limited to the minimum.
To disallow root logins over SSH, as
sudo vim /etc/ssh/sshd_config
Set the following from
Configure Server Environment
The server prompt is originally something like:
That's not very sexy. Time to set an interesting hostname for the instance. Go with something memorable and unique, like planets, philosophers, animals, or greek gods.
Here's a helpful list of greek gods and goddesses, and what they represent.
userjoe, set hostname to
sudo hostnamectl set-hostname apollo
Log out and log in back again. The prompt now reads:
Set Local Time
By default, Linux's image will be set to UTC time (Greenwich Mean Time). Change this to the local server time with:
sudo dpkg-reconfigure tzdata
Pick US and Pacific-New,
Current default time zone: 'US/Pacific-New' Local time is now: Fri Apr 7 21:51:25 PDT 2017. Universal Time is now: Sat Apr 8 04:51:25 UTC 2017.
Set Up Passwordless SSH Login
Generate public and private SSH keys on the local machine (or your local server, or whatever server you use as the entry point to SSH into other realms):
The key pair will be generated and saved in
Copy the public key to server
apollo using SSH:
cat ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub | ssh firstname.lastname@example.org "mkdir -p ~/.ssh && cat >> ~/.ssh/authorized_keys"
On the local machine, edit the SSH configuration file:
Add this entry to the file:
host apollo HostName 188.8.131.52 User userjoe
Now, instead of using the clumsy
Set Up Personal Dotfiles
Git is needed to install my personal dotfiles. While the usual recommended way (like from Github) for Ubuntu is to:
apt-get install git
I'd prefer to install git with Nix Package Manager after being brainwashed by PL. In the ocean of package managers, from brew to macport to pip to anaconda, Nix seems to stand in a league of its own and is superior in many ways. Check out Hacker News' Nix as OS X Package Manager.
curl https://nixos.org/nix/install | sh
Installation finished!, follow the on-screen instruction:
Search for git on Nix:
nix-env -qa | grep git
Install git (the latest stable release version will be installed automatically):
nix-env -i git
Now, follow my own dotfile workflow to port my Linux configurations to this new server
apollo. Run this to refresh:
Now my server prompt on
~ 22:27  userjoe@apollo $
...which is consistent with every other server environment I use. Peace. You feel me?
This concludes Part 1 of "Setting Up VPS on Linode". In Part 2, I'll lay out steps for:
- Configure DNS
- Install Apache
- Set up Apache's Virtual Host File
- Configure SSL encryption
- Set up mySQL
- How to deploy from local to remote live instance with Gitlab
- How to deploy wordpress automatically (tricky business...still working through it).
Please proceed to Setting Up VPS on Linode - Part 2.Go Top
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