Rackspace Encomium

There is nothing like configuring your own server to start getting a real understanding of how the guts of LAMP works. I’ve configured a lot of servers, but never built an entire Apache server from scratch before. Rackspace offers a cloud server for as little as $10 a month.

One of the first things you’ll want to do is create a server instance. I chose Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat (somewhat reflexively) as a server image. Rackspace builds the image and sends you an email when it’s done. You’ll use those credentials to login…but what next?

Though you can use the JavaScript console at Rackspace, the best move is to install SSH and create a user with sudoing privileges. This is where I started to get into areas that I wasn’t familiar with. I hadn’t configured SSH before, and Ubuntu creates users with the relevant permissions on graphical installation.

I would start giving instructions, but the truth is that I learned the most by
tracking down the instructions myself. So, I’ll instead give a list of the things you’ll need to do.

  1. Install and configure SSH. Alter the standard port from 22 to something else so you don’t get hit by bots.
  2. Add a user with a home directory.
  3. Add that user to sudoers.
  4. Log out from the Rackspace console.
  5. Use either a bash shell from a NIX box or download Putty for use from a Windows machine.
  6. Krusader or Dolphin will work fine for file transport from NIX; download WinSCP for SFTP (secure file transfer protocol).
  7. Login using your shell and your new user. Use nano as a text editor for your work; it’s simplest. Install LAMP, Open SSL, and any other packages you want…but LAMP will do it. Use Tasksel–it’s the simplest way to install the full server.
  8. Use one of your spare domain names or a subdomain (blank.yourdomain.com), and point it to the IP address of your shiny new server.
  9. Configure
    your Apache Virtual Hosts (use sites-available and sites-enabled) to catch the incoming requests. That means to point requests for blank.yourdomain.com to a directory on your server, typically /var/www, but you can choose any. I’ve got sites in my home directory under individual names.
  10. Transfer files for any site using your SFTP or SCP protocols.
  11. Try hitting the site.

It’s rather simple, but it will take a while to configure. It’s fun to learn, but will be complicated, and is best treated as a hobby until you’ve got the security down. I’m also happy to answer questions.

Best tech movie.

Tron: Legacy is supposed to be visually appealing, but staggeringly short on storyline. I’ll go see it in IMAX 3D, but it’s unlikely that I’ll bother with getting it afterwards. Oddly, the movies with the greatest stories are the ones I tend to wait to see.

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Are there any movies you’ve determined you’d like to see in the theater due to a total lack of interest in their story?

How to SSH into your home computer to access media files, documents, processes, or anything else you might need

I wanted access to my home machine so I could access any files I want. Dropbox is pretty awesome, but if you’ve forgotten to put something in your Dropbox folder, you’ll be in deep trouble.

(1) Run “sudo apt-get install openssh-server” at the command line.

(2) Run “sudo cp /etc/ssh/sshd_config /etc/ssh/sshd_config.original”. This copies your original configuration file for SSH so if you muck up the settings, you can always replace them.

(3) Run “sudo kate /etc/ssh/sshd_config” (or whatever text editor you use) and change the port number from 22 to another port so you won’t be targeted by so many bots.

(4) Ensure that your firewall isn’t blocking the port you chose. You may need to add SSH as a running service. You should probably also include ‘sshd’ as a startup application in your distro so that if you need to do a remote reboot, the service restarts and you can log back in.

(5) Forward the port
being used for SSH in your router. To do this, you need the internal IP address of your computer on your home network, as I presume you’re not dumb enough to directly connect your home machine to a modem. Ask me if you have problems figuring out how to forward the port.

(6) Get out your Android phone if you have one, since a connection over 3G will mean that you can test your SSH connection without ever leaving your comfy chair. Install ConnectBot through Android Market.

(7) Open ConnectBot (or any SSH client from any machine; Putty will work well) and type in your home machine username, your external IP address, and if you have changed the port, include that as well. Here’s the format: username@ Where is your external IP address and XXXXX is the port number you chose to replace the default.

(8) If you have issues getting a connection, hit me in the comments; I had several oddities in router configuration making this work, even though it’s
quite simple in theory.