EC2: how to launch Ubuntu into the cloud

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) delivers scalable, pay-as-you-go compute capacity in the cloud. It is a part of a collection of remote computing services (also called web services) from Amazon that together make up a cloud computing platform. The most central and well-known of these services are Amazon EC2 and Amazon S3. The goal in this post is to get you up and running on an EC2 instance super fast.

Get familiar

I’m going to assume you have an account with AWS and are familiar with:

If you do not know those 3, please spend some time learning about them by following the links in the bullet points above. Else, let’s get rollin.

Step by step guide

1. Setting up security

Before we launch an Instance you need to do some Pre-work since both “Security Group” and “Key Pair Name” cannot be changed once an Instance is mapped to one and started.

  1. Setup a “Security Group” for your new Linux Instance.
    1. From Navigation menu select “Security Groups”.
    2. Click on “Create Security Group” button and fill out the form giving your security group a very descriptive name.
    3. Click “Yes, Create” button, select the new group and in the lower half window/frame press the “Inbound” tab.
    4. Inbound allows you to open ports on this Instance. You can add or remove these after the Instance is created. By default allow these: SSH (22), HTTP (80) and MySQL (3306). For extra security limit (source) SSH & MySQL to only your IP address. If you plan to install Webmin add port 10000 here too.
    5. When done, click on “Apply Rule Changes”.
  2. Create a “Key Pair Name”.
    1. This is super important and will be used for accessing your Instance both via SSH & sFTP.
    2. From Navigation menu select “Key Pairs”.
    3. Click on “Create Key Pair” button.
    4. Give it a descriptive Key Pair Name and click on “Create” button. A private key with extension .pem will download. Save this in a secure location since this is your key to access your Instance.
    5. On your local machine (Linux X or Mac OS X), give this file more secure permissions like this:
      chmod 0700 ./keys/mykey.pem

2. Launching an Instance

  1. From Navigation menu select “Instances”.
  2. Click on “Launch Instance” button.
  3. This launches the Request Instance Wizard where you can select an Amazon Machine Image (AMI). Note that Ubuntu is only available from “Community AMIs”. Click the Community AMIs tab.
    1. Here is a list of available Ubuntu images:
      http://uec-images.ubuntu.com/releases/10.10/release/
    2. Make sure you use an EBS root store – it’s better. For benefits see here:
      http://stackoverflow.com/questions/3630506/benefits-of-ebs-vs-instance-store-and-vice-versa
  4. Step through the 5 stages of the Wizard and click on “Launch” button. This will launch your new Instance. The Wizard is straight forward and you will most likely go with all the defaults.
  5. Your Linux Instance will launch pretty fast. You should now see your Instance listed under “My Instances”.
  6. Click on your Instance. Instance properties window/frame shows up in the bottom half of the console. Note down “Public DNS” and “Private DNS/IP Address”. You will need those to access the box – especially the Public DNS.

3. Building a Ubuntu LAMP Web Server on your new Instance

This step is optional.

But should you want to setup LAMP on this new Instance follow the steps outlined in my previous post here: http://www.theroadtosiliconvalley.com/technology/building-ubuntu-lamp-web-server-vm/

The only additions in light of Amazon EC2 host are:

  • When using SSH/sFTP use the private key with extension .pem you downloaded above.
  • Note that root user in EC2 is “ubuntu” not “root” like in a VM Ubuntu setup.
  • To SSH into your new EC2 Instance do this in terminal where the URL after @ is your Public DNS:
    ssh -i ./keys/mykey.pem ubuntu@region.compute.amazonaws.com
  • Use the Public DNS or setup a static IP address to point to your Instance(s). Amazon calls this Elastic IP Address and this allows you to have multiple Instances all pointing to the 1 IP address for dynamic cloud computing.

Now go and build kick ass products!

There you have it folks. How simple is that. Amazon makes cloud computing look simple and launching new servers (Instances) is a breeze.. in a matter of minutes.

If you found this post useful let me know in comments section below. Super!!

~ Ernest

 

Building an Ubuntu LAMP Web Server

Recently I was setting up my Mac OS X with a kick ass development environment and jotted down all the cool steps I took to build an Ubuntu LAMP web server in a virtual machine environment. Here is this in-depth guide translated from paper to this digital copy. Hope you find this guide valuable and it saves you time when you need to do the same.

LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP)
LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP)

Ubuntu Server

The flavor of Linux I like to use as a Web Server is Ubuntu.

What is Ubuntu

Ubuntu , is a secure, intuitive operating system that powers desktops, servers, netbooks and laptops. It is based on the Debian GNU/Linux distribution. Ubuntu is also named after the Southern African ethical ideology Ubuntu (“humanity towards others”) and is distributed as free and open source software with additional proprietary software available.

Why Ubuntu

  1. Reduce costs – free to use with no licensing fees.
  2. Visualization – it runs beautifully & fast in any VM environment (esp. Mac OS X)
  3. Build-in security – tight security, inbuilt firewall and encryption.
  4. It based on a Debian Distribution. A computer operating system composed of software packages released as free and open source software especially under the GNU General Public License and other free software licenses. Debian distributions are slower to release but this means they are extremely thorough.
  5. A lot of the big boys use Ubuntu. See case studies here: http://www.ubuntu.com/business/case-studies

Step by Step – your 1st web server

This guide assumes you have already installed Ubuntu Server. If not, go here and do it first. I recommend you install Ubuntu Server in a VM. I use VMware Fusion to run my instances when developing and Amazon EC2 for production. This guarantees that whatever I do locally in a VM will be compatible when pushed into production.

Ubuntu Server in a VMware Fusion
Ubuntu Server in a VMware Fusion

Goal:

  • Install LAMP – Linux (already done), Apache (web server), MySQL (mysql) and PHP (code compiler).
  • Install Webmin – a web-based interface for system administration for Unix.
  • Allow WWW for sFTP so you can remotely manage your website using a GUI.
  • Setup access to MySQL using MySQL Workbench.

1. Install LAMP

  • SSH into your box as root on Port 22 (default post install).
  • Update your OS software (just in case you are missing some dependencies):
    sudo apt-get update
  • From the terminal window, install LAMP using this 1 line of code (the caret (^) must be included):
    sudo apt-get install lamp-server^
  • The apt package manager will display what it is installing and ask you a bunch of standard questions. Just say yes to all. You will also be asked for a password for your new MySQL database. Type that in and note this down for future.
  • When this finishes you are done. Easy hey! Port 80 (default web server port) is now enabled and pointing to ‘/var/www’. ‘/var/www’ is where your site(s) should be placed.
  • Hit the Public DNS URL of your server (typically your IP) to verify that it’s up. It should show up a page with “It works!” If you are not sure what your box’s IP is, type this in and hit enter (similar to ipconfig on a Windows box).
    ip route
  • Before moving to the next step, you may want to know information about PHP’s configuration inc. installed extensions. You can grab this by creating a PHP file from your terminal window like this:
     sudo nano /var/www/phpinfo.php

    then adding this into it, save it, and quit nano (the editor your in):

    <?php phpinfo(); ?>

    restart Apache:

    sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 restart

    Hit the IP in your browser again with this new file name appended to the end eg. http://170.10.105.110/phpinfo.php – it should show you what is running.

2. Install Webmin

  • Edit “/etc/apt/sources.list” to add 2 new source:
    sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list
  • … add these 2 new lines to the end, save and exit:
    deb http://download.webmin.com/download/repository sarge contrib
    deb http://webmin.mirror.somersettechsolutions.co.uk/repository sarge contrib
  • Now you can run this in your terminal window to install Webmin.
    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install webmin
  • Webmin should now be accessible from your browser using the server’s ip address followed by port 10,000 eg. https://170.10.105.110:10000
    Note that you do not have HTTPS cert so your browser will throw a warning since https is (and has to be) the protocol. Ignore it and move forward.
  • If you cannot login with your sudo account you may need to enable root. Follow the steps outlined here: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/WebminWithoutARootAccount
  • Or you can change the password of the root user in your terminal window. Then restart webmin.
    sudo /usr/share/webmin/changepass.pl /etc/webmin/ root foo
    sudo /etc/init.d/webmin restart
    
  • If you need to restart webmin run this:
    sudo /etc/init.d/webmin restart

3. Allow WWW for sFTP

  • You need to make sure the group www-data is added to “/var/www”. Run this in your terminal window:
    sudo chgrp www-data /var/www
  • Make “/var/www” writable for the group.
    sudo chmod 775 /var/www
  • Set the GID for www-data for all sub-folders.
    sudo chmod g+s /var/www
  • Your directory should look like this on an ‘ls -l’ output.
    drwxrwsr-x    root www-data
  • Last, add your user name to the www-data group (secondary group) where USERNAME is the “new” username you will use to sFTP. Note that we follow it by “passwd” to give new account a password.
    sudo useradd -G www-data NEW_USERNAME
    sudo passwd NEW_USER

    OR if the username is “existing” one use the command below. Also don’t forget to add “ubuntu” user if you have set this up on an EC2:

    sudo usermod -a -G www-data EXISTING_USERNAME
  • You should now be able to SFTP to your server using this USERNAME and upload data to “/var/www” with no problems.

4. Access to MySQL using MySQL Workbench

  • MySQL Workbench is a nice free GUI tool by the folks at mysql.com to manage your MySQL database. It can be downloaded from here: http://wb.mysql.com/
  • By default MySQL listens on localhost (127.0.0.1) so if you are going to manage your Ubuntu VM instance from say OS X, MySQL wont allow you entry. Here’s what to do to grant remote management of MySQL.
    1. Go to Webmin and login.
    2. In Webmin, navigate here: Servers > MySQL Database Server > MySQL Server Configuration
    3. Change “MySQL server listening address” to “Any”. By default it is 127.0.0.1. Save this.
    4. Now navigate here: Servers > MySQL Database Server > User Permissions
    5. Click on User “root” on the line where it says 127.0.0.1. And under Hosts change it to “Any”. This set the permissions on your db access.
    6. Save & Restart MySQL and you are done.
  • Remember that this is for “development” purposes only. You would not be allowing “Any” to your DB rather a specific static address and username.

5. Bonus – running multiple web applications on the LAMP instance

To save on time, money and managing multiple boxes, you may want to run multiple websites from this same box. I like to do this using ports as the separator. The following can be done in Webmin:

  1. Upload code to /var/www/mynewsite/
  2. Create a Virtual host for your new web application by navigating to:
    Servers > Apache Webserver > Create virtual host
  3. Fill out the form pointing ‘Document Root’ to the location of your code and assign a ‘Port’ number eg. 81, to this new host. Remember port 80 is your default.
  4. Save and click on ‘Apply Settings’ (link top right of the Webmin interface).
  5. Finally you need to tell Apache to listen to this new port. Navigate here:
    Servers > Apache Webserver > Global configuration > Networking and Addresses
  6. Add port 81 (where your new host is configured on) to ‘Listen on addresses and ports’.
  7. Save, apply changes and restart Apache.
  8. Done. You can now access your website via http://IP_DNS:81

Now go and build kick ass products!

There you have it folks. How simple is that. That’s why I love Ubuntu so much. It’s simple and powerful all under the 1 umbrella. That’s how software should be. All the complexities removed so us engineers can get to work and build kick ass products!

If you found this post useful let me know in comments section below. Super!!

~ Ernest

Making the switch from Windows to Kubuntu

I finally made the switch from Windows Vista to Linux Free Operating System. I moved to the Kubuntu version of Ubuntu 10.10 (a Linux flavour) as my development box and haven’t looked back. Well I lied, since I did look back a bit at the beginning lol. It has been a an interesting challenge mentally adjusting to new way of doing things, new tools (applications) and driver support. In the end it was definitely worth it.

And why Kubuntu? since it’s basically Ubuntu a Debian-derived Linux distribution with KDE (a prettier desktop) on-top. Ubuntu brings your slower machines to life. While Windows keeps on slowing them down. Ubuntu is a secure, intuitive operating system that powers desktops, servers, netbooks and laptops. Ubuntu is, and always will be, absolutely free. More about it here.

Why I switched

Today all my development is open source. This means I run what I create on a LAMP stack – L stands for Linux Server. Doing development on a Windows box and pushing to a LAMP stack is like clawing your way through quick sand instead of using a ninja sword to slice through your tasks.

One day, I asked myself. Wouldn’t it be kick ass if my dev box would be close to identical to my production boxes. Knowing that whatever I do on my dev box will work in production with high certainty. Yes yes, Ubuntu popped into my mind. Which later after speaking with a fellow Linux hacker changed to Kubuntu.

As you may already know, Kubuntu is highly configurable. You even have access to the source code if you wish to venture that deep. It also has a great X window called KDE. Check out these top the winners from a 5-day competition on Facebook where fans were invited to submit a screenshot of their pimped Ubuntu desktop. No excuses about Ubuntu’s poor UI.

My customized Ubuntu desktop
My customized Ubuntu desktop
My customized Kubuntu desktop
My customized Kubuntu desktop

Linux apps to replace your Windows apps

Here is a comprehensive list of apps to replace your Windows versions.

Note: Most applications & games on Linux are open source. This mostly means free. Thus, the ones I listed below as alternatives in the Linux world are all free and can be downloaded from your package manager. I use Synaptic Package Manager (SPM). All the software here is verified and malicious free – it’s safe to get all your apps from here. To install SPM, in your terminal window type this in and your done. Simple eh.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install synaptic

Securitythis one just kills windows. Ubuntu comes with a firewall built in and windows viruses – what are they on Ubuntu – non existent. All you need is software like Gufw to help you “manage” your firewall else you can do it via the terminal / konsole window.
In your terminal window type this in and your done. This cannot get any harder 😉

sudo apt-get install gufw

And if you want hard-core detail on securing Ubuntu, read this post covers the process of securing and hardening the default Debian GNU/Linux distribution installation.

Applications… the following let’s use “Synaptic Package Manager”.

Purpose Windows Linux
Development
Code editor Notepad++ gedit
SFTP, FTP and SCP client WinSCP FileZilla
Telnet/SSH Putty OS Konsole /
terminal window
Code compare Beyond Compare Kompare
MySQL manager and admin tool SQLyog MySQL Workbench
Virtualization VMWare VirtualBox
Multimedia
Video player Windows Media Player VLC
Video editor Sony Vegas Kdenlive
Organize, share & edit your photos Picasa Picasa /
Gwenview
Photo editor Photoshop GIMP
Audio player Windows Media Player Amarok
CD/DVD burner Nero K3b
Other
Office (word, excel, powerpoint etc) Windows Office OpenOffice /
Google Docs
File browser Windows Explorer Dolphin
Internet browsers Chrome Chromium
Antivirus & Firewall Take a pick lol Gufw to manage your Firewall
Silverlight MS Silverlight Moonlight

Additional stuff you can install to make your Kubuntu experience pleasing:

Don’t forget to use your Synaptic Package Manager to look for these apps first. Only when you cannot find them there click on the title of each app below to take you to the website hosting the app and instructions.

  • Docky – shortcut bar that sits at the bottom, top, and/or sides of your screen. You can make it look and behave like mac’s bar.
  • KSnapshot – simple & powerful easy to use screen capture program.
  • Ubuntu Tweak – tweak Ubuntu’s desktop and system options that the default desktop environment doesn’t provide.
  • Beagle – advanced desktop search.
  • FreeMind – premier free mind mapping software written in Java.
  • Etherape – graphical network monitor.
  • Other code editors:
    • JetBrain. Their professional developer tools are kickass! I have trialled their PHPStorm & ReSharper with positive results. They also have editors for Ruby & Python (shakes of excitement). It’s not free but they do have trial versions available for download.
    • Eclipse. Open source IDE editors written in Java.
  • Dropbox – Online backup, file sync, and sharing made easy. Get it here: http://db.tt/QDC0nvU
  • ubuntu-restricted-extras – Essential software which is not already included due to legal or copyright reasons. Gives support for MP3 playback and decoding, Java runtime environment, Microsoft fonts, Flash plugin, DVD playback, and LAME (to create compressed audio files).
  • Adobe Flash & Adobe Air so you can run web applications like TweetDeck.

Missing Windows app/s?

If you still miss or cannot find your favorite Windows applications on Kubuntu, you install Wine to run them on Kubuntu. Wine is a program that offers a compatibility layer allowing Linux users to run some Windows-native applications inside of Linux. You can get Wine from Synaptic Package Manager / package manager or by following the instructions here.

Stuff I still need my Windows box for

  • Photo editing – Photoshop and Lightroom and
  • Video editing – Sony Vegas (goes with my Sony HD cam). The Linux alternative Kdenlive just dosent cut it.

With time I’m sure a super duper speced up Mac (with Dual boot for Kubuntu) will replace both my laptops. Now I need to sell myself why I should move to a Mac and pay double the price for hardware.

PS. If you have suggestions or additions to this post please comment below or contact me.

Happy hacking!

~ Ernest