Setup Ubuntu Server at Tokyo and Transform it to Desktop with RDP Installed

vultr-ubuntu-xrdp-xfce

While waiting for lunch, it’s nice to do some warmups. Setting a server overseas seems a pretty cool warmup to do for developers, right? Recently, my friend recommended me to try out Vultr which provide cloud servers. So today, I’m going to share how I deploy a Ubuntu server which is located in Tokyo, a city far away from where I am now.

Step 1: Choosing Server Location

Vultr is currently available in many cities in popular countries such as Japan, Singapore, Germany, United States, Australia, etc.

server-location.png

Step 2: Choosing Server Type and Size

Subsequently, we will be asked to select the type and size for the server. Here, I choose 60 GB SSD server with Ubuntu 16.04 x64 installed. I tried with Ubuntu 17.10 x64 before but I couldn’t successfully RDP into it. Then the latest Ubuntu 18.04 x64 is not yet tried by me. So ya, we will stick to using Ubuntu 16.04 x64 in this article.

vultr-ubuntu-pricing.png

Step 3: Uploading SSH Key

Vultr is friendly to provide us a tutorial about generating SSH Keys on Windows and Linux.

The steps for creating SSH key on Windows with PuTTYgen is as follows.

Firstly, we need to click on the “Generate” button on PuTTYgen.

generate-key-pair.png

Secondly, once the Public Key is generated, we need to enter a key passphrase for additional security.

Thirdly, we click on the “Save Private Key” button to save the private key on somewhere safe.

Fourthly, we copy all of the text in the Public Key field and paste it to the textbox in Vultr under the “Add SSH Key” section.

adding-ssh-key.png

Step 4: Naming and Deployment

Before we can deploy the server, we need to key in the hostname for the new server.

After we have done that, then we can instruct Vultr to deploy the server by clicking on the “Deploy Now” button at the bottom of the page.

Within 5 minutes, the server should finish installing and booting up.

Step 5: Getting IP Address, Username, and Password

In order to get the user credential to access the server, we need to click on the “Server Details” to view the IP address, username, and password.

Step 6: Updating Root Password

The default password is not user-friendly. Hence, once we login to the server via PuTTY, we need to immediately update the root password using the command below for our own good.

# passwd

Step 7: Installing Ubuntu Desktop

Firstly, let’s do some updating for the packages via the following commands.

# sudo apt-get update
# sudo apt-get upgrade

This will take about 2 minutes to finish.

Then we can proceed to install the default desktop using the following command.

# sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop

This will take about 4 minutes to finish. Take note that at this point of time Unity will be the desktop environment.

After that, we update the packages again.

# sudo apt-get update

Step 8: Installing Text Editor

We are going to change some configurations later, so we will need to use a text editor. Here, I’ll use the Nano Text Editor by installing it first.

# sudo apt-get install nano

Step 9: Installing xrdp

xrdp is an open source Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) server which provides a graphical login to remote machines. This helps us to connect to the server using Microsoft Remote Desktop Client.

sudo apt-get install xrdp

Step 10: Changing to Use Xfce Desktop Environment

We will then proceed to install Xfce which is a lightweight desktop environment for UNIX-like operating systems.

sudo apt-get install xfce4

After it is installed successfully, please run the following command. This is to tell the Ubuntu server to know that Xfce has been chosen to replace Unity as desktop environment.

echo xfce4-session >~/.xsession

Step 11: Inspect xrdp Settings

We need to configure the xrdp settings by editing the startwm.sh in Nano Text Editor.

nano /etc/xrdp/startwm.sh

We need to edit the file by changing entire of the file content to be as follows.

if [ -r /etc/default/locale ]; then
 . /etc/default.locale
 export LANG LANGUAGE
fi

startxfce4

Then we need to restart xrdp.

# sudo service xrdp restart

After that, we restart the server.

# reboot now

Step 12: Connecting with Remote Desktop Client

After the server has been restarted, we can access the server with Windows Remote Desktop Client.

rdp

At this point of time, some of you may encounter error when logging in via RDP. The error will be saying things as follows.

Connecting to sesman IP 127.0.0.1 port 3350
sesman connect ok
sending login info to session manager, please wait...
xrdp_mm_process_login_response:login successful for display
started connecting
connecting to 127.0.0.1 5910
error-problem connecting
problem-connecting.png

Problem of connecting via xrdp.

As pointed out in one of the discussion threads on Ask Ubuntu, the problem seems to be xrdp, vnc4server, and tightvncserver are installed in the wrong order. So in order to fix that, we just need to remove them and re-install them in a correct order with the following set of commands.

# sudo apt-get remove xrdp vnc4server tightvncserver
# sudo apt-get install tightvncserver
# sudo apt-get install xrdp
# sudo service xrdp restart

After the server is restarted, we should have no problem accessing our server via RDP client on Windows.

success.png

References

 

 

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[KOSD Series] Code Review and VSTS

KOSD, or Kopi-O Siew Dai, is a type of Singapore coffee that I enjoy. It is basically a cup of coffee with a little bit of sugar. This series is meant to blog about technical knowledge that I gained while having a small cup of Kopi-O Siew Dai.

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Code reviews are a best practice for software development projects but it’s normally ignored in startups and SMEs because

  • the top management doesn’t understand the value of doing so;
  • the developers have no time to do code reviews and even unit testing.

So, in order to improve our code quality and management standards, we decided to introduce the idea of code reviewing by enforcing pull requests creating in our deployment procedure, even though our team is very small and we are working in a startup environment.

Firstly, we set up two websites on Azure App Service, one for UAT and another for the Production. We enabled Continuous Deployment feature for two of them by configuring Azure App Service integration with our Git repository on Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS).

Secondly, we have two branches in the Git repository of the project, i.e. master and development-deployment. Changes pushed to the branches will automatically be deployed to the Production and the UAT websites, respectively.

In order to prevent that our codes are being deployed to even the UAT site without code reviews, we created a new branch known as the development branch. The development branch allows all the relevant developers (in the example below, we call them Alvin and Bryan) to pull/push their local changes freely from/to it.

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Once any of the developers is confident with his/her changes, he/she can create a new pull request on VSTS.

creating-pull-request.png

Creating a new pull request on VSTS.

We then proceed to make use of the new capability on VSTS, which is to set policies for the branches. In the policy setting, we checked the option “Require a minimum number of reviewers” to prevent direct pushes to both master and development-deployment branches.

branch-policies.png

Enabled the code review requirement in each pull request to protect the branch.

So for every deployment to our UAT and Production websites, the checking step is in place to make sure that the deployments are all properly reviewed and approved. This is not just to protect the system but also to protect the developers by having a standardized quality checking across the development team.

This is the end of this episode of KOSD series. If you have any comment or suggestion about this article, please shout out. Hope you enjoy this cup of electronic Kopi-O Siew Dai. =)