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Set Up Digital Ocean Server

To start the JupyterHub deployment process, we need to set up an Ubuntu 18.04 Server hosted by a cloud provider.

Digital Ocean is a cloud service provider like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure and Linode. Digital Ocean provides virtual private servers (called droplets in Digital Ocean-speak) and online storage of static files (called spaces in Digital Ocean-speak).

We are going to run the JupyterHub server on a Digital Ocean droplet. I like Digital Ocean's prices and web interface. The documentation on Digital Ocean is pretty good too. I already have a Digital Ocean account. I don't remember exactly how I did it, but going to this link:

and selecting [Create Account -->] should work.

Create a new Digital Ocean Droplet

To create a new Digtial Ocean Droplet (a new server), log in here:

Digital Ocean Login

After logging in, I got a verify screen and had to go to my email and retrive a six digit code. Ah... the joys of two-factor authentication.

Digital Ocean Verify

The welcome screen looks like this. To create a new server, select [Create Droplet]

Digital Ocean Create Droplet

There are a number of choices to make. These are the ones I selected:

  • Image: Ubuntu 18.04 x64
  • Size: 1 GB Memory 25GB SSD $5/month
  • Datacenter: San Fransisco 2
  • Add your SSH keys: New SSH Key
  • Finalize: 1 Droplet, Hostname: jupyterhub-engr114

Digital Droplet Choices

Digital Droplet Choices

Digital Droplet Choices

Digital Droplet Choices

Add an SSH Key


Important! You need to add the public SSH key BEFORE creating the droplet

The public SSH key we created needs to be shown on the list of keys and the radio box beside it needs to be checked. If the SSH key isn't listed or the SSH key box left unchecked, the SSH key will not be added to the server when the server is first created (and then we won't be able to log in with PuTTY). We need to add our public SSH key and check the key box so we can log onto the server with PuTTY.

Under [Add your SSH keys], click [New SSH Key]. A dialog window pops up:

Digital Droplet Choices

Paste the contents of the public SSH key into the [New SSH Key] dialog box.

Putty in Windows Start Menu

Enter a name for the SSH key that will be saved on Digital Ocean. I choose the name jupyter-hub-ssh-key. Then click [Add SSH Key]

Putty in Windows Start Menu

Then you should see the new SSH Key in the [Add your SSH Keys?] region of the new droplets page. Make sure that the radio box for the SSH key we just added is checked.

A problem I had when I set up my first droplet was that I did not have the SSH Key was radio button selected. Therefore, when the server was created, no SSH keys were installed.

It is way easier to insert SSH keys into the server when the server is created. It is way harder to add an SSH keys after the server is created.

Putty in Windows Start Menu

Click the long green [Create] button at the bottom of the page to create the Droplet.

Putty in Windows Start Menu

After Droplet creation, you end up at the Digital Ocean main dashboard. Our new Droplet can be seen under [Resources] --> [Droplets].

Putty in Windows Start Menu

Note the IP address of the new droplet. We need to IP address to log into our server with PuTTY.

Log into the server as root over SSH using PuTTY.

Open PuTTY from the Windows start menu. A couple other parameters need to be set before we log onto the server.

parameter value
IP Address IP of droplet ex:
Port 22
Connection --> SSH --> Auth --> Private key file private SSH key
Connection --> Data --> Auto-login username root

Putty in Windows Start Menu

Under Connect --> SSH --> Auth --> Private key file for authentication:, click [Browse].

PuTTY Auth SSH private key

Navigate to the SSH private key. The private key ends in a .ppk extension. I had trouble finding the key when I first set up PuTTY. It turned out that when the key was saved in the Programfiles\PuTTY folder. The key was not visible in the Windows file browser because I don't have administrator permissions on my machine at work. I ended up having to create a new SSH key and save the new key in Documents\ssh-key (I can access Documents\ssh-key without administrator privaleges).

PuTTY browse to private SSH key

Under Connection --> Data --> Auto-login username: root

Putty login details

Back in [Sessions] (the top-most menu item or main page), add the IP address and Port = 22, click [Open]

Putty IP address and Port

This brings up a new window that is a terminal for our server:

PyTTY SSH window open

Create a non-root sudo user

Digital Ocean recommends that the servers are run by a non-root user that has sudo access. So after an update, the thing we'll do on our server is create a non-root sudo user.

First, let's make sure everything is up to date:

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get upgrade

I followed this tutorial at Digital Ocean to create a non-root sudo user.

Create the new user with the adduser command. I called my new user peter.

$ adduser <username>

Set a new password and confirm:

Enter new UNIX password:
Retype new UNIX password:
passwd: password updated successfully

The user details can be skipped by pressing [Enter]. Then [Y] to complete the new user setup.

Changing the user information for username
Enter the new value, or press ENTER for the default
    Full Name []:
    Room Number []:
    Work Phone []:
    Home Phone []:
    Other []:
Is the information correct? [Y/n]

Now let's give our new user sudo privaleges:

$ usermod -aG sudo <username>

The new user account is created and the new user has sudo privalges. We can switch accounts and become the new user with:

$ sudo su - <username>

The new user should have sudo privileges. That means when acting as <username> we should be able to look in the /root directory.

$ sudo ls -la /root

If you can see the contents of /root then the new user is set up with sudo access.

To exit out of the the new sudo user, and get back to using the root profile, type exit at the prompt

$ exit

Add SSH keys to new user's profile

Before we log off, we need to add our SSH keys to our new user's profile on the server. The second time I set up JupyterHub, I had trouble logging in as the non-root user using PuTTY. I could log in as root just fine, but I couldn't log in as the newly created user peter.

When Digital Ocean created the server, the SSH keys (specified on the creation page) were added to the root profile. The new user peter didn't exist when the server was created. The only user on the server at creation time was root. Therefore, no SSH keys were added to the peter profile at server creation time- because the user peter didn't exist yet.

Since we want to log into our server as the new non-root user peter, we need to add the same SSH keys saved in the root profile to the peter profile. The SSH keys belong in a file located at /home/peter/.ssh/authorized_keys.

This little line will copy the ssh keys from the root profile to the new user's profile. The line comes from this tutorial by Digital Ocean.

$ rsync --archive --chown=peter:peter ~/.ssh /home/peter

Next, we need to open the ufw firewall to OpenSSH trafic. We we'll communicate with the server over SSH and need the firewall to allow this type of communication through.

$ ufw allow OpenSSH
$ ufw enable
$ ufw status

Now we can exit out of the root profile. This terminates the PuTTY session.

$ exit

Connect to the server as the non-root sudo user using PuTTY

Now that the non-root sudo user is set up and our ssh keys are in /home/<user>/.ssh/authorized_keys/, let's start a new PuTTY session and log into the server as the new user.

Like before, open PuTTY from the Windows Start menu and add the following settings, but this time the Auto-login user name is the name of our new non-root sudo user:

parameter value
IP Address IP of droplet ex:
Port 22
Connection --> SSH --> Auth --> Private key file private SSH key
Connection --> Data --> Auto-login username peter

I also saved the PuTTY session details at this point so that I wouldn't have to re-enter all of the parameters each time I want to log into the server. Enter a name into [Saved Sessions] and click [Save]. Once the parameters are saved in PuTTY, you can simply double-click the profile name to log into the server.

PuTTY save profile

Log into the server with Sessions --> [Open]

You should see the Digital Ocean login screen again. Note the command prompt will have the new user's name before the @ symbol.

server terminal as peter

Check to see which directory you land in. It should be /home/<username>

$ pwd

We can see the non-root user's home directory. Let's make sure we can also see into the root user's home directory to ensure we have sudo privileges as the non-root user:

$ sudo ls -la /root

To log out of the server simply type exit. This command closes the PuTTY session.

$ exit

Next Steps

The next step is to install Miniconda, create a virtual environment, and install JupyterHub.