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Step by step guide to setting up a client server workstation on Ubuntu and VirtualBox

I work on a number of different software projects. During the week I work on project called Yoolk and during the evenings and weekends I might work on AdFlickr or some other new project! Either of these main projects might also have sub-projects. The cleanest way to separate all of these projects is to develop the software using a guest OS running in VirtualBox. It makes sense, of course, that the guest OS matches your production environment as much as possible. Some of the benefits of doing this are:

While the benefits are great, there is a little work to be done to set this up initially (but it’s not too much). The longest step is installing the guest OS on VirtualBox. Obviously this depends on which guest OS you install. I use Ubuntu 9.04 Server Edition. By the way, my host OS is currently Ubuntu 9.10 but I know that this also works on Ubuntu 9.04 (since I used to run that before).

Below is a step by step guide to setting this up. Notice that you will be alternating between the client (your desktop OS) and the server (the guest OS in VirtualBox):

  1. client: install server on virtualbox (make the default user the same name as client user name)
  2. client: configure virtualbox to use bridged networking and start server
  3. server: sudo apt-get update
  4. server: sudo apt-get install openssh-server
  5. server: ifconfig (and note the ip address)
  6. client: ssh into the server using the IP address you recorded in the previous step
  7. server: mkdir .ssh
  8. client: ssh-keygen (don’t enter any values, press return three times, yes passwords should be blank)
  9. client: cat ~/.ssh/ – copy the output to the clipboard (very carefully, no pre/trailing white space)
  10. server: touch .ssh/authorized_keys
  11. server: sudo nano .ssh/authorized_keys – paste clipboard contents
  12. client: sudo nano /etc/hosts – add line: 192.168.???.??? (get ip from ifconfig)
  13. client: sudo /etc/init.d/networking restart (refresh new data in /etc/hosts)
  14. client: In nautilus go to ssh:// then add the location to bookmarks
  15. client: In your web browser, go to and add the location to bookmarks (you will not get a response unless you have a web server running your application on your guest OS, of course!).

After you have completed the above steps when logging in via ssh you shouldn’t be prompted for a password! Note, if IP address of the server changes, you should edit /etc/hosts to reflect that change.