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Initialize A New Server Instance

Upon creating a new server on a remote machine by a VPS provider such as Linode or Digital Ocean, perform the following steps to initialize the server environment properly with the right admin access.

Set up SSH

Using Linode as an example, during the initialization of a new instance (say,, Linode would require creating a root password. On local machine, login with user root for the first time.

ssh root@

Answer Yes when prompted for continuing connecting to this new host from the local machine. After is permanently added to the list of known hosts, the connection will be closed. Login again with root's password.

ssh root@

Upon successful login, Ubuntu's welcome message will be displayed.

Add new sudo user

On server, login as root user.

adduser userjoe

Provide answers to complete creating userjoe:

  • Password (required)
  • Full Name (optional)
  • Room Number (optional)
  • Work Phone (optional)
  • Home Phone (optional)
  • Other (optional)

Grant this new user sudo privilege.

usermod -aG sudo userjoe

Check all the current users that have sudo privileges.

getent group sudo

Test the login for the new userjoe. Log out from user root, then login as userjoe with the password.

ssh userjoe@

It's better to use userjoe than root.


Login with root should be limited to the minimum

Logged in as userjoe, disallow root login over SSH.

sudo vim /etc/ssh/sshd_config

Flag the following parameter from yes`` to no`.

PermitRootLogin no

Set hostname

The initial server prompt is something like this:


It can be changed into something more fun, like a greek god's name.

sudo hostnamectl set-hostname apollo

Log out and log in back again. The prompt now reads:


Set local time

By default, Linux's image will be set to UTC time (Greenwich Mean Time). Change this to the local server time with:

sudo dpkg-reconfigure tzdata

Pick US and Pacific-New,

Current default time zone: 'US/Pacific-New'
Local time is now: Fri Apr 7 21:51:25 PDT 2023.
Universal Time is now: Sat Apr 8 04:51:25 UTC 2023.

Set up passwordless SSH login

Generate public and private SSH key pair on the local machine (or your local server, or whatever server you use as the entry point to SSH into other remote machine).


Do not use a passphrase

Just click space bar twice to skip the creation of a passphrase.

The key pair will be generated and saved in ~/.ssh as:

  • id_rsa_apollo

Copy the public key to server apollo using SSH.

cat ~/.ssh/ | ssh userjoe@ "mkdir -p ~/.ssh && cat >>  ~/.ssh/authorized_keys"

Do not ever copy private key to another remote machine

Configure SSH

On the local machine, edit the SSH configuration file.

vim ~/.ssh/config

Add this entry to the file

host apollo
User userjoe
IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa_apollo

Now, instead of using the clumsy ssh userjoe@, do this

ssh apollo

Set personal preferences

On the server apollo, open up configuration file .bashrc and add a few lines for personal preferences.

# use PS1 to change the format of the prompt
# PS1='[\u@\h \W]\$ ' # Default
# \A: the current time in 24-hour HH:MM: format
# \w: the current working directory
# \u: the username of the current user
# \#: the command number of this command
# \h: the hostname up to the first '.'
# display format = absolute path + time + command number + user@hostname
export PS1="\[\e[0;36m\]\w\[\e[m\] \[\e[0;33m\]\A\[\e[m\] \[\e[0;34m\][\#]\[\e[m\] \[\e[0;32m\]\u\[\e[m\]@\[\e[0;35m\]\h\[\e[m\] \[\e[0;37m\]$ \[\e[m\]"

alias lsl="ls -la | awk '{k=0;for(i=0;i<=8;i++)k+=((substr(\$1,i+2,1)~/[rwx]/)*2^(8-i));if(k)printf(\"%0o \",k);print}'"

alias rm="rm -i"

Then refresh the terminal instance for the new configuration to take effect.

source .bashrc

These are some of the most basic steps to initialize a new server instance for ease of use. Rock on!

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