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Creating a SEED VM on the Cloud

Step 1: Create a VM Instance

First we need to create a VM instance on the cloud, and install the Ubuntu 20.04 LTS operating system on the VM. The minimal machine configuration is 1 CPU core, 2GB of memory, and 10GB of disk space. If you feel that the performance is not good enough, you can always change the machine configuration later.

There are many cloud platforms to choose from. We have written instructions for the following clouds. If you are using one that is popular, but it is not on this list, we invite you to write a manual for it, so others can benefit.

If you used the SEEDUbuntu20.04LTS community AMI image in AWS in this step, you should skip Step 2, because everything is already installed and configured in this AMI image. Jump to Step 3. If you cannot find the AMI image (it may not be available in your region), you should not skip Step 2.

Step 2: Install Software and Configure System

When the Ubuntu 20.04 VM is built, a default username with the root privilege will be created in the system. The actual name of the user is typically chosen by the cloud operator. Most cloud platforms will provide a method for you to SSH into this account. Please log into the VM, and do the followings:

  • Step 2.a: Download from the link or using the following command (if copy-and-paste does not work for your SSH client, you may have to type the command; make sure you type the URL correctly):

    curl -o
  • Step 2.b: In order to unzip the file, we first need to install the unzip program using the following command. After that, unzip the file.

    sudo apt update
    sudo apt -y install unzip
  • Step 2.c: After unzipping the file, you will see a src-cloud folder. Enter this folder, and run the following command to install software and configure the system.

  • Note: This shell script will download and install all the software needed for the SEED labs. The whole process will take a few minutes. Please don't leave, because you will be asked twice to make choices:

    • During the installation of Wireshark, you will be asked whether non-superuser should be able to capture packets. Select No.

    • During the installation of xfce4, you will be asked to choose a default display manager. Choose LightDM.

After the script finishes, a new account called seed is created. We will use this account for all the SEED labs, instead of the default one created by the cloud. We intentionally did not set a password for this account, so nobody can directly log into this account. We can switch to the seed account using the following command (if you do not use sudo, the OS will ask you to type the password, making it impossible to log in):

sudo su seed

Step 3 (Option A): Access the VM Using VNC

For most labs, being able to SSH into the VM should be sufficient. Some labs do need to access GUI applications on the VM, such as Firefox and Wireshark. If your network bandwidth is not too bad, being able to get a graphical desktop of the remote VM is always more desirable than getting a text terminal via SSH. We will use VNC (Virtual Network Computing) to get the remote desktop.

  • On the cloud VM: We need to make sure that we are in the seed account. If you are still in the default account, do the following, and you will be in the seed account:

    sudo su seed

    Our installation script has already installed the TigerVNC server program on the VM. You need to start the server.

    vncserver -localhost no

    By default, TigerVNC server only listens to localhost/ The purpose of the -localhost no option means accepting access from the outside. When we first start the vncserver, we will be asked to provide a password. Make sure this password is strong enough. Moreover, VNC communication itself is not encrypted, so you should not send anything personal. If you do want to secure it, you can run an SSH tunnel or VPN tunnel to protect the VNC communication.

  • On your computer: You need to have a VNC viewer installed on your computer, such as TigerVNC, and RealVNC. If you prefer other VNC viewers, it is fine. Most of them are compatible with one another. Some users have reported that TigerVNC have issues on macOS, but RealVNC has no problem.

    Start your VNC viewer program, and type the IP address of the VM, along with the port number, such as Most cloud VMs have two IP addresses; make sure you use the external IP address, not the internal one. You will be prompted for password, which is the one you typed when you first run the VNC server. If everything is done correctly, you will see the desktop of your remote VM.

  • If you VNC does not work, check your firewall to make sure TCP traffics to the port 5901 on the VM is allowed. Also check whether your VNC server is running properly. Here are some useful commands to help you manage the VNC server on the VM:

    vncserver -list       # List the VNC server sessions
    vncserver -kill :1    # Kill the session for :1 display

Step 3 (Option B): Access the VM Using SSH

To run VNC, you need to have reasonable bandwidth. If your VNC performance is bad, you should switch to SSH. You can get by with many of the SEED labs using just terminals. There are many ways to SSH into the cloud VM:

  • Most cloud platforms provide a default browser-based SSH client. Google cloud's SSH client even allows you to upload and download files, which is very convenient.

  • You can also find many third-party SSH clients. Some clouds may have disabled the password authentication in SSH, so you have to use public keys for the authentication. You need to generate public/private key pairs on your SSH client machine, and save the public key into the /home/seed/.ssh/authorized_keys file on the server machine. You can easily find instructions from online resources, so we will not provide one here.

Notes on Cost

Unless you have a special deal with cloud company, you will be charged for using the cloud VM. Please keep an eye on your bill, because sometimes, there are costs that you may not be aware of, such as bandwidth cost, storage cost, etc. Understanding where your expense is can help you reduce it. Moreover, to avoid wasting money, remember to suspend your VMs if you are not working on them. Although a suspended VM still incurs storage cost (usually very small), it does not incur any computing costs. You can easily resume them when you are ready to continue your work.