Webinar Setup

Table of Contents

Welcome! Want to follow along with me during my live streams? Great!

In just about all of my live events I perform hands-on demonstrations. To follow along with these, set up your systems according to the suggestions listed below.

Of course, this assumes that you can handle listening to my voice for a few hours!

Quick Summary: Use VirtualBox, Debian (set up as NAT Network), and have SSH ready to go. Read on for details.

Use Virtual Machines

As a best practice, use locally installed virtual machines (VMs). I say "best practice" because it is preferable to test new software in a separate, safe environment and not on your main system. Good virtualization options include:

... and the list goes on. VirtualBox is a good choice to begin with because it's free, easy to use, and available on many platforms. However, as you progress you might want to look into other virtualization tools.

Personally, I use KVM on my main Linux system. It's open source, powerful, and free.

I recommend installing Linux to your VM. Good options include Ubuntu, Debian, and Fedora (though there are plenty more great Linux distros). For demos, I usually work with Debian because it is lightweight but functional. In my humble opinion, it is the ultimate testing environment!

For most webinars I will run a Debian client (with the GNOME desktop) and a Debian server (command-line only). Perhaps more distros depending on the webinar. See the README file in the course repository for that particular webinar for more details on what I recommend.

To install Debian as a "server" simply deselect all desktop environments (GNOME, Debian desktop, etc...) during the task selection portion of the installation.

*Note that if you use VirtualBox, it can automate the installation of Debian for you, but it will install as a client by default. If you want a proper server, you will have to disable automated installations in VirtualBox.

For all of my OS walk-throughs see this link.
Another option is to spin up your virtual machines on the cloud (AWS, Azure, Digital Ocean, Linode, etc...) Depending on the cloud provider you may encounter some networking hurdles, but it's usually quick and easy to set up a VM. However, you will be charged a fee at some point (if not immediately). Be on the lookout for free or cheap tier pricing, and be sure to disable (and delete) your servers when you are done with them so that you don't continue to be charged. I have spoken.
Warning! Make sure that you have permission before using any systems that are not yours, and please do not run any testing virtual machines in a production environment. This sort of behavior can get you in a heap of trouble.

Configure NAT

I highly recommend using network address translation (NAT) mode for your virtual machines, and not bridged mode. This provides a layer of separation between your VMs and your LAN. In this type of setup, the VMs will be able to communicate with each other and the main host, but not with other systems on the LAN (by default). However, in VirtualBox, you will need to select "NAT Network", as opposed to the default "NAT". (This is also important if you are using Vagrant with VirtualBox.) Also, if you will be using VirtualBox, be sure to use the port forwarding technique for SSH.

For information about using VirtualBox, creating a NAT Network, and setting up port forwarding, see this link.

You'll Want SSH!

You will want to have an SSH client in order to connect to your virtual machines from your main host. For most of you, SSH will be installed by default. If not, check the following:

  • Windows: Go to Settings > Apps. Then click the Optional features link. From here you can add the feature: OpenSSH Client. In some cases you might have to enable the OpenSSH service. Go to Run > services.msc, and then locate, enable and start the service there. You can also install OpenSSH with Chocolatey. (Install Chocolatey from this link. Then, type choco install openssh.)
  • Linux: You can install OpenSSH on any Linux client. For example, for Debian, type apt install openssh-client. For Fedora, use dnf. In some cases you might just need to enable and start the service as it may already be installed. To enable it type systemctl enable sshd. To start it, type systemctl start sshd.
  • macOS: Install OpenSSH by opening a terminal (Applications > Utilities > Terminal) and then typing sudo port install openssh. You can also install OpenSSH with Homebrew. (Install Homebrew from this link. Then, type brew install openssh.)

But again, most client operating systems today will have OpenSSH installed. If that is not the case, and the above options do not work, you can also consider other SSH client solutions: Putty (and derivatives), Kitty, MobaXterm, SecureCRT, and so on.

For a tutorial on SSH, see this link.

And there you go. Thank you for reading this, and I hope to hear from you at one of my live streams!
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