here ye, here ye, get your free AWS account today

Update, November 3, 2011: In my excitement and haste, it seems I didn't read carefully enough. The free year only applies to "micro" instances and may even only apply applies to Amazon's own Linux distro at that. Please read the terms more carefully than I did before you proceed. My apologies. If it makes anyone feel better, my penance is a $10.00 bill from Amazon.

;(

Update, November 3, 2011: Thanks to Eileen of Amazon for removing the charge upon learning that I'm an idiot who doesn't read carefully!

Yesterday I stumbled upon the news that Amazon is offering one year free of use – for new users – of it's Elastic Computer Cloud (EC2):

Free Tier*

As part of AWS’s Free Usage Tier, new AWS customers can get started with Amazon EC2 for free. Upon sign-up, new AWS customers receive the following EC2 services each month for one year:

  • 750 hours of EC2 running Linux/Unix Micro instance usage
  • 750 hours of Elastic Load Balancing plus 15 GB data processing
  • 10 GB of Amazon Elastic Block Storage (EBS) plus 1 million IOs and 1 GB snapshot storage
  • 15 GB of bandwidth out aggregated across all AWS services
  • 1 GB of Regional Data Transfer

That's pretty cool because I could really use something that allowed me to demo stuff that my five-bucks-a-month GoDaddy hosting account won't allow me to do.

Truth be told, I already have a Windows VPS with KickAssVPS.com but at $20.00 per month I always remind myself that in the course of a year I could have paid for a small laptop/netbook and used that as a server for special projects, but I really don't want to do that because I don't want to be thinking along the lines of "Man, this storm is really bad. I should unplug everything even if it kills the server" or "Man, this day is really beautiful. I think I'll take the netbook to the local coffee shop", etc. I just don't want to have to think about that kind of stuff.

Anyway, KickAssVPS has totally lived up to their name over the last year and half I've used them. Their service and response time is great but I need it for so very little that I can't justify the expense. Especially not for a year now that I've got a Windows Server 2003 and Ubuntu AMI (Amazon Machine Image) up and running through Amazon.

I'm not hosting anything live at the moment through AWS/EC2 but I will be. I'll be moving the MXMLiszt demo over to the Windows AMI though I think I can get it successfully ported over to Ubuntu. But what this also allows me to do is offer web services, applications, and demos that I simply can't run on the Godaddy account but that I've been playing around with lately – things like pOAIndexter. Also, the Ubuntu AMI I installed has Python 2.6 and I can install my favorite Python modules like libxml. In fact, I've got root access so I can install whatever I need to. Can't do that with my current GoDaddy plan.

So why am I writing this other than to be an unpaid fanboy?

Well, I wanted to share a few things that made the process easier for me such as:

  • this YouTube video on the basic, first-time stuff with EC2. It's a little out-of-date but it's still useful. Ignore the stuff about a FireFox plugin because AWS now has a web-based management panel.
  • this post on using WinSCP for connecting, via SSH, to an AMI.
    • see this related post, too.
  • and these particular 32-bit AMI identifiers that are working for me:

I had trouble getting some of the other AMIs to work and those two are working just fine it seems. Note that as reported per the Ubuntu AMI link, a reboot does seem necessary before connecting via SSH is possible. For the Windows one, I just use Remote Desktop.

By the way, if you don't need or want Ubuntu, Amazon offers their own Amazon Linux, Suse, and Red Hat AMIs. I found the AMIs made by Amazon seem to work without any hassle.

I should also point out a few things with using WinSCP with that particular Ubuntu AMI. The easiest way for me to do this is show a screen shot of my WinSCP login settings:

WinSCP settings for AWS/EC2

Note the user name of "ubuntu". The default user for AMI accounts is "root" but not for this one.

Also, I manually seemed to have to set the File Protocol to "SCP" otherwise I was running into error messages like "Received too large … SFTP packet. Max supported packet size is 102400 B" and "Error skipping startup message. Your shell is probably incompatible with the application (BASH is recommended)".

I should mention I just like WinSCP for the GUI file/folder viewer and the drag-and-drop stuff. I don't like the terminal that's built into WinSCP at all so I use Putty for the terminal. Luckily, WinSCP let's you select "Open in Putty" from the "Commands" menu.

Well, that's it for now. I guess I really wrote this as a note-to-self but I also thought that it might be useful news for any of my librarian-programmer friends who might also benefit from a having a free year to host more advanced applications and demos.

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