A picture of Mark Chambers, a white guy with a full beard wearing a white button-up shirt and a loosened collar and necktie.

In the early 1990s, elementary schools across the US were opening the first “computer labs”. As a 9-year-old, using an Apple IIe and being responsible for my own floppy disk was pretty cool. One of our projects was to write a short fantasy story. Once we had our final draft, we entered it into a word processor, saved it to our disk and gave it to our teacher. Each student's story — along with our own illustrations — was compiled into a book. In retrospect, there was likely a purpose behind this assignment. My first impression of the computer had been connected with creativity.

The computer lab got an upgrade almost every year. We watched it go from megahertz to gigahertz, megabytes to gigabytes, 2-tone screens to millions of colors, floppy disks to thumb drives. It was an exciting time to grow up! If that was your thing.

Public libraries 

In 1995, we purchased our first family computer, an IBM Aptiva. Having our own computer at home was very different. I stopped visiting the public libray. It was a gaming was Microsoft Paint. I recall painstakingly illustrating the front of a diesel locomotive pixel by pixel.

Our generation either embraced the computer or got by without it.

Having mastered my first video game titles like Myst, Tomb Raider, and MechWarrior II, I started dabbling with Microsoft Paint. I recall painstakingly illustrating the front of a diesel locomotive pixel by pixel. I actually found the file.

Later I got my hands on Adobe Photoshop and started experimenting with photo manipulation and layers.

“Yes, I love technology,
But not as much as you, you see,
But still I love technology,
Always and forever.”

This new hobby continued on the first floor. In my sister's bedroom sat a brand new beautiful blue and white Apple Power Macintosh G3. After adding a few more video games to my repertoire (Avernum, Cythera, Riven) I decided to put my graphics skills to practical use. I began building my own Smashing Pumpkins fan website from the ground up with the original Macromedia Dreamweaver. DW never did what you wanted it to, so I learned HTML by studying the code it generated. It was this foundation which would later help me find my way into the professional world.

I put my creativity on hold for a couple years. After working in the service sector, doing a bit of travelling and binging on games (StarCraft, Morrowind, Lineage II), it was time to think about my future. I decided to go to college and study graphic and web design — the obvious choice. I enrolled in every art and design class I could, also breaking into photography for the first time.

I bought my first Apple computer for my studies: a brand new Mac Book Pro. It was the first of the Intel line, a vintage machine. That baby was my daily driver for over 10 years. Lots of work done on it, new skills acquired and of course gaming (Age of Empires, Civilization, Railroad Tycoon). Now I'm doing things I never imagined: bringing my designs to life with content management systems. People talk about WordPress, but Drupal is where it's at. I can spend hours on end turning my ideas into realities — it's better than gaming!

Mark Chambers


  1. Download and install Ubuntu
  2. Set system clock
  3. Upgrade to PHP 5.6
  4. Activate root user

1: Download and Install Ubuntu

1.1: Download

Pick your breed of “Trusty Tahr” below. I’ll be going with the 64-bit Server for this guide.


1.2: Install

Load your CD (or mount the ISO) to begin the installer.

Follow the prompts; here’s the process step-by-step:

  1. In the main menu, select "Install Ubuntu Server" and press Enter.
  2. Select a language – This is only for the install process. (This guide is in English, so...)
  3. Select your location – Since I'm in Germany, I have to choose other and press Enter...
  4. ...then I select Europe, then Germany.
  5. Configure locales – Because English and Germany isn't a valid combination, I have to choose a country to base my language settings on. I'll go with United States. ;)
  6. Configure the keyboard – Detect keyboard layout? Yes.
  7. Answer the Yes or No questions about which keys exist on your keyboard. Eventually it has enough information to make a good guess. Press Continue. If it seems wrong, Go Back and try again.
  8. Hardware detection and configuration will now take place. "This may take some time."
  9. Configure the network – Set the hostname to whatever is appropriate for your network. If you're not sure, just leave the default value and press Enter. For this example it’s bornkamp.
  10. Set up users and passwords – Enter full name of the user. For this example it’s going to be Bornkamp Dev.
  11. Enter a username for the above user. (This is typically a short-form of the above, in lower-case letters.) For this example it’s simply dev.
  12. Choose a password and verify it.
  13. Encrypt your home directory? Since I'm running a server and not really using the home directory, it's not necessary. So, No.
  14. Configure the clock – If it successfully detects your time zone, then press Enter. Otherwise press No and choose it manually.
  15. Now disk detection takes place...
  16. Partition disks – Choose partitioning method. For my case I'm choosing the first option: Guided – use entire disk.
  17. Now select the disk to partition and press Enter.
  18. Confirm that this is the right disk and that you acknowledge any contents will be deleted and replaced with Ubuntu. Write the changes to disks? Yes.
  19. Configure the package manager – Before we can install additional packages, we need Internet access. Do you gain access through a proxy? Not in this tutorial. Blank for none. Continue.
  20. Configuring apt... please wait.
  21. Configuring tasksel – No automatic updates
  22. Software selection – Select extra packages. Use the arrow keys to move up and down and press the spacebar to select a package. For this example we need OpenSSH server and LAMP Server. Press Enter to continue.
  23. Configuring mysql-server-5.5 – Choose a password for the MySQL "root" user. You can also leave it blank for none.
  24. The rest of the packages and their dependencies will now install...
  25. Install the GRUB boot loader on a hard disk – Yes
  26. This concludes the installation. Eject the CD (or unmount your ISO) and press Continue to reboot.

Log in as the user account you just created.

By default the root user account is disabled in Ubuntu. As unlocking it is not recommended, this guide will use the usual sudo-prepended commands.

2: Set System Clock

Before we start making changes to the server, let’s make sure the clock keeps in sync.

2.1: Enable built-in Network Time Protocol

timedatectl set-ntp true

2.2: Install the NTP daemon

sudo apt-get -y install ntp

2.3: Configure the NTP Servers

Once the program is installed, open the configuration file:

sudo vi /etc/ntp.conf

Find the selection below:

server 0.ubuntu.pool.ntp.org
server 1.ubuntu.pool.ntp.org
server 2.ubuntu.pool.ntp.org
server 3.ubuntu.pool.ntp.org

Since I'm in Germany, I'm going to replace it with these servers:

server 0.de.pool.ntp.org
server 1.de.pool.ntp.org
server 2.de.pool.ntp.org
server 3.de.pool.ntp.org

For a full list of NTP servers around the world, click here.

2.4: Restart and check the time

sudo service ntp restart


Output looks good:

      Local time: Wed 2016-11-30 13:49:36 CET
  Universal time: Wed 2016-11-30 12:49:36 UTC
        Timezone: Europe/Berlin (CET, +0100)
     NTP enabled: yes
NTP synchronized: yes
 RTC in local TZ: no
      DST active: no
 Last DST change: DST ended at
                  Sun 2016-10-30 02:59:59 CEST
                  Sun 2016-10-30 02:00:00 CET
 Next DST change: DST begins (the clock jumps one hour forward) at
                  Sun 2017-03-26 01:59:59 CET
                  Sun 2017-03-26 03:00:00 CEST

Now our log file timestamps will always be accurate. =]

3: Upgrade to PHP 5.6

3.1: Add the repository

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ondrej/php

You should get the output:

Co-installable PHP versions: PHP 5.5, 5.6, PHP 7.0 and batteries included.

You can get more information about the packages at https://deb.sury.org

For PHP 5.4 on Ubuntu 12.04 use: ppa:ondrej/php5-oldstable

BUGS&FEATURES: This PPA now has a issue tracker: https://deb.sury.org/#bug-reporting

PLEASE READ: If you like my work and want to give me a little motivation, please consider donating regularly: https://donate.sury.org/

WARNING: add-apt-repository is broken with non-UTF-8 locales, see https://github.com/oerdnj/deb.sury.org/issues/56 for workaround:

# LC_ALL=C.UTF-8 add-apt-repository ppa:ondrej/php
 More info: https://launchpad.net/~ondrej/+archive/ubuntu/php
Press [ENTER] to continue or ctrl-c to cancel adding it

Press Enter to continue.

3.2: Get PHP 5.6

Now run the following commands:

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get -y install php5.6 php5.6-mbstring php5.6-mcrypt php5.6-mysqlnd php5.6-xml php5.6-gd php5.6-dev make

3.3: Out with the old and in with the new

Disable PHP 5.5:

sudo a2dismod php5

Remove PHP 5.5:

sudo apt-get -y purge php5-common

Now enable 5.6:

sudo a2enmod php5.6

Now restart the server:

sudo service apache2 restart

3.4: Check the current version of PHP

php -v

If you see PHP 5.6.x... then you did something right!

4: Activate the root user

By default Ubuntu disables the superuser root in favor of privileged commands needing to be run with sudo, which then requires a password confirmation — good for preventing accidents. But if you’re fearless, rushed or just plain lazy, we can set root free like so:

sudo passwd root

First you are asked for your current user password, then you can choose (and confirm) the root password.

Now go ahead and change to root:

su root

Don’t break anything!

Enable root login over SSH

As root, edit the sshd_config file in /etc/ssh/sshd_config:

vi /etc/ssh/sshd_config

Add a line in the Authentication section of the file that says PermitRootLogin yes (if this line already exists with the value without-password, then replace with yes):

# Authentication:
LoginGraceTime 120
PermitRootLogin yes
StrictModes yes

Save the updated /etc/ssh/sshd_config file.

Restart the SSH server:

service ssh restart

You can now connect to the server as root over SSH.