GEOG 865
Cloud and Server GIS

Logging in to your instance


After you've given your instance about 10 minutes to configure Windows, you can get ready to log in to the instance and start working with your software. The first thing you need to do is get the Administrator password so you can log in.

  1. Log in to the AWS Management Console and view your list of instances, as you did in the previous walkthrough (Services > EC2 and then click Instances in the left menu).
  2. Right-click your instance and click Get Windows Password.
  3. Click Browse... and browse to the key pair file you saved in the previous walkthrough when you launched the instance. This is a small file with a .pem extension.
  4. Click Decrypt Password and copy or write down the displayed password.
  5. Open Windows Remote Desktop. In most versions of Windows, you can browse to this from Start > All Programs > Accessories > Remote Desktop Connection. In older versions of Windows, it may be in a folder called Communications.

    Note: If you're using Windows 8.1 (or later) or any machine with a very high resolution display, you might notice that your Remote Desktop has very, very small fonts, making your EC2 instance difficult to use. In this event, you might like to (as I do) use Microsoft's "Remote Desktop Connection Manager" tool. It has the same functionality as Remote Desktop Connection, but with the ability to smartly scale the size of the screen.

    Remote Desktop is a program that you can use to log in to other computers from your own computer. If you're new to Remote Desktop, you may want to take some time to read Remote Desktop Connection: frequently asked questions.
  6. In Remote Desktop Connection, click the Options button > Local Resources tab > More button and check the box for Drives. Then click OK. This will permit you to copy data from your machine onto the remote machine (in this case, your Amazon EC2 instance).
  7. In Remote Desktop Connection, under the General tab, type or paste the Elastic IP of your instance into the Computer input box. If you can't remember what this is, click Elastic IPs in the AWS Management Console and you will see it listed.
  8. In the User name input box, type Administrator. Then click the Connect button.

    You might see a warning message here about remote desktop connections harming your computer. Anytime you connect to a remote computer, there is the possibility that a malicious party could try to pose as the machine you are logging in to. Older versions of Remote Desktop were especially susceptible to this type of "man in the middle" attack. The work you are doing for this course is relatively benign and low risk, so you can click Connect.

    If you are using a computer at work, it's possible that Remote Desktop connections to machines outside your corporate firewall are blocked. If this is the case, you need to work with your IT administrator to open communication through port 3389 on your machine to all machines in the Amazon subnet. If you work in a high-security environment (or any environment with lots of red tape), getting approval to change a firewall rule like this may be difficult or impossible, and it will be easier to perform these steps from home instead.
  9. In the Password input box, carefully type or paste the administrator password that you obtained in the first few steps above (sometimes Windows will not allow you to paste a password). Then click OK.

    You may see a window warning you that the identity of the remote computer cannot be verified. You can ignore this warning and click Yes.

    In a few seconds, you should see Windows appear. You are now working in a remote desktop session that is connected to your Amazon EC2 instance. This behaves just like any program in Windows. You can minimize it or close it, but note that closing your remote desktop session does not stop your instance. Your instance will continue to accrue charges until you right-click it in the AWS Management Console and click Stop. This is what you should do if you are interrupted while performing these instructions, or need to take a break at any time.

    The first thing you'll do on your instance is change the administrator password to something that only you know and can easily remember.
  10. On your instance (not your own computer), click the search magnifying glass icon in the lower left and find Computer Management.
  11. Expand Local Users and Groups and click Users.
  12. In the list of users, right-click Administrator and click Set Password > Proceed. Type and confirm a new password that you can remember. In the future, you can use this password when logging in to your instance.
  13. Now do a bit of exploring around the machine. Notice that you have the basic Windows programs available to you.
  14. Take a screen capture of your entire desktop and save it to your local machine as evidence that you made it this far. You will need this in your lesson deliverables. At least some part of your Remote Desktop session should be visible in the screen capture, although you  may also have to display part of the desktop of your local machine before you can successfully take the capture onto the local machine.
  15. Open Windows Explorer (using the little file folder icon at the bottom of the screen) and click This PC. Notice that your instance has a 30 GB C: drive (which we could have made bigger when we launched the instance). You should also see all the disk drives from your local computer listed (go ahead and browse them). This is how you can copy files from your own machine onto your EC2 instance.

    The purpose of launching this instance was to show you how you can use the AWS Management Console to create and log in to a virtual machine. We're not going to use it for any future assignments, although an instance like this might be useful if you need a certain program or a particular level of computing power just for a short time.

    In future lessons, we'll work with Windows instances similar to this one that are running ArcGIS Server. You will make remote desktop connections into them, change the administrator password, and move files around in the same way that you have observed here. Therefore, although there is no GIS in this lesson, the material covered here lays down the fundamentals that you'll use for at least the next three lessons and possibly your term project.
  16. When you are done looking around in the instance, close your Remote Desktop session and stop the instance using the instructions in the previous page.

If something goes wrong with your instance, you can terminate it and create a new instance.

Typically when you log in to your instance, you'll open Remote Desktop Connection and type the user name Administrator, followed by the new password that you set above. To end your session, you can just close the remote desktop window. If you are going away for more than an hour, also make sure to stop your instance in the AWS Management Console.