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Instant Server
June 15, 2013 4:47 PM   Subscribe

Click the button to get a virtual private server.

What’s the catch?
The server gets destroyed after 35 minutes. You can pay to keep it longer.

When would I use this?
Among other reasons, perhaps:
You need another computer to test something quickly
You need to install and use a utility for one thing, and don’t want to clutter your own environment
You need a vanilla environment to get something to build and run properly
You need linux but accidentally used windows
posted by jenkinsEar (63 comments total) 61 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's a pretty cool idea, but I can't really think of a reason to use it. Those reasons seem silly to me, if you need a clean environment to test something, you'd probably (or potentially) need more than 35 minutes to set up whatever you needed to test. If you needed that functionality on a regular basis, you'd have that set up for yourself anyway.
posted by gkhan at 4:57 PM on June 15, 2013


I rm -rf a bunch of directories and felt nothing.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:00 PM on June 15, 2013 [36 favorites]


Wow this seems like an absolutely awesome tool that, on reflection, I have no idea how to effectively use.
posted by Nelson at 5:02 PM on June 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


gkhan: "f you need a clean environment to test something, you'd probably (or potentially) need more than 35 minutes to set up whatever you needed to test"

Sometimes what you need to test is a virgin setup for software that you develop.

In that case you want a clean environment every time you test, and you should aim for setup to take well less than 35 minutes.
posted by idiopath at 5:02 PM on June 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


You really need some sort of chef/puppet setup to make this useful if you are actually going to use the server to, you know, serve something. though 35 minutes is probably good for an intro to unix computer lab.
posted by gryftir at 5:03 PM on June 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is there anyway I can use this to watch the last season of Game of Thrones?

Really, is there?
posted by MoxieProxy at 5:04 PM on June 15, 2013


That is cool. After 35 minutes you should know if you really truely want to port that ASp.NET over to rails.

If you want to keep going just pony up to keep it.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:07 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey everybody there's a party on my super elite server RIGHT NOW

ssh mefi@54.226.64.131
password: mefi

talk is installed
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 5:08 PM on June 15, 2013 [17 favorites]


Can I create a server that pushes the button and makes another server?
posted by Jimbob at 5:12 PM on June 15, 2013 [14 favorites]


for a limited time, a silly weird ugly thing
posted by idiopath at 5:17 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]



Can I create a server that pushes the button and makes another server?

You could totally write a script to do that.

You could probably also copy your files to it, thus neatly circumventing the 35 minute issue.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:19 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another useful thing: I don't really have a public facing IP around, but occasionally make funny things that are web servers that I want to show a friend.
posted by idiopath at 5:19 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


someone picked up the triangle
posted by idiopath at 5:20 PM on June 15, 2013


Wow this seems like an absolutely awesome tool that, on reflection, I have no idea how to effectively use.
My thoughts immediately turned to evil. You could write a script with Selenium or some other browser automation tool to open a bunch of sessions, type in some commands in the terminal emulator (or curl a handy script), and make requests to a single target, thereby functioning as a DDOS tool. Of course, the IPs are in a limited range (EC2) so it would be easy enough to block, but attacks like this are surprisingly successful. *

Actually, I wonder if this app violates the EC2 terms of use. Does EC2 let you hand out root access to whomever?

* Not advocating you do this, of course.
posted by deathpanels at 5:23 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another useful thing: I don't really have a public facing IP around, but occasionally make funny things that are web servers that I want to show a friend.
It's like the Snapchat of web servers!
posted by deathpanels at 5:29 PM on June 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


awwwww, qxntpqbbbqxl's server dropped just as Wall started working...
posted by deadmessenger at 5:41 PM on June 15, 2013


haha, I was trying to get wall working too.
posted by deathpanels at 5:42 PM on June 15, 2013


OK, found a use for this; I just used it to improve the install instructions on a map tutorial I wrote. At least I know what stuff has to be installed via apt-get, pip, or from sources now. (TIL Ubuntu doesn't install git by default.)

It was kind of fun racing the 35 minute timer; I got as far as forgetting how to set up Postgres to not require a password before the system shut down. I felt like Jack Bauer! Or Chloe, I guess, keyboard against the clock. It'd be nice if you got a 60 second warning on the shutdown.

There's nothing that stops you from spinning up a second server, at least after the first one is down.
posted by Nelson at 5:44 PM on June 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nelson: "I just used it to improve the install instructions"

Yeah, I predict a bunch of Linux projects become much easier to set up and get running if this service sticks around (I was impressed with myself that my little baby weekend game-engine project installed and got started with so little fuss).
posted by idiopath at 5:48 PM on June 15, 2013


The fact there was a timer counting down inspired me to do something I've always wanted to do.

sudo rm -rf /
posted by Jimbob at 5:50 PM on June 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


Nope, it won't allow sudo rm -rf
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:04 PM on June 15, 2013


Nope, it won't allow sudo rm -rf

It does allow # shred /dev/xvda1, though
posted by kenko at 6:07 PM on June 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here is a transcript of the brief party on my server. I was actually AFK because I have a very short attention span, but here goes:

Broadcast Message from mefi@domU-12-
(/dev/pts/3) at 0:12 ...

hello all
.


Broadcast Message from mefi@domU-12-
(/dev/pts/3) at 0:14 ...

goodbye


Message from mefi@domU-12-31-38-04-11-06 on pts/2 at 00:20 ...
Hello from Sourcequench.
EOF

Broadcast Message from mefi@domU-12-
(/dev/pts/3) at 0:21 ...

hi


Message from mefi@domU-12-31-38-04-11-06 on pts/2 at 00:21 ...

Broadcast Message from mefi@domU-12-
(/dev/pts/3) at 0:21 ...

how do i use talk?

Talk is installed but doesn't seem to want to work for me.
EOF

Broadcast Message from mefi@domU-12-
(/dev/pts/3) at 0:22 ...

yea me neither...i guess wall it is ;)


Broadcast Message from mefi@domU-12-
(/dev/pts/3) at 0:22 ...

nobody shutdown ;)


Broadcast Message from mefi@domU-12-
(/dev/pts/4) at 0:35 ...

weeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
it works!


Broadcast Message from mefi@domU-12-
(/dev/pts/5) at 0:38 ...

what are we doing?


Broadcast Message from mefi@domU-12-
(/dev/pts/5) at 0:39 ...

rev john was here!



Broadcast Message from mefi@domU-12-
(/dev/pts/5) at 0:40 ...

so, I'm doing:

cat > blah ; wall < blah

typing what i want to say

then hitting ctrl-d



Broadcast Message from mefi@domU-12-
(/dev/pts/5) at 0:40 ...

uh, how much longer is this party going to last, and if any one can see this bu
t not respond, respond in thread!



Broadcast message from root@domU-12-31-38-04-11-06
(unknown) at 0:40 ...

The system is going down for power off NOW!

posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 6:08 PM on June 15, 2013


jenkinsEar: "You need another computer to test something quickly
You need to install and use a utility for one thing, and don’t want to clutter your own environment
You need a vanilla environment to get something to build and run properly
You need linux but accidentally used windows
"

Virtualbox is a better solution than this for all of these.

And Vagrant even better than that. But vagrant makes everything better.
posted by pwnguin at 6:10 PM on June 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


Is there anyway I can use this to watch the last season of Game of Thrones?

This is the type of thing I immediately thought of. You use it to download a file you don't want to(or can't) on your own machine, then download it from there.

It's probably on a gigabit connection if not even better. Your download would finish in like a minute once the torrent spun up, and then you could download it to your other machine at the maximum speed of your connection.

I bet this would work for maybe 2gb of data in 35 minutes.

Of course I don't advocate piracy, bla bla bla. But this could be an interesting tool for circumventing restricted or monitored networks when you don't want to, or can't setup a VPN tunnel to somewhere.

If you want actually instructions... Well look up CLI Linux torrent apps.
posted by emptythought at 6:14 PM on June 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can think of plenty of uses for a temporary, instant server, but what I can't figure out is what the motivation is for the person who set this up. Each instant server costs probably around 35 cents U.S. That's not much, but if hundreds of people a day use the service, it adds up to real money. And for what?
posted by maxim0512 at 6:35 PM on June 15, 2013


Competitive speed development challenges just got easier.
posted by spitbull at 6:37 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Be a hell of a way to build a honeypot too.
posted by spitbull at 6:38 PM on June 15, 2013


I clicked the button, but where is my soup?
posted by dhartung at 6:42 PM on June 15, 2013


I created a server to use Vim for 35 minutes. Fun times on a Saturday night!!
posted by hot_monster at 6:46 PM on June 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


It's probably on a gigabit connection if not even better.

But it's probably not allocated much of that; EC2 micro instances get "Very Low" network performance.

(And are CPU limited in complex ways, so you can't simply peg the CPU for 35 minutes...)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:58 PM on June 15, 2013


Wow, the terminal kinda sorta works on iPad. I love it.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:59 PM on June 15, 2013


They ain't doing this for giggles. It is freemium. Click on the gear symbol and then purchase more time button.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:02 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


But it's probably not allocated much of that; EC2 micro instances get "Very Low" network performance.

(And are CPU limited in complex ways, so you can't simply peg the CPU for 35 minutes...)


I get speeds of about 10 megabytes/second using wget, so it has decent enough speeds.
posted by gkhan at 7:04 PM on June 15, 2013


rm -rf /lib64
posted by benzenedream at 7:27 PM on June 15, 2013


Now someone just needs to write a multiplayer game where each game takes ~30 minutes, and where the server can be installed in less than five minutes.
posted by Pyry at 7:36 PM on June 15, 2013


root@ip-10-122-161-27:~# rm -rf / --no-preserve-root

[stuff happens]

root@ip-10-122-161-27:~# ls
ls: command not found
YES
posted by nev at 7:37 PM on June 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


But it's probably not allocated much of that; EC2 micro instances get "Very Low" network performance.

I was downloading something at "6,402 kb/s". Where I come from, that's fast.
posted by Jimbob at 7:41 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


rm -rf /lib64

But it's just so much more exciting on a live production proxy server... please don't ask how I know.
posted by sammyo at 8:10 PM on June 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was downloading something at "6,402 kb/s". Where I come from, that's fast.

This made me smile. This is more than fast enough for exactly the kind of tomfoolery I'm describing.

I wonder if it'll somehow block you if you just run a software VPN for 30 minutes...
posted by emptythought at 8:26 PM on June 15, 2013


My Linux knowledge is a bit limited. I was hoping to run xeyes from my 35 minute server since this is the most entertaining way to spend a Saturday evening, but I'm getting the error of "PuTTY X11 proxy: wrong authentication protocol attempted Error: Can't open display: localhost:10.0".

Obviously I'm using PuTTY, and also using Xming as my local X client. I did "sudo apt-get install xinit" and then "sudo apt-get install x11-tools" and that seemed to go ok. PuTTY is set up to allow X forwarding to localhost:0:0 and Xming is looking for connections on 0:0 so I think that's ok.

I've done this before with local Linux VM's and it worked. So what am I doing wrong with this one?
posted by honestcoyote at 8:44 PM on June 15, 2013


Jimbob: "I was downloading something at "6,402 kb/s". Where I come from, that's fast."

Spin up a few thousand of them and you've got yourself a very temporary botnet.
posted by pwnguin at 8:55 PM on June 15, 2013


This is interesting, but not because of what it is - it has been absolutely indispensable for me to be able to create VMs which are a copy of our production servers simply by running a script.

What is interesting to me is that they're running this on EC2, and bandwidth doesn't seem to be overly limited or blocked - I was able to download the ubuntu 13.04 iso via bit torrent fairly quickly - though upload speed seems very limited.

What's interesting is the 'renew' price - for $30 days, it'll cost you $48, or a 200% markup over EC2's cost for a micro instance - a pretty profit, if they can get someone to pay it. While I'm not recommending abusing the service, I just have to wonder if that's the extent of their business model - and hope people want to extend for some period of time. Seems unlikely - I'd expect someone who actually needs a temporary machine like this enough to start a micro instance themselves via AWS.

To me, this just seems ripe for abuse, especially since they have no identifying details on a random Internet user that starts a VM, but someone's thought enough about the idea to give it a go.

OTOH, if I were an budding software guy and wanted to prove some chops, this would be good as a portfolio project - especially the Stripe integration for time extension. It shows ability to execute an ill-defined project, integrate with AWS, as well as a payment gateway and give it a functional front-end. If I were looking for someone to code up an MVP that needed both those things, I'd hire them based on this project (assuming payment actually works).
posted by fragmede at 9:06 PM on June 15, 2013


So, can someone knock together a script to get one instance to open a new instance and copy itself over before the time runs out?
posted by pompomtom at 9:23 PM on June 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, can someone knock together a script to get one instance to open a new instance and copy itself over before the time runs out?

That was my first thought, too.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:55 PM on June 15, 2013


Well, as long as the copy gets done is less than 35 minutes.

This is a fun toy, but really, it's just a toy.
posted by GuyZero at 10:27 PM on June 15, 2013


Well, as long as the copy gets done is less than 35 minutes.

It's when you can do it in under 17.5 minutes that it gets interesting.
posted by pompomtom at 10:34 PM on June 15, 2013 [17 favorites]


Neat.

I can think of a few very real uses, aside from debugging Ubuntu-specific software problems without having to spend time setting up your own virtual machines.

Among them: you're confined to working at someone else's computer, and you're faced with doing something that would take seconds if only you had access to your favorite shell, language, or text editor but would be a huge pain in the neck using whatever tools happen to be installed. Also, you're worried about logging into any machine you control from one that you don't trust.

I suspect this isn't the sort of use-case that they intend to make money from, but the next time I need to modify a long text file or do some math on an ancient and insecure lab computer running windows, this will be a lot faster than going and going to fetch a laptop and a USB flash drive. I suspect that I will never again use the windows calculator program. (Though, I shudder to think of the wasted bandwidth and electricity required to fetch emacs every time I launch a server. Hope they've at least got a local repository.)

Also - looks like they've done nothing to prevent either socks over ssh or tunneled vnc connections. Having a free, disposable, amnesiac, nearly-anonymous system with a US IP address could be handy for lots of people. I hope they don't get shut down too quickly.

But, before you get too carried away, note that there's no privacy policy at all.
posted by eotvos at 10:42 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


http://www.peer-server.com/
posted by curuinor at 10:49 PM on June 15, 2013


Takes about 4 seconds to spin up a instance and use it as a SSH tunnel. So there is something that I will use it for.
posted by johnpowell at 11:28 PM on June 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's when you can do it in under 17.5 minutes that it gets interesting.

You ... you ... you worm!
posted by dhartung at 11:40 PM on June 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's a pretty easy workaround for the 35 minutes -- just script everything.

Have an alias for an scp command that sends over a big ol' tarball full of scripts & content. Grab a new VPS, run the scp command, untar on the remote machine and execute script as root. As long as the script doesn't take long to run, you'll be up an running in a few minutes.
posted by spiderskull at 12:12 AM on June 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you're thinking “I can use this to test software!” then Travis CI is what you actually want. 10 min only, though.
posted by migurski at 12:15 AM on June 16, 2013


nsahoneypot.com is Available!!
posted by fullerine at 12:24 AM on June 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


So - If I were that way inclined, here's what I'd do.

Create a script that....

In the newly created shell,
Installs whatever software I need
Opens the instantserver.io website, and creates a new server.
shells into the new server, and downloads / runs the aforementioned script

which would then repeatedly...

In the newly created shell,
Installs whatever software I need
Opens the instantserver.io website, and creates a new server.
shells into the new server, and downloads / runs the aforementioned script

...etc...

Good look trying to shut down all the zombie VM's that keep popping up sucka.
Hope your Amazon hosting costs aren't too high.
posted by zoo at 3:04 AM on June 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Takes about 4 seconds to spin up a instance and use it as a SSH tunnel. So there is something that I will use it for.

Yeah. It would be pretty sweet if Sidestep could be configured to fire up Instant Servers and use them as tunnels, discarding them after 35 minutes and firing up a new one.

This service will not last beyond this week. Or tomorrow. Someone's going to figure out a way to thrash it to hell and cost someone a lot of money.
posted by Jimbob at 8:25 AM on June 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Xeyes works for me, are you sure Xming and the tunnels already running?
--
I'm not super well versed on exactly what the ACLs on various bits of AWS are, but you can probably use S3 to speed up instance->instance copies, but of course, you're no longer anonymous.
--
> Hope they've at least got a local repository.
It's plain-Jane EC2 so yes, Amazon has a local repository pre-configured.
--
> This service will not last beyond this week. Or tomorrow.
Well, it existed at least 5 days ago so 2 days to go. As far as throttling, note that Amazon themselves limits how many EC2 instances a single AMI can fire up in a given timeframe, so whenever this service gets popular, new servers stop being available whenever this gets popular.

It's already survived the HN crowd, and Reddit isn't too far behind Metafilter. I suspect this is the pet project for someone with deep enough pockets not to care for a while.
posted by fragmede at 11:39 AM on June 16, 2013


I'd hope they've configured it well limited beyond what Amazon imposes, maybe add a captcha when IP addresses or other things repeat too frequently. And some folks will pay for extended lifetime servers once they see it work.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:04 PM on June 16, 2013


Yeah the lack of a Captcha is amazing. Can't even post to 4chan without a captcha, but you can spin up a Linux VM?
posted by Jimbob at 2:41 PM on June 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd personally only require the captcha when other factors indicated a script, so maybe one exists.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:33 PM on June 16, 2013


Seems like the way to 'extend' this would be to have a persistent server with an rsync payload for the temp VM and a database of tasks and task data....the persistent server spins up these 35 minute boxes as worker VMs; rsyncs a FS holding your minimal OS and client/worker app, which gets a task and its data from your persistent server's DB, does as much as it can in the time remaining, sending the data back to the persistent server rather than storing it locally (maybe caching it locally until confirmed received by the persistent server).
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:05 PM on June 16, 2013


Well, this seems to be well and truly hosed now. I'm surprised it lasted more than a few hours, really.
posted by whir at 9:47 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hate for this thread to be some kind of status ticker for their site, but when i tried it right now it was working properly again.

I'm honestly amazed, i figured it really wouldn't take long for this to get taken advantage of in some way and be taken down forever.
posted by emptythought at 8:18 PM on June 17, 2013


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