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Jupyter Server with HTTPS on Personal Server

written by Eric J. Ma on 2019-10-05 | tags: jupyter dataops devops data science

Recording this for myself, since I did it once and probably don't have the brain bandwidth to remember this through repetition.

I have known how to run a "public" Jupyter server (password-protected, naturally), but one thing I've struggled with was getting HTTPS working.

Turns out, the letsencrypt instructions aren't that bad on Jupyter's docs. I just was ignorant in the past, and didn't know enough about Linux to get this working right.

The key here is creating a letsencrypt certificate, and making sure file permissions are set correctly.

First off, go to the Certbot page. Select the type of website you're running and operating system. For Jupyter, I chose "None of the Above" and "Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (bionic)" (even though I'm technically on Ubuntu 19). (Here's a shortcut link to the instructions if you're in the same situation.)

On my system (Ubuntu-based), I used the following commands to install certbot:

# Add repository
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install software-properties-common
sudo add-apt-repository universe
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:certbot/certbot
sudo apt-get update

# Install certbot
sudo apt-get install certbot

# Run certbot
sudo certbot certonly --standalone

Follow the instructions. certbot will install into a protected directory. In my case, it was /etc/letsencrypt/live/<mywebsite>/.

Here, a problem will show up. That directory above is not accessible by a Jupyter server run under a user other than root. But a desired property of running Jupyter servers is that we don't have to use sudo to run it. How can we solve this? Basically, by making sure that the certificate is readable by a non-root user.

What I did, then, was to copy the files that were created by certbot into a location under my home directory. For security by obscurity, I'm naturally not revealing its identity. Then, I changed ownership of those files to my username:

pwd  # you should be in the directory where the certbot-created files are located
su -
chown <myusername> *.pem  # changes ownership of those files

Finally, I went into my Jupyter config (~/.jupyter/, this is well-known), and edited the two lines that specified the "certfile" and the "keyfile":

c.NotebookApp.certfile = u'/absolute/path/to/your/certificate/mycert.pem'
c.NotebookApp.keyfile = u'/absolute/path/to/your/certificate/mykey.key'

If this helps you, leave me a note in the comments below. :)

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