Remote Visual Studio Code With code-server

Getting code-server set up with Ubuntu 18.04 was a little tricky as their docs don’t really get into the details of how to set things up… at all. So here’s how to set up code-server on Ubuntu 18.04 on your own domain.

Update 2020-05-09: A new version of code server has combined the --port and --host options into --bind-addr option, and removed the --disable-ssh option. This post has been updated to reflect these changes.

0. set up Ubuntu 18.04

I won’t get into the details here. My setup is a Digital Ocean droplet with 2 CPU and 2 GB of ram.

1. get the latest release of code-server

copy the link for the latest release. the <release> placeholder should be replaced with the current release of code-server.

wget https://github.com/cdr/code-server/releases/download/<release>/code-server-<release>-linux-x86_64.tar.gz

untar the release

tar -xf code-server-<release>-linux-x86_64.tar.gz

move the directory to something friendlier

mv code-server-<release>-linux-x86_64 .code-server

2. make the directories we’ll need later

mkdir .code-server/extensions
mkdir .code-server/user-data

3. configure nginx

3.1 follow this guide

This will set you up with a basic nginx server with a self-signed cert.

You can either use another service to terminal TLS (I use Cloudflare), or you can generate your own certs with Lets Encrypt, I won’t be going into how to do either of those here.

Note: there is a line in ssl-params.conf that will prevent Module previews from working. If you so choose, you can delete this line:

add_header X-Frame-Options DENY;

3.2 modify your nginx config

we need to add a location block to your /etc/nginx/sites-available/<your domain>. Edit that file and add:

server {
	... code from guide above

	# Forward all connections to code-server
	location / {
		proxy_pass http://127.0.0.1:8181;
		proxy_http_version 1.1;
		proxy_set_header Upgrade $http_upgrade;
		proxy_set_header Connection "upgrade";
		proxy_set_header Host $host;
	}
}

tell nginx to use it

sudo ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/<domain> /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/<domain>

restart nginx

sudo systemctl restart nginx

4. set up a service

save this to a file called code-server.service in your home directory, replacing <your user> with your ubuntu user.

[Unit]
Description=VSCode Code Server

[Service]
Type=simple
User=<your user>
Group=<your user>
Environment=PASSWORD=changeme
ExecStart=/bin/bash /home/<your user>/.code-server/code-server --bind-addr 127.0.0.1:8181 --user-data-dir /home/<your user>/.code-server/user-data --extensions-dir /home/<your user>/.code-server/extensions

[Install]
WantedBy=multi-user.target

move the file so that systemd knows about it

sudo cp ~/code-server.service /etc/systemd/system/code-server.service

enable it to start when the server starts

sudo systemctl enable code-server

start the service

sudo systemctl start code-server

5. point dns at your server.

In Cloudflare add a dns entry that points to your server. This can be anything you want, currently I use a subdomain of the domain this page is on.

Whatever you pick, the url will be password protected by the configuration above (see Environment=PASSWORD=changeme above).

6. go to the url

Visit the url that you set in the set above. The password (unless you changed it) will be changeme. Please change this.

That’s it! You’ve got a remove Visual Studio Code instance that you can use from anywhere.

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