Jupyter on your phone (or anywhere, really)

Posted by Umar Khan on November 16, 2019

Think of all the downtime in your daily life that goes to waste. That hour on the subway, that afternoon at the dmv, that 20 minutes at work when the servers are down and you’re waiting for the IT department to get things up and running again. Would’nt it be great if you could use that time to get some data science work in?

To that end, I started to wonder if I could get Jupyter to work on my phone. At first I tried to install Jupyter natively on my phone using the Termux command line app, but that didnt go so well. Then I thought to myself “ wait a second: doesnt Jupyter use a server-client model and run on a browser? Why not just set up my own server?”. In a couple of hours (okay maybe more because I had to constantly google stuff), I had my Jupyter notebooks hosted on a virtual server. I could now transition seamlessly from working on my labs on my laptop at my desk, to my tablet on the couch, to my phone on….well….lets just say other seats in the house. All data science, all the time.

There are no easy, end to end tutorials on how to set up Jupyter on a remote machine, especially for newcomers. Once I managed to get mine working, I thought maybe other people could benefit from such a walkthrough. Figured it was a good idea to consolidated my own reseach and document the steps I took to make it easier for me to replicate in the future. It definitely makes for a great blog post!

So, without much further ado, lets get started on setting up a remote server running Jupyter!

1. Spin up a virtual server.

To set up our Jupyter instance to run everywhere, we will need to create a virtual server. A virtual server is basically a server you rent from a third party. This way you dont need to buy, install and maintain fancy server hardware. It’s not super expensive either, at least for a very basic server. Theres a number of companies that offer this service. Amazon lightsail is one example, but I personally prefer Digital Ocean.

Digital Ocean allows you to get a ‘droplet’, which is what they call their virtual servers. They start at $5 a month, and go up from there. The only downside is that, well, data science is kind of computationally intensive at times and the $5 server might take forever to run even marginally complex data science tasks. You can always upgrade your droplet to higher specs though, and its pretty easy and doesnt require any kind of migration or anything. Ive been running the $10 droplet and its been working fine for me. If ever in the future I need to use the more serious computing power of my laptop with its oodles of ram and discrete GPU card, I can always branch the repo im on and work on it on my laptop.

Head on over to digitalocean.com and create an account. It will ask you to create your first project. Creating a project has no cost associated with it, projects are just used to organize your droplets and you need to have at least one project. The next screen will take you to the dashboard for your project. Click the green ‘Create’ button on the top right and choose ‘Droplet’ from the menu. Digital Ocean has a guide on how to create a droplet, but ill walk you through it.

On the Create Droplet page, for Distribution, keep the default Ubuntu selection, and go for the standard plan. Below that you will see the mothly plan options; pick whichever one you like (scroll left for the lower priced ones). You can add block storage if you want, its not required. Choose a data center region thats relatively closest to you. Leave the “additional options” blank. For authentication, you can choose ssh keys if you want and if you’re familiar with how those work. For this tutorial I recommend you go with ‘one time password’ and I’ll show you how to set up ssh keys later (maybe lol). Only one droplet under “How many Dropets”, ofcourse.

In “choose a hostname”, enter any name you like for your soon to be created baby server! You can enable backups if you like, its a dollar extra. After that, just click the big green “Create Droplet” button and Voila!! You are now the proud owner of a virtual server! In a few minutes you will get an e-mail with the password and ip address of your new server. Once you have those, we will be diving into the command line to access your new server and set it up.

2. Setting up your new server.

The e-mail from digital ocean will have the following information:

  • The IP address for the droplet
  • The password for the droplet.

For the purposes of this tutorial, lets assume your IP address is:

Ofocurse your IP will be different. Wherever you see the above IP in this tutorial, replace it with your own.

We will be using ssh to connect to the server. SSH is a command line utility that creates secure connections between machines. Head on over to a command line terminal. If your on windows, you have a few options. The easiest is git bash, which works just fine. Download the git package for windows from . Alternatively, you can enable the linux subsystem for windows and install Ubuntu natively on your machine. The most annoying way is to use PuTTY, which I wont go into. If you’re on a mac…well I hear macs have a terminal built in so….

Once your at your command line, you will enter

ssh root@

You will be prompted for root@ ‘s password. Type out or paste the password you were e-mailed. Remember that when you type or paste text into password prompts in the command line, it doesnt actually display any text and the cursor stays the same.

Congratulations!! you are now in your server. The very first thing that should be done when you access a fresh new virtual server is to do some updates.

First off:

sudo apt update


sudo apt upgrade

This will bring your system up to date.

After updating, the next step is typically to set up a new user account with sudo priveleges.

adduser [enter a user name here]
usermod -aG sudo [the username you made]

Now switch over to this user:

su [new user name].

Awesome! Lets move on to setting up Anaconda and all our Python packages, including Jupyter.

3. Installing Anaconda (and thus, Jupyter)

You’d think you’d be able to use apt-get to install Anaconda, right? Unfortunately thats not the case. Here’s a video I found of a method that actually works. As usual, I’ll walk you through as well, partly as this video doesnt tell you how to get the link itself.

Head on over to Anaconda.com and hit Download. At the top, switch to the Linux option and make sure you are looking at the Linux installer downloads. Right click on the Python 3.7 version Download button and click ‘copy link address’. Now head over to your terminal, which should be ssh’d into your server. Make a new folder and cd into it ( you do know how to do that, right?). Then, run the following command:

sudo wget [paste link you copied from anaconda here]

This will download the Anaconda bash script to the new folder we made. To run it, type:

sudo bash [name of the downloaded file ( start typing Anaconda then hit tab that should work)]

Hit yes and more and yes etc etc. Just let it do its thing. Might take a minute.

Congrats!! you now have Anaconda installed on your server!

I’d do a reboot of the server at this point.

sudo reboot

Wait a couple of minutes and then ssh back in to your server. Instead of root@ you can ssh directly to the user account you created by entering user@ Either way, when you get back into your server make sure you are in the user account.

4. Configure Jupyter

Now lets set up Jupyter so you can access it over the internet. Shout out to Dr. Lerner, whose own blog post was an invaluable resource here.. Thus far our approach has been slightly different from his, but we will be configuring Jupyter in the same way. Make sure you are ssh’d into your server, and logged in using the user account you created (and using which you installed Anaconda). Make sure that your base conda is active (the command line should say ‘base’ before the user name).

Now, enter the following command into the terminal:

jupyter notebook --generate-config

This will generate a configuration file which we will have to modify and edit. When you run the command, it should say ‘Writing default config to [path to file]’. Copy this path and open it for editing. You can do this by:

sudo nano [path to config file]

Now go ahead and find following four lines in the file, changing them to match what Im showing here, and uncommenting them so they take effect(i.e. delete the hash(#) marks before the start of the line). In nano, you can go to a line by searching for it using CTRL + W (or whatever the mac equivalent is).

c.NotebookApp.open_browser = False
c.NotebookApp.ip = ''
c.NotebookApp.password = ' '     
c.NotebookApp.token = ' '

To be clear, password and token are to be left blank. There is nothing between the single quotes so make sure there isnt a space there. If you’rer gonna copy paste the lines above make sure you take the space out. I just put it there to make it clear it wasnt a single double quote. This is only if you just want to take the shortest path to getting Jupyter to work remotely and dont care about security.

However, you CAN set passwords for Jupyter notebooks. And you probably should. Otherwise anyone can open your notebooks and delete all your data. Some sick people out there. Just sayin’

So far, I’ve shown you the steps to just get it to work. But to add a password, we will do a couple of things differently.

First of all, in the config file, instead of setting the value of c.NotebookApp.token, leave it at the default value ( usually ‘'). If you want, you can run the jupyter notebook --generate-config file command again and hit 'yes', this will basically reset the config file to its original state (And you just have to redo the other three lines we described above).

Once you have done that, go back to your command line and run the following command:

jupyter notebook password

It will ask you to enter and reenter a password. Do so, make a note of the password and hang to it. When the time comes, we will use it. For now, just note that if you wanted to change the password you would just run the above command again (wont ask you for your old password to set a new one -handy if you forget your old one).

5. Configure firewall

!! WARNING !! I am, by no stretch of the imagination, any kind of expert on firewalls or network security. I basically just hack my way through to get done what I need to get done. I am not responsible for any security vulnerabilities or breaches that result from your application of my methods. I advise you to do your own research and think about your security strategy. This tutorial is for educational purposes only, and is really just meant for data science students using toy data. If you have any kind of sensitive data I would think twice before deploying it to a vps like this.

We’re in the home stretch. Time to set up your firewall.

in the command line, type the following commands one by one:

sudo ufw default deny incoming

sudo ufw default deny outgoing

sudo ufw allow ssh

sudo ufw allow 8888

sudo ufw enable

The preceeding will basically deny all incoming and outgoing connections to your virtual server, except for ssh connections (make sure you allow these otherwise you might get locked out of your server) and traffic on port 8888, where the jupyter server runs.

For added security, its a good idea to only allow traffic from the ip addressed of devices you own. To do that you would deny incoming and outgoing by default, and then open up ports 22 and 8888 to a specific ip address running a command like:

sudo ufw allow from [ip of device you own] to any port 22
sudo ufw allow from [ip of device you own] to any port 8888

You would have to do this for all the ip addresses of the devices you want to be allowed to access your server.

6. And now…..Jupyter!

Launch time!

cd into any folder other than your root folder. I like to cd to a folder where I house all the repositories for my Jupyter projects and labs. Once here, run the following command

nohup jupyter notebook &

This will start jupyter running in the background and give you back your command line.

Now open your web browser and navigate to your Jupyter server by typing the following in the URL bar:

You can also actually set a domain name to forward to your server, so that instead of typing in your ip address you can just go to www.dataperson.com:8888 or whatever. This is something you do through your server hosting company. If you used Digital Ocean, go to your project dashboard, and hit the three dot menu next to your droplet’s name and click “Add a Domain”. I’m sure you can figure out the rest yourself ;)

If you set the password like I outlined above, you will see a login page asking your for a password or token. Simply enter that password, and voila! you should see Jupyter running before your eyes.

You are now set to Jupyter everywhere. Navigate to your server’s address from any browser and you’re good to go.
The possibilites are endless.

Happy coding!