FREE Cloud for One Month with SoftLayer

Given SoftLayer offers a ‘free cloud for one month’ option, I figured I’d walk the walk and grab myself ssoftlayerome free cloud 🙂 In this blog post, I detail the steps involved in ordering a virtual machine at no cost. I also outline the steps involved to access a Linux based VM from Windows using a Desktop Environment.

Order a virtual machine for a month at no charge from SoftLayer 

So, first things first, let’s order a virtual machine from SoftLayer;

  1. Navigate to
  2. Click on the TRY IT FREE button !
  3. Complete the Account Information section, then move on to Configure Your Server

To Configure Your Server;

  1. Select a Data Centre from the 17 available (17 at the time if writing)
  2. Select an Operating System from CentOS, Debian, Ubuntu or Vyatta. Note; I chose Ubuntu 14.04 LTS 64 bit – this matters once we get to installing a Linux Desktop Environment and VNC server
  3. Enter a Hostname and Domain name
  4. Enter Credit Card details

All that remains for us is to review the order, then get started 🙂

  1. Click Review Order
  2. Agree to the SoftLayer Master Service Agreement
  3. Click on Order

Once you virtual machine is provisioned, you’ll get a ‘Welcome to SoftLayer‘ mail with temporary credentials to access the SoftLayer web portal. Navigate to the web portal, then update your temporary password. Once you’ve access to the web portal, you can find access details for your virtual machine on SoftLayer.

To gather access details for your virtual machine in the SoftLayer web portal;

  1. Go to the Devices menu and select Device List
  2. Click on the twisty beside your device

From here, you can get details of your virtual machine’s public IP address and the password for the root user (select Show Password). Make a note of this detail.


Access your SoftLayer VM from a local Windows Machine using a Desktop Environment

With a public IP address and root password in hand, you can now access your new virtual machine on SoftLayer ! From a local Windows machine, you can use an SSH client like PuTTY to access your VM.

You can download and install PuTTY from here (all you need is the putty.exe);

Once you’ve logged into the machine, have a read of the guidance here (at least steps 1 – 4 !);

In the interest in moving on here, I continue this post logged in as root 🙂 What follows are instructions on how you might install an Ubuntu desktop environment (a lightweight Xfce Desktop Environment) and a VNC server to allow for remote access via this desktop env

Install an Ubuntu desktop environment and VNC sever 

From PuTTY, issue the following commands;logo-ubuntu_st_no®-black_orange-hex

apt-get update
apt-get install xfce4 xfce4-goodies tightvncserver

You can then start your vncserver as follows;


Follow the dialogue below;

You will require a password to access your desktops.

Warning: password truncated to the length of 8.
Would you like to enter a view-only password (y/n)? y
Warning: password truncated to the length of 8.
xauth: file /root/.Xauthority does not exist

New ‘X’ desktop is cloudleader:1

Creating default startup script /root/.vnc/xstartup
Starting applications specified in /root/.vnc/xstartup
Log file is /root/.vnc/cloudleader:1.log

Finally, to access your remote VM from a local Windows machine, you can install a VNC Viewer. I installed a viewer from RealVNC.

  1. After launching the VNC Viewer, enter the VNC Server as [public ip]:1
  2. Enter the password for the VNC server as defined above.

Boom ! You’re in & we’re done 🙂 N-joy !