Setting Up your Google Cloud Account

This page provides instructions on how to set up a Linux virtual machine on Google Cloud. We will be using Google's cloud computing infrastructure for Project 1. You will receive an email from Min with your individual Google Cloud code that will provide you with enough credit for the class.

Caution: Running services (e.g., virtual machines) on any cloud provider costs money or credits. It can be very easy to spend more than you anticipated by leaving your services running. So please make it a habit to stop your services when not in use. If you run out of credits, there's not much that the class staff can do to help you out.

Signing Up and Setting Up the OS

Signing Up

  1. Sign up for a cloud Columbia Computer Science account using this link: Note that is is an entirely new account and is not your normal Columbia LionMail account and is not your CRF account. Your cloud Columbia CS account will be in the form:
  2. After you create your account, you should get an email with a temporary password to log into your cloud account. IMPORTANT NOTE: The email will contain a link to a guide provided by CRF, which you should not use. The CRF guide instructs you to use your LionMail account, which is not what you should do for our class. Instead, please ignore the CRF guide and follow Step 4 below.
  3. Check your email for a coupon code sent by Min to you. You will use this coupon code in Step 5 below.
  4. IMPORTANT STEP: Make sure you are not logged into LionMail or any other Google account. Log out of LionMail and all other Google accounts. Better yet, do all these steps in incognito/private browsing mode while ensuring that you are not logged into LionMail or another Google account. If you try to use the coupon code that we sent you on an account that is not your cloud Columbia CS account, you will not be able to complete the project.
  5. Login using your account at Then go to On the "Education grants" screen, enter the coupon code that we sent you and complete the process.

Setting Up your VM on Google Cloud

  1. Go to
  2. Click on the menu button in the top left hand corner and select the item “Compute Engine.”
  3. On the “Compute Engine” page:
    1. Create a new project and associate with it the "billing account" for our class, which you funded with the coupon that we sent you (see above).
    2. Click "VM instances."
    3. Click "Create."
    4. Type any name (for example, "cs6111").
    5. Change "Zone" to any us-east1-x (the last letter doesn’t matter).
    6. Set "Machine type" to "1 vCPU."
    7. Change "Boot disk" to "Ubuntu 14.04 LTS." Change the boot disk size to 25 GB.
    8. Check the "Allow HTTP traffic" and "Allow HTTPS traffic" boxes.
    9. Click "Create."
Note that when a VM is created, it is automatically started as well. So please make sure that you stop the VM (see below) if you don't need to use it, to avoid wasting credits.

Using your VM

Background information: Each VM falls under a project on Google Cloud. If you use the default name Google gives you when you first start using Google Cloud, your project will be called “My First Project.” You can find the project name associated with a VM by going to the “Compute Engine” page discussed above: the project name next to “Google Cloud Platform” in the blue header bar is the one you want.
  1. Go to
  2. Click on the menu button on the top left hand corner and select the item “Compute Engine.”
  3. Select the VM and click the “Start” button. (This process can take a minute.)
  4. Once the VM has started up, there are two ways to connect:
    1. On the page where you start the VM, you can connect to the VM through the browser by clicking on “SSH” in the same row as the rest of the VM’s information. This opens a new browser window that you can interact with as you would with a Unix/Linux terminal.
    2. Alternatively, you can SSH into the VM by using the terminal. The instructions for Linux/OSX are here, and the instructions for Windows using PuTTY are here.
  5. To turn off the VM when you are done using it, select the VM and click “Stop” on the “Compute Engine” page. Make sure you turn off the VM whenever you or your partner aren’t using it to avoid wasting credits.

Adding your Teammate to the VM

  1. Go to
  2. Make sure that you are in the project that the VM is associated with (please refer to the "background information" above).
  3. Click on the menu button on the top left hand corner and select the item “IAM & admin.”
  4. Click the “Add” button in the top middle of the page.
  5. Type in your teammate’s cloud Columbia CS address in the box labeled “Members.”
  6. In the dropdown menu labeled “Roles,” select “Project” and then “Owner” to give your teammate full access to the resources of the project.
  7. Once your teammate accepts the invitation, your teammate will be able to use the VM as specified in the previous instructions.

Installing Additional Software

Install some software packages that we will need, using the Ubuntu package management tool apt-get. To install a package, type:

sudo apt-get install <packagename1 packagename2 ...>

Use this command to packages that you might need, such as (these are just examples):

  • git
  • python-virtualenv
  • python-dev
  • ...
If you are using Python, you might want to add:
  • sudo pip install --upgrade google-api-python-client

Stopping Your Virtual Machine

While you have abundant credit for this class on Google Cloud, it is very easy to accidentally use up all of your credits. To conserve your credits --and also to avoid wasting energy-- make sure to turn off your machine whenever you are not using it, following the instructions under "Using your VM" above.