Learning Linux with Tilde Clubs

I recently read Paul Ford’s hilarious piece about starting a Tilde Club, which is shared server space where members can create web pages, send and receive email from pine (a terminal-based email client many of us used in the late 90s), and chat with other club members, all using the Linux command line. The tilde refers to the ~ used to indicate various member spaces. For instance: http://tilde.club/~john/

As Ford points out, it’s nerdy fun. His club is full, but there are lots of people offering their own.

I signed up for one and it’s been an old school treat, but it also made me think of the technical learning curve in getting started with a Tilde Club account. Luckily, it’s all stuff I cover in my book, Learn Linux in a Month of Lunches.

There are essentially two things you need to know how to do to get started with a Tilde Club account:

  1. How to create an Secure Shell (SSH) key, which is a method of authenticating your identity to a server. It’s made up of a private key, which only you have access to, and a public key you can share.
  2. How to SSH into a server. SSH is a way to to securely connect one computer to another. It’s most commonly used to connect to servers, which are often not physically in the same space as the user.

Both tasks are incredibly easy for Linux/Unix users. Let’s start with generating a key, since some clubs require your public key before they’ll create an account for you.

Generating an SSH Key

  1. Use the command in your terminal (make sure your email address is in quotation marks)
ssh-keygen -t rsa -C “email address you used for your Tilde Club account”

2. Click enter to save the SSH file in the default location, which is what we want in this case.

3. Create a password for your key and write it down someplace secure.

You now have an SSH key to help your Tilde Club server see you are who you say you are.

To generate the public key, which is safe to share, use the command

cat ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub

2. You’ll see a long string of text beginning with ssh-rsa and ending with your email address. Copy and paste this and share this with the person running your Tilde Club.

Connecting to Your Tilde Club Server

  1. Once you have a Tilde Club account, you’ll also have your account username and password. You probably chose your username and were given your password (different clubs have different processes). To connect to your server, use the command
ssh username@tilde club web address 

2. Enter your password and you’re all connected.

Once you’re connected, you’ll need to know some basic Unix commands to navigate through your new server (although some servers do offer very basic interactive menus). Here is a command chart from my book:

These commands will help you make sense of your Tilde Club.

If you find yourself enjoying life on the Linux command line, you might want to check out my book, which will teach you to use Linux as your day-to-day system in just one month. It’s the perfect next step for someone living the Tilde Club lifestyle.

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