It’s Nice When Things Work

This is about LetsEncrypt, JupyterHub and Tomcat.

I built my JupyterHub server on a quad-core xeon 1U ‘pizza box’ server I had spare. It’s short on memory because this generation HP Proliant server maxed out at 8gig, so that’s all I can put in it. Still, it works and is a good demo platform for JupyterHub and my Java course revision project.

JupyterHub really wants to be running as secure HTTP (HTTPS) with a proper certificate. I put the server on a different port (not 443) but can still reach it from my domain, using packet-filter redirection in my firewall.

But – it wants that proper certificate. Typically one would just create a ‘self-signed’ cert using Java’s keytool and use that for Tomcat, but Jupyter wanted something else.

Fortunately I found enough documentation and tutorials to enable me to install and generate a LetsEncrypt (free) certificate that worked perfectly with JupyterHub. There were issues, mostly involving the need to create the certificate manually, but once these were resolved it worked perfectly.

This past week I wondered “could I use the LetsEncrypt certificate with my Tomcat application?”. I searched the web, and found several rather conflicting accounts of how to do it. I tried a few, and all failed.

Eventually I found one that started with “forget all the difficult stuff you’ve read. Installing a LetsEncrypt ‘pem’ file into a Tomcat keyfile is easy. Here’s how…”. I followed that two-command process, and was immediately rewarded with full certificate security for my Tomcat application, WITHOUT having to create a browser exception for the certificate.

It is so very nice when something “just works” the way it’s supposed to work. It’s even nicer when you find simple, unambiguous instructions as a guide. Thanks to Maximilian Böhm and his guide here:

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