Did you ever try Amazon Web Services (AWS)? If you are an IT person and did not try it yet, then I recommend you to do so as soon as possible. Just sign up with your Amazon account, and get their Free Tier for 1 year. Free Tier includes 10GB of EBS storage and 750 hours (24 hours * 31 days) of free time for “micro” instance. When the year will finish, this “micro” instance will cost you no more than ~$15/month (30 days * 24 hours * $0,02/hr).
You can easily run an instance of almost any modern OS — either Windows or any distribution of Linux — in less than a minute, with absolutely no need to go through difficult installation and initial configuration process. Just select an image (Amazon Machine Image, AMI), push the button, wait few seconds and connect with ssh to a running virtual server.
To be honest, the initial motive of making my own nano-AMI has came from misunderstanding of the Free Tier policy. I had found that the smallest of these images are 8GB in size, and one image takes all the Free Tier included EBS storage. So I thought that instead of running one big 8GB empty image I can run ten nano-size 1GB images instead. Thus, saving money by fitting into Free Tier boundaries.
And that would be true for EBS space, but turned to be not true for instance hours: you can run only one single instance to fit into 750 hrs; any additional instances will be charged, no matter how many EBS space they consume (unless you run them part-time and fits into 750hrs in total). So my initial idea has failed, but the results still can be useful.
So here are the 1GB AMIs of Ubuntu-11.04-i386-server in each of the AWS regions. They are built from pure release images, were never launched and contain no trash, so as no any software except for pre-installed (such as openssh and AMI tools).
* ami-4a936a23 @ us-east-1 * ami-57ecbf12 @ us-west-1 * ami-82b187f6 @ eu-west-1 * ami-d0d5ac82 @ ap-southeast-1 * ami-0273d903 @ ap-northeast-1
I will describe how to make your own images a bit later. As for now, you are free to try these images for your purposes. Let me know if you like the idea :-)