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Generic iCub environment machines

This page contains instructions on how to prepare a machine to work in the iCub Subnet environment. This is a basic setup, useful as a starting point to prepare any kind of machine of the iCub ecosystem.

Operating System

You can choose both a Debian or Ubuntu Linux, the currently suggested OS is Ubuntu 20.04 (Focal Fossa).

User account

Users and Passwords

The default user account is

Username : icub Password : icub

If you want to change the default password simply execute (this works only if you are using persistence)

passwd icub

root login

As in any Ubuntu installation, the root user has no password, this means that the direct login (i.e. ssh root@icub-head) is disabled, but you can always do

sudo su -

Creation of the iCub user

You need to create the icub user. For nfs (see later) to work this user has to have the uid 1000 and guid 1000. In LINUX starting procedure, is asks to create the first user. By default uid is set at 1000. To make sure it is done do :

id -u icub
id -g icub

Add the icub user to the sudoers group, as follows

sudo usermod -aG sudo icub

Required and useful Packages

Please install the following packages (names are correct for Ubuntu 20.04, please check the corresponding package in your distribution):

nfs-common python-tk libopencv-dev ntpdate ssh cmake-curses-gui

Also install (optional, but very useful) the following packages:

vim iperf

Debian Software repository

for Debian systems

this step is required only for a Debian machine.

Enable the non-free and contrib sources, by editing the file /etc/apt/sources.list

iCub software repository and common packages

in case of icub dedicated server

skip this step in case of iCub Dedicated Server

Configure the iCub software repository, by creating the file /etc/apt/sources.list.d/icub.list and add the next line into it and save.

  • for a Debian 10 (Buster) machine :

deb buster contrib/science

  • for a Ubuntu 20.04 LTS (Focal) machine :

deb focal contrib/science

Download the packages signature

sudo apt-key adv --keyserver --recv-keys 57A5ACB6110576A6

After adding a new source, remember to update the packages list:

apt-get update

Install the following packages from icub repository


Network configuration

You have two options:

  • Static IP address (this option is mandatory if there is no DHCP in your subnet - like in the case of the iCub Console Server - or if your machine is the DHCP server - this is the case of the iCub Dedicated Server )
  • Dynamic DHCP IP address

Configuration methods

Usually, if you have a Desktop installed on your machine it's better to use the default desktop network tool (eg. in Ubuntu 20.04 the tool is Network Manager ).

Otherwise, you can configure the network interfaces using the command line configuration files (eg. in Ubuntu 20.40 you have to deal with NETPLAN )

the HOSTS file

Please check that the file /etc/hosts looks as follows:       localhost       MACHINE_HOSTNAME.icub.local       MACHINE_HOSTNAME

where MACHINE_HOSTNAME is the hostname of you machine, that should match the file /etc/hostname

Mount remote NFS shares


Skip this step in case of iCub Console Server or iCub Dedicated Server

To mount the remote NFS shares, edit /etc/fstab, by adding the following lines

NFS_SERVER_IP:/exports/code /usr/local/src/robot nfs _netdev,auto,bg 0 0
NFS_SERVER_IP:/exports/local_yarp    /home/icub/.local/share/yarp nfs _netdev,auto,bg 0 0
and replace NFS_SERVER_IP with the appropriate value for your network. As example, in case of a machine in an environment with the icub server the above configuration will be /usr/local/src/robot nfs soft,retry=1,timeo=60,_netdev,auto,bg 0 0    /home/icub/.local/share/yarp nfs _netdev,auto,bg 0 0

Then create the two above mountpoints as follows

mkdir -p /home/icub/.local/share/yarp

mkdir -p /usr/local/src/robot

NTP configuration

in case of iCub server

Skip this step in case of iCub Console Server or iCub Dedicated Server

You should configure this machine as an NTP client and then configure the NTP service to point to icub-srv as an NTP server.

You can use several different packages to install an NTP client, but we recommend using ntpdate and removing the package ntp, as in the following.

  1. Remove ntp package if installed

sudo apt purge ntp

  1. Install ntpdate package

sudo apt install ntpdate

  1. edit ntpdate configurations

sudo vim /etc/default/ntpdate

by changing the following lines



iCub user environment variables

in case of iCub dedicated server

Skip this step in case of iCub Dedicated Server

Please see this section

iCub bashrc customization

There are several customizations you need to apply to the file ~/.bashrc_iCub:

  • The YARP_ROBOT_NAME - you must insert your robot name, in the following line and remove comment


  • The build path - the folder name where you object are created by cmake, in the following line

#export OBJ_SUBDIR="build"

Optional - Configure remote desktop

in case of iCub dedicated server

Skip this step in case of iCub Dedicated Server

If you want to setup a VNC remote desktop, execute from a graphical session the following command


If you get this error The authentication mechanism requested can not be provided by the computer please launch the following command, from a shell terminal

gsettings set org.gnome.Vino enabled true

Optional - Disable the screen power off

in case of iCub dedicated server

Skip this step in case of iCub Dedicated Server

Using the gnome3 control panel, it is not possible to avoid the system has to be idle for the monitor to be turned off, the maximum time is "1 hour", "never" is not possible. From the command line execute the following commands

gsettings set org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.power sleep-display-ac 0

gsettings set org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.power sleep-display-battery 0

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.session idle-delay 0

Optional - install nVidia video drivers

in case of iCub dedicated server

Skip this step in case of iCub Dedicated Server

  1. Check if you have nVidia hardware

sudo ubuntu-drivers devices

and check the command output. In case of nVidia hardware you should see somthing like the following example

== /sys/devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:01.0/0000:01:00.0 ==

vendor   : NVIDIA Corporation
modalias : pci:v000010DEd00000DDAsv000017AAsd000021D1bc03sc00i00
model    : GF106GLM [Quadro 2000M]
driver   : xserver-xorg-video-nouveau - distro free builtin
driver   : nvidia-304-updates - distro non-free
driver   : nvidia-304 - distro non-free
driver   : nvidia-331 - distro non-free recommended
driver   : nvidia-331-updates - distro non-free

The above example is showing that there are several different nVidia driver versions available, you should choose the recommended one (the nvidia-331 in above example )

  1. Install the appropriate nVidia driver, as follows (for the example above)

sudo apt install nvidia-331

  1. Reboot

For further details, please read this guide

Optional - Fix the the .local domains resolution problems

in case of iCub dedicated server

Skip this step in case of iCub Dedicated Server

Edit /etc/nsswitch replacing the following line

hosts:          files mdns4_minimal [NOTFOUND=return] dns mdns4


hosts:          files dns

Optional - how to fix ssh lag on connect

In case of lag in SSH connections, disable DNS lookup on ssh server, edit the file /etc/ssh/sshd_config adding the following line

UseDNS no

Optional - how to fix the \"nobody:nobody\" NFS mount issue

in case of iCub server

This skip is valid only for machines were you mount a NFS repository, so you must skip it in case of iCub Console Server or iCub Dedicated Server

If the NFS mounts shows NOBODY as UID and GUID, this mean that the client and the server are not in the same domain, check the file


Usually it is derived from the domain name mentioned in


so both, server and client must match.

Customize the system

What now you need to do is to customize the installation with your hardware and environment (see User Environment chapter)

Special computers

In case of special machines (such as the cuda workstation or icub laptop) you must follow further steps in order to complete the installation: