Background: I run this server through Slicehost, and I enjoy their service immensely. When you set up your first server, or rebuild an existing server you get a very minimal GNU/Linux system installed. For obvious reasons, I like this a lot too.

The problem: Both the first time I built this server, and most recently when I rebuilt it to Jaunty Jackalope, the system locales weren’t configured. I understand why this is done, that it happens doesn’t bother me. That I had a hard time finding out how to properly set my locale frustrated me a little bit.

How do you know if your locales aren’t correctly defined? On my Jaunty Jackalope system I see messages like this:

> > locale: Cannot set LC_MESSAGES to default locale: No such file or directory > locale: Cannot set LC_ALL to default > locale: No such file or directory > >

I tried running dpkg-reconfigure locales, but that had no effect. Searching the Internet for the messages above provided a couple of possible solutions, but none of them looked like anything I was interested in. I’m a firm believer that if the Internet tells me to run a command with more than a couple of options, that it may work, but there is probably an easier, less cryptic solution. For example:

> > localedef -v -c -i en_US -f UTF-8 en_US.UTF-8 > >

No way I’m running that. I instead searched for “slicehost locale” and found this article: Ubuntu Hardy setup. I enjoy this much more:

locale-gen en_US.UTF-8

update-locale LANG=en_US.UTF-8

Turns out that update-locale is a Debian/Ubuntu specific command. It updates your systems default locale setting file. I had checked for one before running it and found that none existed yet on my system. After running those two commands above I found one had been created with “LANG=en_US.UTF-8” in it. It’s possible that running update-locale could have been all I needed to do to begin with.

I hope this helps some one else whose had this problem before or for the first time.

Update: 2013-05-25: This post has reached more parts of the Internet than I ever thought when I wrote it 4 years ago. Thanks to everyone who linked back instead of just copy and pasting the solution directly.

These days I’m running Fedora on Linode. And all is well.