Are you a System Administrator that needs to occasionally access boxes while on the go or are you just a user that needs SSH access from your web enabled cellular phone? Finding an SSH application that actually works that is ported for your mobile phone platform can be frustrating. Because I have a background in Linux platforms I will discuss GNU/GPL options for SSH rather than commercial applications.
Keep in mind that NO SSH Application for a mobile phone will ever replace a physical terminal but there might be times you find yourself on the road or not near a terminal where you might need to log into a box and address something. From time to time I visit my in-laws and they have dial up for their Internet so any solution I can find as an alternative to dial up is better and faster.
We will address two smart phone platforms, RIM’s Blackberry and Android powered phones running the open source Android OS.
Let’s start off with the Granddaddy of them all Research In Motions Blackberry platform.
MidpSSH Mobile SSH Client for BlackBerry is the oldest of the SSH applications for the BlackBerry platform.
This SSH application is a bit clunky but works. Download the app into your BlackBerry and set up your SSH connections to the boxes and that is about it. This project is not as proactive as other open source projects and there are few new version or releases, but nonetheless, this application works. It takes a bit of getting used to when you first use this application, so make sure you experiment with this application before you count on it in an emergency. One of the problems with this application is that on most Linux boxes when working from the command line everything is case sensitive. MidpSSH does not handle typing very well as a system administrator would like. When you type the application wants to capitalize the first character in the line each time you start a new line. You have to type the character then backspace and type the character again, this way the character will stay lower case.
For those on non-touch screen BlackBerry’s the MidpSSH application may seem a bit “unfinished”, and unrefined. The application has served us well in emergencies when we have had to log in to restart services or perform minor critical tasks. There are more refined proprietary SSH applications such as Iconfident (link not valid), NanoSSH and Rove Mobile (link not valid) but these are paid for solutions and the main focus of our post here is GNU open source SSH applications.
MidpSSH will store sessions for instant recall later, and it will store log in information for quick access. Adjusting the font size is a bit quirky but can be done by altering the application settings. Overall for a open source application to allow for periodic SSH into remote boxes we give MidpSSH our stamp of approval.
Android phones rule – open source means choice and flexibility. There is an SSH application for the Android phone that the CodingCREW highly recommends – connectbot. connectbot is a great application, it is clean and works perfectly. This application can be downloaded from the Android Market or you can review it on the connectbot website.
connectbot is a dream come true. We first tried connectbot in the cell phone store before we purchased an Android powered cell phone. Right there in the store while talking to the salesman we downloaded connectbot and fired it up on the demo phone. We came to the cell phone store prepared, we knew we wanted to look at Android powered cell phones with slide out qwerty keyboards running at the minimum Android “Cupcake,” OS. We had a test box set up just for this test, after downloading connectbot hooked up right away on the first try.
connectbot was at the top of the list in the Android market and with a click it was downloaded licky split into the phone. Start the application and it is very easy to figure out how to set up with no need to review the instructions. Enter a few settings and create your sessions then you are done. The application is clean, easy to use and most importantly it is 100% functional – performing for us with zero problems.
Now we would not want to replace our laptops or dedicated terminals with this SSH application on a mobile phone but, there have been times when we have used connectbot for extended periods of time in remote locations to SSH in to a box and we have done some heavy maintenance directly from the phone using the slide out qwerty keyboard.
Honestly, connectbot has performed so well for us on the Android platform that we have not reviewed any other GNU applications for the Android OS, our thoughts are why mess with perfection?
What about iPhone? The CodingCREW does not acknowledge the iPhone because until recently the iPhone was limited to the AT&T Network. For those of you that don’t know (mostly those on networks other than AT&T), Consumer Reports lists AT&T as the worst carrier for 2010. Those locked into AT&T contracts know first hand that AT&T is the worst carrier available, those NOT locked into AT&T contracts, take our word for it, you are better off with the carrier you have.
Now Verizon has the iPhone, and there are SSH Apps for iPhone, but we will NOT review them here at this time. Any tech that has worked with AT&T in any capacity knows what a challenge it is to get anything done when dealing with this corporate giant. Call for DSL or ISP support and you get someone in India or some other nether region that is not even in the United States.
What is good about AT&T? . . . in short, NOTHING, EXCEPT THE SERVICE PEOPLE IN THE FIELD. We have met several AT&T service personnel that are holdovers from the “baby bell” days and let me tell you, these people are worth their weight in gold. If you need serious DSL support with lines, settings, etc., I recommend you schedual a service call and talk to a service tech in person. It is these over worked and forgotten foot soldiers in the trenches that have feet on the ground in your neighboorhoods and they are the only reason that AT&T is still a viable option for any service. If AT&T can figure a way to outsource the local service people they will do it and it will be the end of AT&T.