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Cracking SSH

Nigel Morris-Cotterill

I could write pages on how difficult I have found it to use SSH on our servers. And I could fill many more with all the advice I've been given, the detailed instructions that were mind-numbingly complicated.

If you don't have SSH access to your servers, look away now.

It's not like I'm new to command line: my experience with computers predates Microsoft's Windows (actually, it predates MS DOS, too) and I've had Linux on the desktop for 20 years so it's not like I'm a novice.

But I'm wary of working on the server because I know just how much I can spoil.

But also, even the command I'm used to locally seem somehow more risky or less reliable.

And actually connecting the SSH has been so frustrating that I have tried to avoid it.

There is surprisingly little help on the 'web for people that want an easy way to SSH. There are some websites that ask you to put in your public and private key and then don't connect (quick - delete that key pair) and then there's PUTTY. People swear by it; I swear at it. I just cannot make it work at all.

Our host, Siteground, is fantastically helpful. I have suggested that they restore the service under ControlPanel, which is no longer available there, of having a terminal within the admin service. No reply to that. I have suggested that, as they are doing extensive development that they provide a command line within the file manager. No reply to that, either. I can't really blame them: tens of thousands of people don't have the same problems I've been having.

What no one has ever told me is that there is a superb - and free if you don't want to do anything really clever - SSH gateway - and it runs on Linux. It also runs on other desktop and mobile operating systems.

It's called Termius. You can download it here: https://termius.com/

It solves all the problems I had with SSH access by doing one thing and doing it properly: it provides a simple form into which I enter all the credentials and keys for an account, click to connect and there I am, in a terminal window. And unlike the default terminal on Linux Mint, I can increase the font size within the window.

Access is one thing, navigating around is another. What Siteground never told me in support but I just found buried in their SSH tutorials is this: using the terminal command mc (not MC which is what my muscle memory types for obvious reasons) I get Midnight Commander. It reminds me of the DOS days when we had Norton Commander. Two panels, click to navigate and a command line panel beneath or, once I've navigated to where I want to be, I can close Commander and work in the full size window. You might have to ask your host to install Midnight Commander.

Used together, now working on the server is pretty much the same as working locally.

Rarely can I say that a bit of software has changed my life but, working together, these two have.