Using a Tablet as a Portable Management Console

SSH

If you have UNIX or Linux systems in your environment, you’ll require a paid SSH client program. The iSSH app from Zingersoft is a multiprotocol app, in that it supports SSH, Telnet, Raw, temporary connections, tunneled RDP, and tunneled VNC. An added bonus is that it also supports X applications. The downside to iSSH is its US$ 9.99 price tag, but there’s nothing else like it in the App Store because of its extensive functionality, stability, frequent updates, and responsive developer who created a Google group specifically to enable users’ ability to drive the app’s further development and fixes.

For those of you who’d like to “try before you buy,” this SSH example will demonstrate some of iSSH’s functionality. Setting up a new connection to a Unix or Linux system is simple by supplying the configuration manager a connection description and a hostname or an IP address. Save the configuration and select it from your connections list on the main iSSH screen.

You’ll receive the standard SSH key verification prompt before connecting. Accept the key to continue to the remote system (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Accepting the SSH host key for your iSSH remote host connection.

Enter your username and password at the prompts to log in to the system. Upon login, you’re presented with a shell prompt and an extended keyboard; plus, the app offers additional keys at the top of the screen (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Successful login to a remote Linux system.

Although you may log in to multiple systems simultaneously via SSH and swipe (page) among them, you can only have a single X session. Figure 3 is a screenshot of an open X session with the xeyes application running. The other object you see in the screenshot is the multifunction widget that contains right and left mouse buttons, a trackpad, arrow keys, and the keyboard.

Figure 3: X Window session running xeyes and the iSSH multifunction widget.

You have a choice of either twm or dwm for X sessions in iSSH. The twm implementation allows you to specify geometry and screen locations for your X apps. The dwm implementation is not as complete as twm, but some sys admins prefer it. Twm is iSSH’s default window manager.

RDP

Better known as Windows Terminal Services, Remote Desktop Protocol, or RDP, is the Windows sys admin’s best friend and most used tool. At last count, the App Store listed more than 60 apps from a search for ‘RDP’. My personal favorite is Hana Mobile’s iRemoteDesktop Free, which is a free version of their iRemoteDesktop (US$ 4.99) app. The free version has some unobtrusive ad displays but no nagware or disabilities. (Note: After iRemoteDesktop Free installs on your iPad, its label is RDesktop, so don’t be confused by the change in name.)

Figure 4 shows you a screenshot of iRemoteDesktop in action on a Windows Server 2003 system. At the top of the screen, you can see the various widgets for keyboard, connection list, mouse/trackpad, special keys, functions keys, and actions.

Figure 4: Connected via the iRemoteDesktop Free app to a Windows Server.

The problem with iPad apps is that there are no standard gestures for them. Gestures are the taps, swipes, and motions that allow you to interact with your apps. You have to learn the gestures for each app via the online Help or vendor’s website.

Typically, you can’t smoothly move the mouse cursor from one location to the next. Instead, you have to use a tap for the new location. To right-click the “mouse,” tap and hold your finger on the spot where you want to right click. You can also use the mouse/trackpad to scroll the mouse cursor from one location to another or to right- and left-click, if you prefer. This app allows both.

iRemoteDesktop Free allows multiple connections to be open simultaneously and lets you switch among them. If you must connect to “jump” boxes to traverse networks, you can next your RDP sessions as you normally do with the desktop version of RDP.

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