An even better OpenSSH interface

May 9, 2008

As I’ve mentioned before, in my spare time I’ve been working on a fun project to replace the Unix terminal and shell with native graphics and a high-level language runtime. One thing that I quickly found out though was that certain applications require a real VT100 terminal emulator; for example, less is a highly optimized program, and while replacing it with a proper X11 app would be possible, it would not be trivial and would largely be a distraction from my goals anyways. Another situation where you need a terminal emulator is connecting to remote Unix hosts; while I have complete control over the software on my laptop, it’s hard to change all the existing servers out there.

SSH in particular is something that really cries out for a nice application around it, rather than launching it primitively from an existing terminal emulator. Earlier I mentioned the result of a few hours of PyGTK hacking. Over the last week or two I’ve been working on improving it. Today David Ascher of Thunderbird fame asked for it, so I should probably kick it out the door (though HotSSH is primarily for X11/Unix and not the Mac).

New connection with history

As you can see, the new version of HotSSH now remembers what you do, automatically. For example:

  • If you connect to a host and use a custom username, the next time you open HotSSH and type the host again, it defaults to that custom username, without you having to do anything
  • It has pretty good completion on the Host entry, based both on ~/.ssh/known_hosts as well as its own history
  • Open windows and tabs are saved automatically, Firefox style

The only dependencies are CPython, GTK+, DBus, and OpenSSH. I’ve broken it out of where it previously lived in the Hotwire tarball into a separate source tarball. You can currently get it from the Hotwire downloads page, though my long term plan is to import it into GNOME SVN and ideally have it come with GNOME out of the box. The code is currently here, and bug reports here. It works well enough for me now; about all it might make sense to add is some sort of color scheme (we currently just pull from the gnome-terminal defaults). To run, you can just unpack the tar and python ui/hotwire-ssh. If you install it, it should create a default bash alias for ssh, but this is something that package distributors will need to make sure integrates well.

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