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Apple iPad: A Linux Administrator’s New Assistant

Will the iPad gain acceptance among staunch Linux supporters or will the mere mention of such cross-species contamination stir up thoughts of lighted torches and pitchforks? Truth be told, it's a great device for some administrative tasks.

X cursor movement is a little tricky and cumbersome but the convenience of using X far outweighs the flaws in its use. The other problem with the iSSH implementation, though, that’s really worth a fix is that all X programs open in the same screen location (0,0), so you’re able to work with a single application at a time.

For those of you who want to use VNC connectivity to your Linux systems, you’ll have to enable a VNC server on your target system and setup a password for interactive or view-only sessions. Then, create a new connection using VNC parameters instead of SSH ones. See Figure 5 for a sample. As with SSH, your configuration can contain your pre-entered password or the system can prompt you for one every time.

Figure 5: iSSH VNC Profile Configuration Screen
Figure 5: iSSH VNC Profile Configuration Screen

Your VNC port number, 5901 for example, corresponds to the number given by the VNC server for the listener that you setup by running vncserver on the target host.

$ vncserver

You will require a password to access your desktops.

Password: *******
Verify: *******
Would you like to enter a view-only password (y/n)? n

New 'X' desktop is vlad:1

Creating default startup script /home/khess/.vnc/xstartup
Starting applications specified in /home/khess/.vnc/xstartup
Log file is /home/khess/.vnc/vlad:1.log

The :1 in the response corresponds to port 5901. A response of :2 corresponds to port 5902 and so on. Create your connection profile, connect, switch to the X window screen and you’ll see your Linux desktop there as shown in Figure 6. Note that the mouse cursor behaves the same in VNC as it does in a standard X session. Tap where you want the mouse cursor to go and then use the right and left buttons for action at that location.

Figure 6: iSSH VNC Session Showing Target Host's GNOME Desktop
Figure 6: iSSH VNC Session Showing Target Host’s GNOME Desktop

You’ll enjoy and appreciate iSSH and your iPad more as you work with them in this new support context. The iPad is the perfect portable Linux support tool for System Administrators. As the iPad matures, more apps that integrate it with Linux will appear, though admittedly; SSH, X, VNC and web-based apps are already well covered with iSSH and the Safari browser. And, while you’re waiting for systems to update or for a compile to complete, you can always entertain yourself by flinging birds at well-guarded pigs.

* Not jailbroken or otherwise tampered with.

** Yes, it looks like a Close button and it’s counterintuitive but it’s Apple.

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