Oct 072010

The first round of SSH clients for the iPhone presented some problems when connecting to Amazon Web Services EC2 Linux server instances. EC2 instances require a private certificate key file to be used to authenticate to the server during an SSH session. This lead to some workarounds where one had to export the iPhone’s key and add that key to the EC2 server instance. This wasn’t much fun to do. Thankfully, the latest versions of many SSH apps for the iPhone support private key imports. For my example bellow I’m going to be using the iSSH app:

1. Find the .pem key file saved during keypair creation in Amazon Web Services for the instance you launched.

2. Get the the content of the .pem file into the iPhone’s copy/paste memory. There are several ways to do this, here are two of them:

– 2a. Save the pem file to dropbox and open the file on the iPhone using the dropbox app (note you likely need to rename the pem to .txt in order for iOS to allow you to read the file).

– 2b. Open the .pem file with a text editor and copy the contents into a new email to an iPhone account

3. Open iSSH, go to General Settings -> Configure SSH Keys -> Import Key…

iSSH home screen

4. Paste the content of the .pem file into the lower text box; ignore the Key Password field unless you have specified one when generating the key separately (Amazon keys don’t typically have passwords).

Save the private key file

5. Go back to the iSSH home screen and select Add Configuration…

6. Select the Use Key and select the key file saved earlier.

Selecting the key

7. Save the configuration and connect to the server instance.

Connected to AWS EC2 Linux server

Oct 052010

Stuff breaks. Usually when I’m nowhere near a computer. These 4 apps help keep me sane:

1. Jaadu Remote Desktop (app store link). Pricey, but the best RDP client of the bunch. This plus the built in iPhone VPN client and I can access all of our Windows based servers.

2. Citrix Receiver (app store link). Only really applicable if you have significant Citrix investment (e.g. Citrix Access Gateway), but this app works great for a quick check on things in our hosted environment.

3. iSSH (app store link). Great SSH client for the iPhone. The private key import function (copy paste pem contents) is critical for using this app with Linux servers on Amazon Web Services.

4. iAWSManager (app store link). This is a fantastic app if you are heavy into Amazon Web Services. There is an amazing amount of functionality packed into it – CloudWatch monitoring graphs, EBS manipulation, security group access, etc. Given the choice, I won’t be launching new EC2 instances from the app because of the screen size, but it is amazing to have the option.

Aug 092010

Now that jailbreaking is painless again, I’ve started to explore some of the jailbreak specific apps. The nicest surprise I’ve found so far is LockInfo. It has a number of plugins that show appointments, RSS feeds, new mail, and weather data on the iPhone’s lock screen. I find it quite useful; definitely worth $5 and a quick jailbreak. It is mind boggling why Apple hasn’t allowed this functionality in the default OS or via 3rd party apps the App Store.

May 202009

Over the last few years I have been traveling with my ultralight laptop. I’ve always enjoyed having a movie available, or leeching off random wifi to stay in contact and look up information while traveling.  Even though it is lightweight and small, it was still too much for my liking.  This last trip I tried an experiment.   Could my iphone replace my laptop for travel?

Looking up travel info – Yes
Most websites work quite well on the iphone. There are even a number of travel apps popping up that make travel much easier – I had several apps for Busan and Seoul subway maps were quite useful. Google maps are pretty useful when you have a wireless connection available, but the geo-locate doesn’t work outside of the US/Canada (I don’t have 3g with built-in GPS). If Apple ever gets their act together and allows GPS apps with maps, the 3g iphone could be an amazing travel info device.

Email – Yes
The iphone works very well for quick emails. I’m looking forward to landscape keyboard layout with the next OS upgrade though.

Voice contact – Yes
I didn’t have service in Korea, so I used the iphone Skype app to make Skype out to calls to US phone numbers. I had several calls just under an hour and quality was quite good. The iphone gets pretty warm after a while, but stayed stable.

Blog – Yes
I didn’t do much of it this trip, but I was able to write up some quick posts using the wordpress app and upload them when I was near a wireless signal. I don’t think it would be much fun to write a novel, but it might be better with a landscape keyboard layout. The one downside is that any photos I wanted to include had to be on the iphone.

Storing and reviewing photos – No
With my laptop I was able to offload photos and review them each day. This isn’t possible at the moment with the iphone. Reviewing end of day photos helped a lot while I was still learning my SLR, but were also a big time-sink. I would have enjoyed looking the photos over on the fight back, but otherwise I’m glad I didn’t bother.  As for photo storage, I had 14 GB of extreme III SDHC memory cards with me, and that was more than enough.  Had I been needing more photo storage, an image tank would have been up to the job.

Work emergencies – Yes
Occasionally I need to connect to servers at work to bail someone out or fix something. With a laptop I typically establish a VPN connection and then use Remote Desktop to access the server or workstation. In this case, the Jaadu RDP iphone app was up to the job. I wouldn’t want to work on systems for a long time, but it is more than enough for quick fixes or file retrieval. I was able to login to our email server and check the event logs and services while at a cafe in Korea. Very cool.

The verdict – Yes
The iphone worked great for my style of travel.  Other than reviewing photos on the plane I didn’t miss my laptop for a second.  In fact, many times I was doing things that my laptop simply didn’t offer. I’ll be leaving the laptop behind next trip.