Archive for August, 2012

Three tips making ssh connections easier

August 8, 2012 2 comments

When working with linux on a grid, we generally spend a lot of time starting ssh connections, entering password, opening again and again new terminal. In the following post we’ll see three small tips that made life much easier.

Using a ssh-key without passphrase

To avoid entering password, one can use ssh public/private keys. SSH allow to generate a pair of keys, one will remain on your computer the other (the public key) will be copied to the server where you want to login. Once the public key is added on this server, you should not be asked for password anymore. For illustration purpose, we will consider that your login is “you” and the ssh server on which you want to connect yourself is “”.

1 key generation
ssh-keygen -t rsa
  1. The normal place to store the key is ~/.ssh/ so just type enter to accept this default
  2. The trick is here, type enter to give an empty passphrase
  3. Hit enter a second time
2 Export the key on the remote server
ssh-copy-id  -i ~/.ssh/

You’ll be asked (normally) for the last time your password and then be disconnected

3 Test the connection

now just type :


And you’ll be automatically connected ! You’ll then only have to repeat the step two for each server on which you have an ssh access.

Note :

  • If you prefer to keep a passphrase (which is more secure, but less convenient) you can use ssh agent more details can be found here.
  • If you already have a passphrase (whether it’s empty or not) , you can change it with “ssh-keygen -f ~/.ssh/ -p”

Create an alias for your connection

I basically have ssh account on more then 10 different servers, with for each some specificity (port number, X server availability etc.)
So to automate connection, I generally use alias. Alias is a simple command that will associate to a key word a command.

Hence, in order to connect to the server with Xforwarding enabled (-X) on port number 2222 (-p 2222) , one can type in a terminal

alias Remote="ssh -X -p 2222"

And then from now on, when typing Remote in the terminal you’ll be automatically connected to The shell will execute the command associated to the key word Remote.

Alias is used interactively here, so the association will work as long as your terminal is not closed. In order to have this alias always set-up when starting a terminal,  you should add the previous alias command in either ~/.profile or ~/.bash_rc (This will depend on your configuration).


Screen is a very handy tool which allow to multiplex terminal…and much more. Suppose you are not allowed to use ssh key and must use a password every time you connect to ssh. If screen is available on the server, then you can connect only one time to it and then create several “screen” which are basically terminals.

So to connect to the ssh server and create a first screen named Term1, type:

screen -S Term1

You ‘ll see appear a new cleaned terminal. You can start to work and run as instance a very long process.
In order to let the process run and start a new terminal, you’ll have to detach your first terminal with “Ctrl+a d”, you ‘ll then go back to your login terminal.
From the latter, you ‘ll be able to start a second screen.

screen -S Term2

That you ‘ll can also detach and so on…

To list all the screens that have been created , from the login terminal type :

screen -ls

You ‘ll see something like :
There are screens on:
22712.Term2    (08/07/12 22:07:24)    (Detached)
22682.Term1    (08/07/12 22:06:47)    (Detached)
2 Sockets in /var/run/screen/S-you.

to reattach a screen (e.g. Term1), use the -r flag with either the pid or screen name.

screen -r Term1
screen -r 22712

This way you entered only one time your password, but you have several “terminal”. Furthermore, a great advantage of screen is that you can close your ssh connection without killing the screen, so you can let a long process run and reattach its screen terminal from time to time to control them.

Categories: Linux, Shell