Mobile SSH Client

There has been a lot of fuss recently about the release of the iPhone [1] in Australia. But I have not been impressed.

I read an interesting post Why I don’t want an iPhone [2] which summarises some of the issues of it not being an open platform (and not having SSH client support). Given all the fuss about iPhones (which have just arrived in Australia) I had been thinking of writing my own post about this, but TK covered most of the issues that matter to me. One other thing I have to mention is the fact that I want a more fully powered PC with me. So even if I had a Green Phone (which doesn’t seem to be on general sale) [3] or OpenMoko [4] I would still want at least a PDA running Familiar and preferrably a laptop – I often carry both. A Nokia N8x0 series Internet Tablet [4] would satisfy my PDA needs (and also remove the need to carry an MP3/MP4 player and audio recorder).

When doing serious travelling I carry a laptop, a PDA, and a MP3 player all areas of my digital needs are covered better than an iPhone could reasonably manage. Finally mobile phones tend to not work or not work well ($1 per minute calls is part of my definition of “not well”) in other countries. While I haven’t been doing a lot of traveling recently I still try to avoid buying things that won’t work in other countries.

I had planned to just mention TK’s post in a links post. But then a client offered to buy me an iPhone. He wants me to be able to carry a ssh client with me most places that I go so that whenever his systems break I can login. Now apart from the lack of ssh client support an iPhone seems ideal. :-#

The cheapest Optus iPhone plan seems to be $19 per month for calls and data (which includes 100M of data) and $21 per month over 24 months for the iPhone thus giving a cost of $40 per month for 100M of data transfer (and a nice phone). There is a plan ofr a $19 per month iPhone, but that has a $19 per month un-capped phone plan and doesn’t sound like a good way of saving $2 per month. The “Three” phone company offers USB 3G modems for $5 per month (on a 24 month contract) and their cheapest plan is $15 per month which gives you 1GB of data per month and $0.10/M for additional data transfer. So it’s $20 per month for 1G (which requires a laptop) vs $40 per month for 100M.

Three also has a range of phone plans that allow 3G data access over bluetooth to a PC, it seems that a Nokia N8x0 tablet can be used with that which gives a result of two devices the size of mobile phones. But that costs $20 per month (on top of a regular Three bill) for a plan that offers 500M of data and still requires two devices while not giving the full PC benefits.

In the past I’ve done a lot of support work with a Nokia Communicator, so I’ve found that anything less than a regular keyboard really slows things down. While a EeePC keyboard is not nearly as good as a full sized keyboard it is significantly better than a touch-screen keyboard on a PDA (IE the Nokia N8x0 or the OpenMoko).

At the moment I’m looking at the option of carrying an EeePC with a USB Internet access device. That will cost $20 per month for net access. The cost of the EeePC is around $300 for a low-end model or about $650 for a 901 series that can run Xen (as noted in my previous post I’m considering the possibilities for having a mobile Xen simulation of a production network [5]). The savings of $20 per month over 24 months will entirely cover the cost of a low-end EeePC (ssh terminal, web browsing, and local storage of documentation) and cover most of the cost of a high-end EeePC. Another possibility to consider is using an old Toshiba Satellite I have hanging around (which I used to use as a mobile SE Linux demonstration machine) for a few months while the price on the EeePC 901 drops (as soon as the 70x series is entirely sold out and the 1000 series is available I expect that the 901 will get a lot cheaper).

3 comments to Mobile SSH Client

  • Andrew Paulin

    I’m not sure what the carrier situation is like in Australia, but have you considered a BlackBerry? I know they’re not fully open like a OpenMoko, but they don’t place any sort of restrictions on development like Apple does. And, they have a SSH client (MidpSSH) that works well enough considering it’s on a phone.

  • Vadim

    We will get a co-op alternative to the Australian telephone companies up and running if 10,000 people join:

    Please let everyone know! Hopefully an alternative will be more receptive to new technology and won’t charge as much as it does for the iPhone’s basic functions.

    At the very least, it’ll send pressure to Optus, etc. to lower their prices.

  • Richard Eldred

    I went with Three myself. $29 cap plan, and then one of the damnfangled $20/month ‘Xseries’ plans, basicly a glorified 500mb/month data plan.

    I carry an IBM X31 and a n810, connect both to my n95 via bluetooth.

    As far as handhelds go, the n810 flogs the iPhone or the blackberry to death, especially for SSH. That lovely 800×480 screen is a dream for terminal apps, and the hardware keyboard is miles beyond the Blackberries. I won’t even get started on the iPhone, with no hardware keyboard whatsoever.

    By default, things like tab completion don’t work, as there is no tab key on the n810, but there’s a custom language pack (actually to support polish characters, but it keeps the US English layout intact for general use) that adds a convenient little shortcut key combo to insert tabs.

    Works well for me. I program telephone PABX’s for a living, and also manage a few servers in my spare time.

    I’d certainly look at an eeepc 901 myself, if it wasn’t for the fact that I rely on a lot of proprietary windows applications for working with NEC PABX’s. That and I need a genuine serial port, a lot of these stupid proprietary apps crack shits at being made run over one of those pl2303 usb serial adapters.