.ssh/config every day

August 18, 2014 at 01:52 PM | Shell, OpenSSL | View Comments

I'd like to take a moment to share a few ways I use ~/.ssh/config file to make my life happier every day.

With these options I never need to remember host names, usernames, or port numbers, and the vast majority of my SSH commands look like:

$ ssh myapp
$ ssh myclient-prod-db
$ rsync -a app-backup:backups/jan01 .

Every time I get ssh access to a server I add an entry to my config file giving the host a name that's meaningful to me (for example, "someclient-server" or "myproj-backup") and setting the default username and port:

Host someclient-dev
    User dev

Host someclient-prod-app
    Hostname redbunny.myclient.com
    Port 4242
    User prod

Host someclient-prod-db
    Hostname bluefish.myclient.com
    Port 4242
    User db

These host alias can be used just about everywhere a hostname is passed to SSH, including:

  • SSH from the command line:

    $ ssh someclient-dev
    dev@ $
  • git, mercurial, or other version control systems:

    $ git remote add dev someclient-dev:repo/
  • rsync:

    $ rsync -a media/ someclient-dev:media/

Not only does this mean I never need to remember weird hostnames or arbitrary usernames, but I can also open the file to see a list of all the machines I've ever had access to (which can be very useful when an old machines needs work done).

The bash-completion package is even .ssh/config aware, so tab completion will work as expected:

$ ssh someclient-<tab>
someclient-dev someclient-prod-app someclient-prod-db

Amazon EC2 key management is also a huge continence. Each time I get access to an Amazon EC2 instance I add the IdentityFile to the Host definition:

Host *.amazonaws.com
    User ec2-user

Host myapp
    Hostname ec2-1-2-3-4.compute-1.amazonaws.com
    IdentityFile ~/.ssh/aws-myapp.pem

As above, this will create the host alias myapp, and the identify file ~/.ssh/aws-myapp.pem will be used to connect (no more -I flag on the command line).

Finally, there are a few options that are useful to set for all hosts:

Host *
    # Instead of just printing the host key fingerprint as an opaque hex
    # string, print a pretty art. Ostensibly this is for security, but
    # mostly it's pretty:
    #     +--[ RSA 2048]----+
    #     | oE    ..        |
    #     |  ..   ...       |
    #     |   .  ooo        |
    #     |   oooooo        |
    #     |  . =+.+S+       |
    #     |   o.+o.o..      |
    #     |    o..          |
    #     +-----------------+
    VisualHostKey yes

    # Send explicit keepalive packets. This isn't often a problem, but I've
    # run into a few combinations of network and machine that will drop
    # inactive connections.
    KeepAlive yes
    ServerAliveInterval 60

    # SSH Agent Forwarding is described here:
    # http://www.unixwiz.net/techtips/ssh-agent-forwarding.html
    ForwardAgent yes

    # SSH Control Channels allow multiple SSH sessions to share one
    # connection. For example, the first time I run "ssh myapp", ssh will
    # create a new connection to the server (creating a TCP connection,
    # authenticating, etc). As long as that connection
    # is active, though, running "ssh myapp" from another terminal will
    # re-use the same TCP connection, authentication, etc, making the
    # command virtually instant.
    # Note that the ControlPersist option is important, otherwise all the
    # sessions will be disconnected when the master session closes.
    ControlPath ~/.ssh/control/master-%l-%r@%h:%p
    ControlMaster auto
    ControlPersist 60
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