SSH on Windows

Apologies up front to those who will flame me for this, but I must concede. I’ve been trying to find a good excuse to get into Linux for a while. I like the idea of open-source software running my organization. I like the idea of creating a test environment or another machine simply by downloading and installing. I can only imagine the headaches and dollars saved by moving to Linux. However, I have yet to find a reason to do so.

My latest example is a good one. I want the ability to ssh. As a mechanism for delivering bug fixes, code updates, and all the other goodies to users, ssh is much safer than ftp. The command line syntax is much easer, using 1 port instead of 2 is awesome. Using pre-shared public keys based on a private key is phenomenal. The whole concept is cool.

My choices are now:

– Pick a distro (via dart board selection), install it, futz with it for eons, debug some ./configure script gone awray (because I didn’t pick the right distro), finally get it stable, look at configuring ssh, futz with it for another eon, get it running, use it for a few weeks, decide to tweak something, destroy it, try to fix it, guess a different dart board choice would be better, reformat, repeat.


– Install ssh on Windows

I found copssh. It installs the minimum cygwin needed, openssh (a maintained version), and some cool tools. I had it up and running, authenticating against pre-shared keys, and doing the do in a half hour or so. It was easy. (It’s incredibly cool to have a bash shell on a windows machine too.)

Then WinSCP enters. It’s a Windows Explorer-like view to an ssh destination. It includes entries in the Send-to context menu for Putty saved sessions. For those that don’t like the command line, it’s just an awesome tool.

Now were I to do that on Linux, do I need to modify sshd.conf? or do I go into /etc/rc2.d and create a S90something script? How do I insure the service starts on reboot (aside from rebooting once)? Apache is gorgeous for what it does. But adding a new virtual directory to IIS is just so easy.

Ok, granted, I like the argument of SLED (Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop) instead of Vista, but I still can’t see my grandma using Linux desktop as easily as Windows. I also can’t see the non-technical user running a Linux desktop without some outside assistance from a Linux guru. And which distro would they pick? (without the marketing) And KDE or Gnome? (Granted, not the only two to choose from, but it’s the first question during the install, and one most users wouldn’t know what to do with.)

And sounds incredibly cool. Anyone with a credo like “To give windows powerusers – turned linux newbies – a place to keep up to date on the latest happenings in linux software and to discuss their problems, adventures, and accomplishments.” has got to be cool.

And the whole Microsoft / Novell deal just sounds fishy. Granted, incredibly cool if Microsoft now backs Mono, Samba, Linux Desktop, etc, etc. But … jumping into bed with the second best enemy just seems like the most effective way to insure both #1 (Red Hat) and #2 (who’s ever heard of Novell after NetWare?) lose.

But I can’t in good conscience try to convince a client that going with the penguin is easier. I just can’t see that.