After having a quite uneventful upgrade to Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex (time for a change), I’s happy to notice, that Intrepid Ibex ships the new OpenSSH version 5.1 which has one little feature, I really fell in love with: visual host keys. You might already have read about it on Planet Ubuntu. In case you don’t: „visual host keys“ is a way presenting the ssh client user a 2d ascii art visualation of the host key fingerprint. It shall help you to recognize a ssh server by remembering a figure rather than the host key.
If you want to give this a try, call the ssh client this way:
$ ssh -o VisualHostKey=yes your.host.name Host key fingerprint is ff:aa:a8:dc:0b:5e:e3:9f:96:f1:75:d4:24 +--[ RSA 1024]----+ | +o | | o. .| | E + | | . . .. .| | . S .. | | . o o.. . . | | + + .+.. . | | . + ooo. | | . ooo | +-----------------+
Nice, isn’t it? Now try your different ssh hosts and compare the figures. Hope you don’t start generating ssh host keys for getting a special figure, do you? Actually I don’t know if I’ll really remember figures of dozens of machines, but hey: it’s just additional fun.
In case you want to make this behavior default, add „VisualHostKey yes“ to your „~/.ssh/config“. In case you don’t have this file, make a new one with the following content (and find out that this file makes ssh really poweful in combination with command line completion, but that is another topic):
Host * VisualHostKey yes
Please note: This might break applications that rely on the ssh console client as they don’t expect graphical art popping up. So if some other clients don’t work anymore, play around with aliases or your ~/ssh/config file.
Thank you, OpenSSH guys, I really appreciate your work.