Secure Access…On the Go

October 10, 2010

Technology, Wireless

For the past few years, I’ve enjoyed the ability to log onto my home system while I’ve been at work.  The process was simple: I would launch PuTTY from my USB drive.  From there, I’d set up a encrypted tunnel through my router to my primary home system.  I would then use a VNC client to tunnel my desktop access through SSH.  But all of that changed when I started my new job.

At my new employer, I was no longer able to use SSH to access my home system.  I totally understand why port 22 was blocked.  But I really didn’t want to start tunneling stuff through DNS.  Fortunately, my new phone provided the answer to my need for desktop access.  After doing a bunch of research, I decided that I would use ConnectBot and androidVNC on my Android phone.

But there are always hiccups when doing something new.  At first, I had trouble with public key encryption to my home system.  I would never back down from this requirement.  So I let the issue sit until I had a few more hours to fiddle with parameters.  And tonight was that time.

I tried to use my existing public keys.  But that strategy was fraught with trouble – i.e., I couldn’t get it to work.  So I decided to reverse polarity on the device.  OK, I’m not Scotty.  But I decided to generate the key on the phone (via ConnectBot) and mail the public key component to myself.  I then imported the key into WinSSHd.  Unfortunately, this didn’t solve the problem.

So more research revealed that WinSSHd only supports ‘xterm’ emulation.  So I updated my ConnectBot settings and tried yet again.  And voila, my phone could connect to my home system.  So I had a command prompt.  And everything looked good.  But the job wasn’t done yet.  I wanted full screen access.  So it was time to do more research.

It was easy to set PuTTY up on my desktop.  I just needed to find out where the options were in the ConnectBot tool.  Enter the work of Wayne Perg.  His excellent tutorial pointed me to the port forwarding directives in ConnectBot.  Within a few minutes, I reconfigured androidVNC.  I am now able control my desktop from my phone.

Folks, technology is fantastic.  And it is even more fantastic when you can find the answers to your questions through the previous work of others.  If there is one thing I can still teach my kids, I hope that I can help them to use Google (or other search engines) to find real answers.  The truth is out there.


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