Non-Linux FOSS: Flaky Connection? Mosh it!

Most of the work I do on computers is done via the command line. When I'm off on vacation somewhere, that means shoddy Wi-Fi and cell-phone tethering. Because cell-phone tethering gets expensive quick (I also have three teenage daughters with which I share a data plan), I try to use free Internet whenever I can. The biggest hassle with that method is dealing with broken SSH sessions. Yes, I can use programs like screen or tmux to make sure I don't lose work, but it can be very frustrating to have an SSH session lock up because the "TotallySafeBro" SSID in my hotel goes down. And, don't get me started on lag.

That's where Mosh comes into play. I was lamenting in IRC, and user "bkidwell" mentioned Mosh as being a great terminal client for questionable or often-changing connections. It uses a combination of TCP over port 22 and UDP on a higher port to provide a smooth, flexible terminal session regardless of your connection reliability or performance. Rather than waiting for the remote server to echo what you type, Mosh displays your local typing and edits in real time, then "catches up" with the server as quickly as it can. The coolest part, however, is that Mosh will keep your connection alive and running even if you change network addresses! Switching from McDonald's Wi-Fi to your phone's shared data? No need to log out and back in.

Figure 1. Mosh detects a disconnect and keeps trying to reconnect, even if your IP address changes!

Admittedly, Mosh is lacking in some ways compared to SSH. It doesn't do port forwarding, it doesn't keep a scrollback buffer, and its predictive text is sometimes wrong. That last one is most noticeable on a really poor connection, and it isn't really a problem—the screen just occasionally changes a bit when the server/client syncs up. It's still far nicer than typing eight lines of instructions, only to see a typo when the screen finally updates.

Due to its flexibility with poor connections, cross-platform server/client availability and convenience for mobile admins, Mosh gets this month's Editors' Choice award. Download the application from your Linux repository, or head over to https://mosh.mit.edu for download links and instructions for whatever platform you might be on, including Android. Installation is simple, and the benefits are immediate!

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Shawn Powers is a Linux Journal Associate Editor. You might find him on IRC, Twitter, or training IT pros at CBT Nuggets.