Hacking quicker

It’s no secret that I’ve started hacking on my iPhone.

And what’s the most frequent thing I use in development? SSH2 to copy new builds onto the phone and view NSLog output from the shell.

And is it a pain to enter your password every frickin’ time? And is it slow to connect? Yes and HELL yes.

But we can make it better.

First, let’s make a public key that’s compatible with SSH2. Using the id_dsa.pub key generated by OpenSSH on Mac OS X, we’d use these commands:

% ssh-keygen -e -f id_dsa.pub > id_dsa_ssh2_aster.pub
% scp id_dsa_ssh2_aster.pub root@192.168.0.100:/var/root/.ssh2

(“aster” is the name of my development machine, where I’m logging into the iPhone from. The “192.168.0.100″ is the IP address of the iPhone on my local network. You may need to create the /var/root/.ssh2 directory on the iPhone first.)

Now, on the iPhone, you need to create a file that tells the SSH2 daemon where to find the public key. In /var/root/.ssh2, create a file named “authorization” with the following contents:

key id_dsa_ssh2_aster.pub

If you login from multiple machines, you’d add a new “key” line for each reference to the public key.

That’s all you need to do to avoid the login prompts. We’re halfway there!

Now for the more annoying thing: delays at login. It’s not because the iPhone is doing something stupid like running Javascript: it’s trying to resolve the client host name. Since the iPhone isn’t running lookupd, that’s kinda hard to do, so all we’re really doing is waiting for a timeout :-(

The simple fix is to turn off the “ResolveClientHostName” feature in the SSH2 daemon. As long as we’re tweaking things, let’s also add “NoDelay” to improve TCP network performance. Open /etc/ssh2/sshd2_config on the iPhone and update the configuration to:

#       ResolveClientHostName           yes
	ResolveClientHostName           no
...
#       NoDelay                         no
        NoDelay                         yes

Now restart the iPhone and watch your blood pressure decline as you continue hacking.

Update: These instructions assume that you are using OpenSSH2, not Dropbear. Installing OpenSSH2 gives you a full suite of tools for communicating with the iPhone.