When working at scale, and particularly with hosts that need to have the same configuration or you want to perform the same queries on, the issue becomes how do I ‘reach out and touch’ my fleet? Without centralized infrastructure backed by a messaging broker or a heavier process that leaves hooks in systems and/or requires its own domain specific language, sometimes you can get by with… plain ol’ ssh. Apple Remote Desktop can take us a lot of the way there, and one of the announced features of Mountain Lion is that screen sharing gets another piece of ARD’s pie, the ability to drag-and-drop files to transfer them to the remote machine. But when trying to use features other than screen control, ARD has been found to be hit-or-miss (or misreporting the functionality of hosts) in some circumstances.

csshX in action

‘Scripty’ folks look at these issues and craft tools to meet the challenge-slash-obscure-use case. Perl has long been relied upon for network-aware utilities, and csshX is a tool for managing a ‘cluster’ of  ssh sessions on the Mac. You can download or checkout the code from its googlecode site, and it has a man page that can be accessed when calling the binary directly with the -m switch. Options include telling it the login and/or password to use, feeding it a text file of hosts to access, or merely list hosts by DNS name or IP with spaces in between. Even if user names or passwords are different, fully-functional windows open as it attempts ssh connections to each host, with a red window you can use to control them all once you’ve authenticated to the ssh sessions. From that point on, the world is your proverbial jerry-rigged oyster! To mimic ARD’s file transfers you could scp back to your machine (as kludges go, smileyface,) and another random tip: using the emacs readline functionality to jump to the beginning of a line with Ctrl-a still works, even though csshX uses that for a special purpose (as does the terminal multiplexer screen,) simply hit Ctrl-a again and the program will understand you wanted to send that to the remote sessions. Enjoy!