The Little Things You Find Along the Way

I’m constantly amazed by the little tips and tricks I stumble upon as I’m working to solve problems.  Earlier today, I found this little gem.

Apparently, there is a setting in OpenSSH 5.1 and later for visual remote host fingerprinting.  The basic concept is that it’s much easier for the human brain to notice a change in a visual pattern than in a string of hex digits.  To turn it on, simply add a line that says
VisualHostKey yes to your ~/.ssh/config file. Then, when you go to SSH into a server, you’ll see a visual representation of the remote host fingerprint, in addition to the regular fingerprint, as shown below:

[jsmith@hockey ~]$ ssh
Host key fingerprint is 07:d4:02:db:9f:70:d5:2d:7f:1b:6a:df:83:73:95:1d
+--[ RSA 2048]----+
|      ....  .. . |
|       +. ..  o .|
|      . +..    o |
|         = .   Eo|
|        S +   . B|
|         .   o oo|
|            . o o|
|             o +.|
|              o .|

See, now isn’t that handy?

Published by


Jared Smith is very enthusiastic about free and open source software. To learn more about Jared, visit

2 thoughts on “The Little Things You Find Along the Way”

  1. Can’t see why this better than the thing that warns you that the key has changed and makes you remove it from the known_keys. unless you happened to connect from lots of different systems, in which case it still seems a bit unlikely that you could be be trusted to remember to not talk to systems with different picasso ASCII art signatures.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *