TheSSS 21

TheSSS is a tiny Linux distribution that can be booted and run off live media. But it's not really like other tiny Linux distributions. Tiny distros have saved my system on more than one occasion, and, because they're tiny, they can usually fit on almost any sized storage medium and boot off all kinds of old hardware. TheSSS is tiny – clocking in as a 67MB ISO – but its size isn't particularly its main selling point. Its selling point is as a quick fix networking tool if you need something low powered and ephemeral to troubleshoot a network or privately connect to something across an insecure network.

When run, you login as root with a password of root and you then have quick access to several essential tools. SSH as a client and a server are both included and are running. FTP is enabled by typing ftpd start, which is very useful for local ad hoc file transfers, and if you need better security, SFTP is included, too. Apache is even ready to run by typing HTTPD start, and within moments you've got a local, read-only web server that will run on anything. There's even some help text, and a simple server command gives you quick access to the various servers and facilities bundled on the ISO. Behind the scenes, there's a 4MLinux firewall that's using iptables to stop problematic network traffic, a Polipo-based proxy server, and an included Tor anonymizer service. This is a very neat package for such a small footprint, and I can see this having lots of uses, especially if you need quick and dirty network access without wanting to put your phone or your laptop into the firing line of local network conditions.

Project Website

You can connect to your TheSSS deployment from almost any device, albeit totally insecurely if you insist on using Telnet.

Terminal multiplexor


One thing that's become essential in the midst of this command-line and terminal renaissance is a requirement to use what's known as a terminal multiplexor. This is a rather grandiose term to describe a tool that lets you easily run and control more than one terminal session at a time. Tmux is perhaps the most popular, although screen is installed by default on many distros. Both will let you split a view, move between terminal panes, and create and close new ones as needed. Both are widely used when connecting to remote servers, as they let you detach and resume to a terminal session whenever you connect over something like SSH. Tmux is generally the more advanced because it's easier to expand. There are plugins for saving sessions, navigating GitHub repositories, and saving layouts.

But, tmux gets to be quite processor intensive. This was one of the motivations behind the development of the GPU-accelerated terminal covered in the previous issue (Alacritty). But if you don't have a super powerful GPU handy, another option for faster terminal multiplexing is mtm: "Perhaps the smallest useful terminal multiplexer in the world." It's certainly small. The binary builds quicker than it takes to type make, and it loads instantly. There's a different trigger shortcut to both tmux and screen (Ctrl+g), but it does the same thing. After pressing this, you can press another key to perform an action. The minimal nature of mtm means there are only four options: h splits the terminal horizontally, v splits vertically, w removes a terminal, and / redraws the terminal. This simplicity is a refreshing change from worrying about keyboard commands, and although it's never going to replace tmux, mtm is a great second option for older hardware or even IoT devices with limited capabilities.

Project Website

The mtm tool needs only ncursesw to build, compiles to a diminutive 48k, and will run on almost anything.

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