Persistent SSH tunnel for Windows

Over the years I’ve needed to access family members’ machines for remote support. The problem with parents and grandparents is walking them through certain prompts for services like is quite problematic. To that end I’ve devised an open source way for me to automatically remote into their machine regardless of firewalls or machine location. This is possible thanks to cygwin, autoSSH, and NSSM. As long as the machine has internet access, I can get to it.

To pull this off you’ll need to install a few cygwin packages, copy over a private key file, create a batch script, and invoke NSSM to create a service to invoke the batch script on startup.


Obtain cygwin from here. You’ll need to use the graphical installer for the initial setup. Install the following packages:

  • ssh
  • autossh
  • wget (not necessary, but handy to have)

If cygwin is already installed, install it again. I wasted an hour once trying to figure out why it wasn’t working when the culprit turned out to be a buggy old version of cygwin itself.

Private key

For this to work you’ll need an SSH server configured for key authentication (no password.) On your SSH server:

  • Create new user for the Windows machine
  • Execute ssh-keygen as that user
  • Copy the contents of the .pub file into ~/.ssh/authorized_keys
  • Copy the private key (the one with no extension) to the Windows computer
  • Make sure permissions for the .ssh folder and everything inside of it is 600


One option that I really enjoy on my SSH server is the GatewayPorts option. This turns your SSH server into a gateway for any port forwards. Simply edit /etc/ssh/sshd_config and add

GatewayPorts yes

Save the file and restart the SSH service. Now if you create SSH tunnels your SSH server opens those ports for you to connect from other machines.

Create batch file

On the windows machine a simple command gets us up and running. Create a one-liner .cmd file on the Windows machine in a location of your choosing with the following:

c:\cygwin\bin\autossh.exe -M <random_port_number> -i <keyfile location>  -l <user> -R<remote_port:localhost:<local_port> -o StrictHostKeyChecking=no -o UserKnownHostsFile=/dev/null <remote address>

Update it to reflect the path of your cygwin installation if you installed somewhere other than the default location.

I add the reverse port forward option ( -R ) so that I can simply connect to my ssh server on the specified port and the connection will tunnel through to the Windows computer. In my case, I do -R5700:localhost:5900 which instructs my ssh server to listen on port 5700, then forward that connection to the Windows machine on port 5900 for VNC.

Create service

The Non-suciking service manager is a nifty little program that lets us turn anything into a windows service. Once it’s a service it can be started automatically on startup, even if nobody has logged in yet.

Obtain NSSM from here and extract it to a location you can remember. Then, open an administrator command prompt, cd to the directory containing nssm.exe, and enter the following:

nssm.exe install autossh

A GUI will open up. Specify the location of your batch file in the Path: section, then click Install service.

Once this is done, start the service by running services.msc, looking for your service, right click and select start. Make sure the startup type is set to automatic.

That’s it! If your keys are in the right place and the permissions are correct, the computer will automatically (and silently) log into your SSH server and create a tunnel for you. Autossh will continually try to re-connect in the event of connection loss. Awesome.

Reverse SSH

You can also configure cygwin to be an SSH server for your windows host. This will allow you to SSH into the machine if you specify -R<random_port:localhost:22 in your batch file. Here are a few notes for getting ssh working

  • Open up a cygwin terminal and execute the command:
  • Once the SSH server is configured, tweak the SSH configuration to allow logging in with blank passwords (many of my family do not use a password to log into the machine.) Simply un-comment the line “PermitEmptyPasswords no” and change no to yes. Then, restart the ssh service. (thanks to this blog for the insight)

Connect Linux OpenVPN client to Netgear VPN Server

My parents got a shiny new Netgear R80000 wireless router which supports OpenVPN out of the box. The client configuration it generates doesn’t work right away, though, when I try to connect from my Linux Mint desktop. The connection is successful but I can’t ping or reach anything on the other network.

I discovered on this forum that you must add a couple options to the config file the router produces. You can do this either on the command line or by modifying the config file. The options are to add an interface to the VPN and to  create a route to the network, like so:

--ifconfig --route

I took the generated non-windows VPN configuration from their router, unzipped it on my linux desktop, and then ran this command:

sudo openvpn --config parents.ovpn --ifconfig --route

It worked like a charm.

Fix erroneous DM Splunk Missing Forwarders alert

For some time now Splunk has been alerting me to “missing” forwarders even though all of those forwarders are working perfectly fine. It turns out to be a glitch in the Deployment Monitor app. After much digging I found this Splunk article which explains it:

The fix is fairly simple, thankfully. You have to edit the macros.conf of the Deployment Monitor app to add this small snippet right before the first pipe:

NOT eventType=*

The default path for this configuration file is:


The relevant stanza in my macros.conf is below:

definition = index="_internal" source="*metrics.log" group=tcpin_connections NOT eventType=* | eval sourceHost=if(isnull(hostname), sourceHost,hostname) | eval connectionType=case(fwdType=="uf","universal forwarder", fwdType=="lwf", "lightweight forwarder",fwdType=="full", "heavy forwarder", connectionType=="cooked" or connectionType=="cookedSSL","Splunk forwarder", connectionType=="raw" or connectionType=="rawSSL","legacy forwarder")| eval build=if(isnull(build),"n/a",build) | eval version=if(isnull(version),"pre 4.2",version) | eval guid=if(isnull(guid),sourceHost,guid) | eval os=if(isnull(os),"n/a",os)| eval arch=if(isnull(arch),"n/a",arch) | fields connectionType sourceIp sourceHost sourcePort destPort kb tcp_eps tcp_Kprocessed tcp_KBps splunk_server build version os arch guid

Crop pictures with ImageMagick’s mogrify

I recently needed a quick and dirty way to crop the bottom chunk of a large batch of scanned photos. Thanks to Linux and FOSS, this is possible with a fantastic tool known as imagemagick.

Simply install imagemagick to get the necessary tools

#Assuming you have a redhat based distro
sudo yum install ImageMagick*

Once installed use the mogrify tool (part of ImageMagick) to quickly chop the bottom part off:

mogrify -chop 0x45+0+0 -gravity South *.jpg

The above example chops the bottom 45 pixels off of every picture in the directory you’re in. Thanks to this site for the info. Handy.

Install multiple xenserver patches at once

I came across a need to install multiple patches manually (via SSH) on one of my xenservers. It’s quite tedious to do this manually so I found a way to here.)

Download all the patch .zip files to a directory your xenserver can access. Then, extract them all with this command:

find *.zip -exec unzip {} \;

Next, upload all the .xsupdates:

find *.xsupdate -exec xe patch-upload file-name={} \;

This spits out a bunch of UUIDs. Make note of these. You will also need to get your host-uuid by using the

xe host-list


Lastly, a quick for loop applies the patches we want (replace the UUIDs with those of the patches uploaded earlier and the host-uuid with yours)

for file in c3520494-be00-4133-afb3-adf8ab5edb11 7fea2d85-7ce1-428c-a92f-57e37551d6f1 d9862b7f-9be6-4672-b9a8-4f52f776fd03 a424dfe5-8be8-4bd6-a49e-62620e369a43 e28bb0ae-e43f-46d9-9147-c7dc712508eb; do xe patch-apply uuid=$file host-uuid=46f8ef28-8ee1-44b5-967c-b8e48585094b; done

That did the trick for me. After applying the patches I came across this post which appears to have a much better script. Whatever works.