Hack 75 Mounting a Remote FTP Directory


Mount an FTP site right on your Desktop for perusal and easy downloading of files and turn on remote FTP access to your own Mac.

It used to be that just about any time you wanted to download something from the Internet, it was hosted on an FTP server. I've spent many an hour perusing FTP sites in search of some piece of open source software, a driver for my Linux box, or Perl modules. These days almost anything you download is made available to you via HTTP by clicking a link on a web site.

Still, sometimes a little FTP spelunking is in order. You can do it the old-fashioned way using ftp or ncftp on the command line. You can also open an FTP directory in your web browser. But if you're grabbing more than one file at a time, nothing beats a GUI FTP client. Nothing, that is, before OS X granted you the ability to mount remote FTP shares on your Desktop alongside AppleTalk, Windows [Hack #73], and WebDAV [Hack #74] shares.

75.1 Mounting Anonymous FTP Shares

To mount an anonymous (read: open to all) FTP site on your desktop, you'll need to start from the Finder. Select Go Connect to Server . . . or press figs/command.gif-K to bring up the Connect to Server dialog box.

Enter the FTP URL into the Address field and click the Connect button. In Figure 6-33, I'm connecting to a mirror site for the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network (CPAN), the place to find Perl modules.

Figure 6-33. Connecting to an anonymous FTP site

The site will appear as a mounted drive on your Desktop. Peruse at your leisure, dragging files from the share to your Desktop to download them. You won't be able to drag anything into the mounted FTP drive, since you're logged in anonymously and don't have write access.

75.2 Mounting Authenticated FTP Shares

The technique is the same for mounting FTP shares requiring authentication. In Figure 6-34, I'm logging into the Mac in my closet. The only thing special is the addition of my login name to the URL, followed by an @ (at sign).

Figure 6-34. Connecting to an FTP site requiring authentication

You'll notice, by the way, that I can refer to my computer by its Rendezvous name, iCloset.local; take a gander at the System Preferences Sharing pane to find out and set your Mac's Rendezvous name.

After a few moments, you'll be prompted for authentication ? a username/password pair. Enter them into the appropriate fields and click the OK button. Once again, the FTP site mounts on your Desktop as just another (albeit remote) drive (see Figure 6-35).

Figure 6-35. Remote FTP shares mounted on the Desktop

Depending on authorization set up on the FTP server, you may be able to upload files by dragging them from your Finder to the mounted share.

75.3 Disconnecting

To disconnect (unmount a share), do as you would any other removable media: drag the drive to the Trash, select File Eject, or press figs/command.gif-E.

75.4 Enabling Remote FTP Access

You can allow remote FTP access to your Mac by turning on the FTP Access service. Open the System Preferences Sharing pane and select the Services panel. On the left is a list of services supported by OS X. If it's off, start FTP Access either by selecting it and clicking the Start button on the right or by clicking the associated checkbox. Your Services panel should look something like Figure 6-36.

Figure 6-36. Allowing FTP Access

If you intend to allow people to FTP in from the Internet, check with your system administrator or Internet service provider about addressing [Hack #78] and reaching your machine.