Using The New FTP Service in Mac OS X Mountain Lion Server

FTP went away in OS X Lion Server (kinda’) and now it’s back in OS X Mountain Lion Server (kinda’). Instead of sharing out each directory the new incantation of the FTP service allows administrators to share a single directory out. This directory can be any share that has previously been configured in the File Sharing service or a website configured in the Websites service.

To setup FTP, first open the Server app and then click on the FTP service.

Once open, use the Share: drop-down list to select a share that already exists (output of sharing -l basically) and click on one of the shares or Custom to create a new share for FTP. Then, set the permissions as appropriate on the share and hit the ON button for the FTP service.

Now, let’s test from a client. I like to use the ftp command line interface built into OS X. To test, type ftp followed by the address of the site (and I like to put the username followed by @ before the hostname, as follows:

ftp robin@ftp.pretendco.com

When prompted, provide a password. Then, assuming your get the following, you’re in:

230 User robin logged in.
Remote system type is UNIX
Using binary mode to transfer files.

Here, type  ls to see a list of the directories contents. Or pwd to see what directory you are in (relative to the root of the ftp share). And of course, type get followed by the name of a file to transfer it locally:

get myfile.txt

Open a terminal window on the server and let’s look at the few options you have to configure FTP from the command line. We already discussed sharing -l to see a list of the available shares. Additionally, you can use the serveradmin command, where ftp is the name of the service. Let’s look at the status of the service, first:

sudo serveradmin fullstatus ftp

Now let’s look at status:

sudo serveradmin status ftp

Same thing, right? Let’s look at all the settings:

sudo serveradmin settings ftp

If you have spaces in the name of a share that you configure from the Server app the thing will fail. Good stuff, so use serveradmin to manually set shares with spaces or other special characters in the names:

sudo serveradmin settings ftp:DocumentRoot = "/Shared Items/Krypted"

Overall, this ftp implementation is meant for users who just need to access their web server where all the files live in a web root of some sort. Otherwise, I’d still recommend most people use a third party tool. But if you just need to log into one share and you don’t need a lot of fancy features on top of your protocols that haven’t changed much since 1985 then this implementation will still work for ya’ without any extra work.

Since we mentioned 1985, let’s look at some other things that are as old, although perhaps not as dated:

  • Back To the Future is Released
  • Coke introduces one of the largest marketing fails of all time, New Coke. It is so bad it opens a hole in the Ozone, also discovered in this year by Al Gore
  • Rambo Part II and Rocky Part IV come out, Sly doesn’t come out
  • Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome teaches us that Tina Turner’s still got it – Bill Schroeder doesn’t have it, no relation to Ricky, he leaves the hospital part-cyborg with the first artificial heart.
  • A View To A Kill finally ends the Roger Moore era of James Bond. Computer nerds, keep in mind, he saved Silicon Valley. This movie had Christopher Walken and Duran Duran. What more could you ask for? Oh, right – Tanya Roberts! Oh, and Thomas Patrick Cavanaugh actually gets life for being a real spy.
  • Since Police Academy was a hit, the producers figured they’d screw it up by making a second movie: Police Academy 2 comes out
  • After watching Cocoon I now know I’ll never have to grow old, so I can treat my body however I want…
  • The unabomber is at the half way point of his career with 2 bombings this year, The Rainbow Warrior sinks (no known relation to the unabomber, unless he was a French antieco-terrorist), flight 847 is hijacked and Gorbachev becomes the leader of the largest pain in President Reagan’s bung hole: Russia (OMG Commies – Run!!!). In order to pay for the tail end of the cold war, Reagan lowers taxes and sends America into debt for the first time since 1914, a debt we are still in (evil Democrats, always incurring more American debt!). Meanwhile, Margaret Thatcher has shoulder pads surgically implanted because health care is free in Great Britain and all. Actually, National Health Service contributes little to England’s national debt, which was about as low in percentage of GDP as it had been since before WWI under her and due to her terms as PM. It was at its highest in the early 1800s, far before shoulder pads were in fashion… Having said that, the US, who went into debt for the first time had to sell Reagan’s autobiography rights in order to pay for his colon surgery since there’s not NHS here… He could have asked Gotti, who became the leader of the Gambinos in 1985 for a loan, but I hear he was too busy playing Tetris, which also came out in 1985…
  • British Telecom phases out red telephone boxes – almost as a result a single season of Dr. Who airs on TV.
  • In 1985, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Willie Nelson, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Daryl Hall, Kenny Loggins, Huey Lewis and of course Al Jarreau sang We Are The World. Prince wouldn’t show and Waylon Jennings stormed out. Jane Fonda hosted a HBO special in between workout videos. Live Aid happens too, and is far cooler. But, at least Rich Ramirez (the Night Stalker) got nabbed in LA.
  • Top singles on the charts include Madonna, Wham!, Simple Minds, Duran Duran, Phil Collins, Dire Straits, Starship, Lionel Richie, Foreigner and REO Speedwagon.
  • Top TV shows include the sweaters from the Cosby Show, Family Ties, Murder She Wrote, Dynasty, The Golden Girls, Miami Vice, Cheers, Knots Landing, Growing Pains and of course, DALLAS
  • The Ford Taurus and the Mercury Sable bring a new low point to American automobile engineering – luckily The Nintendo came out and no one cared for a decade or more…
  • The Commodore Amiga is launched.
  • The Free Software Foundation is founded by rms, author of great cookie recipes, tips on women and GNU Manifestos.
  • And most importantly, Steve Jobs starts NeXT
  • Willi

    I even tried to change the path in the ftpd.conf by hand standard and escaped. It just doesn’t work as soon as you have a space in the path. This is especially painful as the default path for every shares is “Shared Items”.

    My solution without moving the share or rename the default “Shared Items” folder is a unix soft-link on the root of my volume to the shared path, after that Server.app works fine if you select a custom share and point it to the link.

    To make things worse, if you want to share a folder on a another Volume that has a space in the name like “Macintosh HD” you are screwed. The only solution for this is to rename the Volume. The boot volume works fine because its referenced as root Volume without a name “/”

  • Ben

    Have you had any luck specifying the passive ports? It looks like the config file that is used is /Library/Server/FTP/Config/ftpd.conf. When I change the document root it gets updated, but when I add port range 40000 41999 I don’t get any errors, but when I do a scan for active ports when making an ftp connection I am getting ports up in the 53000 range. I even tried turning off Passive, but I am wondering if all of the settings mentioned in the ftpd.conf man page are supported….

    • http://www.krypted.com Charles

      I haven’t managed to get them to set from the config files either. Disabled PASSV mode to get it to traverse, but don’t consider that a viable fix for mass use…

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