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FTP Server - How to use FTP Sites
FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is the simplest and most secure way to exchange files over the Internet. Whether you know it or not, you most likely use a FTP server all the time.
The most common use for FTP is to download files from Internet FTP sites. Because of this, FTP is the backbone of the MP3 music craze, and vital to most online auction and game enthusiasts. In addition, the ability to transfer files back-and-forth makes FTP essential for anyone creating a Web page, amateurs and professionals alike.
When downloading a file from a Internet FTP site you're actually transferring the file to your computer from another computer over the Internet. This is why the T (transfer) is in FTP commands. You may not know where the computer is that the FTP server file is coming from but you most likely know it's URL or Internet address.
An FTP address looks a lot like an HTTP, or Website, address except it uses the prefix ftp:// instead of http://.
Most often, a computer with an FTP address is dedicated FTP server waiting to receive an FTP connection. Just as a computer that is setup to host Web pages is referred to as a Web server or Website, a computer dedicated to receiving an FTP connection is referred to as an FTP server or FTP sites.
The virtual 'key' to get into an FTP server site is the UserID and Password. If the creator of the FTP site is willing to give everyone access to the files, the UserID is 'anonymous' and the Password is your e-mail address (e.g. email@example.com). If the FTP site is not public, there will be a unique UserID and Password for each person who is granted access.
When connecting to an FTP site that allows anonymous logins, you're frequently not prompted for a name and password. Hence, when downloading from the Internet, you most likely are using an anonymous FTP login and you don't even know it.
To make an FTP connection you can use a standard Web browser (Internet Explorer, Netscape, etc.) or a dedicated FTP software program, referred to as an FTP 'Client'.
When using a Web browser for an FTP connection, FTP uploads are difficult, or sometimes impossible, and downloads are not protected (not recommended for uploading or downloading large files).
When connecting with an FTP Client software, uploads and downloads couldn't be easier, and you have added security and additional features. For one, you're able to to resume a download that did not successfully finish, which is a very nice feature for people using dial-up connections who frequently loose their Internet connection.
The classic FTP Client look is a two-pane design. The pane on the left displays the files on your computer and the pane on the right displays the files on the remote computer.
File transfers are as easy as dragging-and-dropping files from one pane to the other or by highlighting a file and clicking one of the direction arrows located between the panes.
Additional features of the FTP Client include: multiple file transfer; the auto re-get or resuming feature; a queuing utility; the scheduling feature; an FTP find utility; a synchronize utility; and for the advanced user, a scripting utility.
Anonymous FTP Search - FTP Commands
What is Anonymous FTP? Many computersystems throughout the Internet offer files through anonymous FTP. This means that you can access a machine without having to have an account on that machine (i.e. you don't have to be an official user of the system). These anonymous FTP server contain software, documents of various sorts, files for configuring networks, graphic images, songlyrics and all sorts of other information. Archives for electronic mailing lists are often stored on and are available through anonymous FTP. An enormous amount of information is stored on these machines and is ready for anyone who's seeking it. Note that all this is subject to change, it is a privilege and the person responsible for the machine can shut it down at any time without you being able to do anything about it. FTP Commands All the normal FTP commands may be used to retrieve files. Some FTP commands are the same on different computers, but others are not. Also, some of the ftp sites offer custom commands like getting a directory with one command, 'regetting' a file or searching of directories. Read the relevant README files on the site itself for the 'special access features'. Usually, FTP will list the commands if you type 'help' or type a question mark (?). Also, your computer's help command may have information about FTP. Try 'man ftp', 'man ftpd', 'help ftp', 'ftp /?', 'ftp -?' or 'ftp /h' (all these to be typed without quotes). Some useful FTP commands available on most systems include: ascii Switch to ascii mode. Ascii mode is the default mode and used for transferring text files binary Switch to binary mode. For transferring binary files like .ZIP files, .Z files and the like cd Change the directory on the remote computer dir List the files in the current directory on the remote computer. ls Same as 'dir', but shows less information sometimes. get Copy a file from the remote computer to yours hash Puts a '#' on the screen for every <number> of bytes transferred. <number> is 1024 in some cases, 2048 in others but is between 1024 and 4096 in most cases. Check the ftp 'help' function for more info on the number for your clientprogram. help Gives help on the use of commands within the ftp program lcd Change the directory on your computer (the 'l' is for local) lpwd Shows the present working directory (pwd) on your computer (the 'l' is for local). Note: this may not work on all machines. On a Unix machine, try !pwd if lwpd doesn't work. mget Copy multiple files from the remote computer to yours pwd Shows the present working directory (pwd) on the remote computer Procedure Anonymous FTP is a facility offered by many machines on the Internet. This permits you to log in with the user name 'anonymous' or the user name 'ftp'. When prompted for a password, type your e-mail address -- it's not necessary, but it's a courtesy for those sites that like to know who is making use of their facility. Be courteous. Some sites require a valid e-mail address, others don't. You can then look around and retrieve files. (Most anonymous ftp sites do not permit people to store files). Note that when you retrieve files, you have to know where the files are going to end up on your machine. This is where the 'lpwd' command comes in handy. Also note that when you have transferred a file that you want to use on your PC, but you run ftp from a Unix machine (or a similar mainframe or network machine), you will have to ftp the file from the Unix machine to your PC first (this is assuming that you can't ftp to outside your company or campus from your PC, otherwise you could have gotten the file directly to the PC). This may sound silly, but sometimes people don't know where their files are stored or a system administrator decides to give ftp access to only a few systems. Typically, a directory called 'pub' is where the interesting things are stored. Some sites will have a file with a name like ls-lR, that contains a complete list of the files on that site. Otherwise, you can type ls -lR and get such a listing -- for some sites, this can take a LONG time (the size of the resulting file can be anywhere between approximately 2000 bytes and 25Mb). When retrieving non-text files, you must use binary mode, otherwise the file gets messed up. To do this, use the 'binary' command. (It's safe to set this for text files, but the result might look a bit different from an ASCII transfer) If the site at the other end is non-Unix, you may need to use some other mode -- see the documents or README files for that site and for FTP (common other modes, are LZ for VAX Multinet servers, tenex or image for some others). The simplest way to initiate FTP would be to give the command 'ftp <system-name>'. The <system-name> is the remote system you are connecting to, either a name like garbo.uwasa.fi, if you have an entry in /etc/hosts or are accessing a Domain Name Server or the Internet address 126.96.36.199 for Garbo. If that last sentence doesn't seem to make sense just try: ftp garbo.uwasa.fi or ftp 188.8.131.52 and look what happens. After a short wait, you will be prompted for your username. If you do not have an account on the remote system, some systems allow you to use 'anonymous'. This gives you a restricted access path (meaning that you can only run certain commands like 'dir' or 'ls' and are allowed only access to certain directories like 'pub'). You would then be prompted for a password. Some systems will tell you to send your real identity as the password. What you type doesn't matter in most cases, but it is suggested to give your e-mail address. This as a courtesy to the archive maintainers, who would like to know who's using their system. Other systems need a password of 'guest', or something similar. DO NOT TYPE A PASSWORD THAT YOU USE ON YOUR OWN SYSTEM! After that, you should receive the FTP prompt ( usually ftp> ) and have access. You can get a directory of files by giving a 'dir' command. If the remote system is Unix-based and dir does not work, try 'ls -l' for an MS-DOS like output. On Garbo, there is a file available in the default anonymous ftp directory that explains what Garbo is and where files are located. Look for 00-index.txt or README files or some similar name. Unix systems will all have the same directory structure, and moving around is done with the 'cd' or 'cwd' command. TOPS-20, VAX/VMS, DOS VM/CMS and other systems have a different structure, but movement is still accomplished with the 'cd' command. VAX/VMS systems have filesystems that show as ALL CAPS and directories can be recognized as filenames ending in .DIR e.g FAQ.DIR Files reside on disks, denoted by NAME: e.g. NETDISK: and a file on that disk could be denoted by: NETDISK:[FAQ.INTERNET]FTP.FAQ You can change to that directory by typing: cd netdisk:[faq.internet] but since you are generally allowed only access to one disk, you probably can use cd [faq.internet] or type cd faq and then cd internet TOPS-20 has directories of the form: DISK:<DIR1.DIR2>, VAX/VMS has directories of the form DISK:[DIR1.DIR2] (use cd [-] instead of cd .. and cd [.DIR1] instead of cd dir1). DOS, OS/2 and Windows NT look like Unix but have shorter directory names. VM/CMS has mini-disks that can be accessed with the CD command: cd <vm_userid>.<vaddr> e.g. cd arcdsk.100 For an anonymous userid: cd <userid_of_interest>.<vaddr> account <mini-disk_write_password> e.g. cd bob.191 account bob1 Note: 'account...' may not be required if the mini-disk is not password protected. A lot of systems give some information about how to use the system when you login, look for that after you have typed the password (some of those messages will not be shown if you use a - as the first character in your password, some people need this because the system won't recognize them otherwise. If you have problems logging into a site, try a - as the first character). Different systems have different organizations for their files, and the above example is the way most archives have set it up. By looking around other systems, you can learn how their files are arranged and move around much faster. Note, however, that FTP will not allow you outside the FTP 'root' directory. Moving about the entire system is not permitted. You will get 'Permission denied' messages (or plainly not receiving any message and still not be able to change to the directory). Usually, files are grouped in archive files, so you don't have to get many small files separately. The most common archival file formats for the Internet are tar and zip. Occasionally, people use shell archives (shar) instead. Tar files are basically a bunch of files 'glued' together. Tar archives can be unpacked by running the 'tar' command on a Unix system (tar exists also for DOS, VMS and a whole bunch of other Operating Systems) -- you may want to first do a 'tar t' on the file to see what it contains before unpacking it. This means typing: 'tar t filename.tar' or 'tar tf filename.tar' and looking what the output shows. To unpack the .tar file, type: 'tar xvf filename.tar', this will create a directory called filename with the unpacked archive in it (no quotes again). Be careful when unpacking shell archives since they have to be run through the Bourne shell to unpack them. (The simplest way is to use the unshar command). Files are often stored compressed, because they take up less space that way -- for Unix, the most common compression 'scheme' is the 'compress' program, indicated by a .Z suffix on the file name. Also you will find Arc, Zoo, Arj, Lzh, gzipped or Zip files, which are combined archival and compression formats (there are other archival formats as well - talk to the systems staff if you encounter them and don't know how to deal with them). For .zip files use zip and unzip (or pkzip/pkunzip), for .gz files use gzip and for .Z files use compress, which are available for all Operating Systems. Archival and compression utilities are very handy, but can make it very difficult to 'get' a file and use it: when you're on a DOS or VMS system for example you can't type: get filename.tar.Z You have to type: get filename.tar.Z filename.tz or something like that and then remember what you have to do to unpack the file, namely first running your version of 'compress' on it and then your version of 'tar'. Remember this when you can't seem to transfer a file. An interesting feature of most ftp servers in use today, is the ability to compress and decompress 'on the fly'. This means that when you want to 'get' a .Z file, but you don't have compress handy, you can type: get filename.Z filename The server will then decompress the file and leave you with a plain, uncompressed file. Most servers support on-line decompression of .Z, .gz and .tar files and even 'get'ting an entire directory with 'get directoryname directoryname.tar'. Note that this can take up a huge amount of space and maybe take ages. Make sure you know what you are doing when trying this. These are the most common file types (there are zillions more): SUFFIX FTP TYPE ------ --- ----- .arc bin ARChive (hardly used anymore) .arj bin Arj (mostly MS-DOS) .gif bin Graphics Interchange Format .gz bin GNU Zip (Not compatible with Zip. Found on some sites as .z files. GNU zip is seen in combination with tar as .tgz files, maybe even as .tz files) .hqx asc HQX (Mac, Mac equivalent of uuencode) .jpg bin JPEG (graphics format) .lzh bin LHa, LHarc, Larc .shar ascii SHell ARchive (mostly Unix) .sit bin Stuff-It (Mac) .tar bin Tape ARchive (mostly Unix) .uu ascii uuencode/uudecode (also .uue) .Z bin compress (mostly Unix, seen in combination with tar as .tar.Z files) .zip bin Zip (either PKZip or Zip/Unzip) .zoo bin Zoo To get a list of all file compression/archiving methods and the programs to uncompress/unarchive (on the PC, Mac, Unix, VAX/VMS, VM/CMS, Atari ST and Amiga systems), FTP to the following site and retrieve the listed file: ftp.cso.uiuc.edu directory: /pub/doc/pcnet/compression This could be helpful to people new to FTP that don't know how to unpack the file they have just transferred. How do I stop the listings from scrolling off the screen? When you're retrieving a directory listing of a large site, it's quite possible that the number of files in a directory is bigger than the number of rows on your screen. The listing then scrolls of your screen. There are several ways to avoid this. You can use 'ls -CF' or 'ls -lF' (no quotes) to get a directory listing like the MS-DOS 'dir/w' command (a 'wide' directory listing). Also, some ftp clients support: 'ls -l "| more"' or 'dir "| more"'. This seems to differ per site so trying some of the following might help you (note usage of spaces in the above and below examples): ls -l |more dir |more dir -1 |more Ctrl-S to stop the scrolling, Ctrl-Q to resume scrolling Alt-Scrolllock to pause the screen and restart it again These combinations are highly machine specific but probably one of them will work for you. Also, instead of using 'dir' or 'ls' you can try to retrieve an index file first to look at that. Either transfer the file and look at it while you're not connected to the ftp site (by using 'get filename'), transfer the file and look at it while you're connected (by using a 'shell' command, you temporarily leave the ftp client program to look at the file with some editor, 'cat' or 'more', look in the help pages of the ftp client for more info, most of the time it's: !more <filename or something similar) or read the file while you're connected by retrieving it to the screen itself, use: get filename.idx - (if you're working on a Unix system) get filename.idx tt (if you're working on a VMS system, tt: for OpenVMS, sys$output should work in both cases) get filename.idx con (if you're working on a MS-DOS system) I have no idea what the appropriate parameter for VM/CMS is. Any takers? Be aware that this is very useful for small files but is not very easy for large files (unless you redirect the output to some filter, like 'more'). Also, reading large files while you are connected is not recommended because it keeps the ftp server loaded. Be sensitive and don't overuse this. Get some readme or index files first and read them off-line so you know how the site is organized and where you can find things.