LINUX PICKS AND PANS

gFTP: The No-Hassle Way to Transfer Files

I am an avid user of open source software and a firm believer in the benefits of FOSS. I have a choice of operating systems at my disposal, but I now cringe whenever I have to work in the Microsoft world. I much prefer the vast array of Linux apps. Why? They are bloat-free problem solvers. Take, for example, the gFTP File Client.

I stumbled upon the gFTP app quite by accident. I was having difficulty uploading audio and graphic files as attachments to a corporate email account in the cloud. The task was worsened by uncooperative technologies. Working remotely, which is typical for writers, I used my ISP to tether to the Internet from my home office.

The email server imposes a limit on the size of attachments, but the corporate email server had plenty of cloud space, so no limit existed on the receiving end.

It should have have been no contest to bypass the email attachments by uploading the large files to the corporate FTP (File Transfer Protocol) servers. That’s where the problem worsened. The usualWindows Ware designed for the job balked at accepting the configuration settings. So I rebooted into Linux in search of a solution. (Ya gotta love dual boot scenarios!)

gFTP

The gFTP File Client is small but mighty.
(click image to enlarge)

The same FTP add-on in the Windows version of Firefox didn’t work any better on the Linux version of that Web browser. So I loaded the gFTP app in one of my favorite Linux distros, Puppy Linux. I had never used that app until this situation arose.

I was pushing the delivery deadline for the media project and was working in collaboration with others in my office. My colleagues were Windows-only users. So, when gFTP solved the problem without my having to spend hours gaping over a user manual, I gained considerable bragging rights with my cohorts.

gFTP Primer

gFTP is a multithreaded file transfer client for Linux-based machines. Its latest stable version, 2.0.19, was released on Nov. 30, 2008. It is distributed under the terms of the GNU Public License Agreement.

Although it has not been upgraded for some 18 months, using this app is not like working with an aging application. gFTP gets the job done.

It has a simple and clean text interface and a GTK+ 1.2/2.x interface. Put into simple terms, gFTP is a small and easy-to-use tool for uploading multiple files witghout angst.

It supports the protocols for FTP, HTTP, HTTPS, SSH and FSP. It also handles FTPS, although it does this in control connection only. In addition, gFTP works with FTP and HTTP proxy servers and transfers files between two remote servers via FTP, known as FXP file transfers.

Tiny but Not timid

gFTP is typical of most Linux-based software. It does not have to suffer code bloat to be a powerful program.

For instance, gFTP fits with the installed package base within the Puppy Linux real estate contained on a USB boot drive. The entire OS configuration — operating system, data and apps — runs in availablecomputer RAM.

This tiny app performs with the same reliability and speed from the the USB/RAM installation as it does in the more space-grabbing setup that Canonical‘s Ubuntu Linux OS consumes.

Few Requirements

gFTP is a good fit for most Linux flavors. The GTK+/Glib is included with most systems. If this library set is not part of your preferred Linux platform, check to see if the distro has a package available.

If none exists, download the latest version of GTK+ and Glib here. gFTP works with version 1.2 or 2.x ofGTK+. Opt for the earlier version. Installing GTK+ 2.x needs more packages.

The only other system requirement is the pthread libraries. This usually is not a problem. Libc6-based machines such as Debian 2.x+ or Red Hat 5.x+ have the pthread libraries preinstalled.

Fixing or Finessing

Earlier libc5-based machines need LinuxThreads. You can download it here.

If LinuxThreads is not installed, you no doubt lack thread-safe X libraries. This will cause gFTP to crash, according to the program’s author, Brian Masney.

Download some thread safe X libraries from his Web site.

Getting Connected

transferring files

Transferring files could not be any easier.
(click image to enlarge)

The gFTP interface looks and feels like a two-panel file manager. Once connected to the remote FTP server, the display shows the tree structure of files on both the host or user’s computer and the remotelocation.

Click on the Remote drop-down menu and select the Open Location option. A window opens asking for the remote site’s URL. Enter the location and click OK.

A window opens asking for the remote site’s password. Just enter the word “anonymous” in most cases (known as Anonymous File Transfer) and click OK again.

A scrollable window at the bottom of the display shows text indicating each action taken. Look there to confirm that the connection is made or to view a reason for a failed connection. You will also find a list of all actions you take, such as changing directories at either location, uploading or downloading selected files, etc.

Using It

The default preferences work fine for me. The preferences panel is found by clicking the FTP drop-down menu. As you use the program regularly, you can tweak it to suit your needs by adding or removing checks in the various options.

Transferring files could not be any easier. Click on the file in either the host computer’s window or the remote computer’s directory. The space between the two panels contains left and right arrows.Click on the direction of the transfer and the file transfer happens if you have left the preferences ticked for automatic file transfer.

Otherwise, select the start and stop transfer options from the Transfer drop-down menu.

Not much more is involved in typical file exchanges. The functions of other menu options are very obvious in both the drop-down menus and by right-clicking on a file in the list. I rarely have to do anything else other than select disconnect from the Remote drop-down menu.

Much like a file management tool, gFTP makes it easy to manage files at either end of the connection. Right-click on a file name to see a list of options. These include rename, delete and select all/deselect all. Navigating directories is done by clicking through the tree structure.

Winning Choice

Sure, there are other file transfer apps available to Linux users. For comparison, I’ve tried a number of them. I found that gFTP is among the smallest and easiest packages to use.

gFTP is readily available. It installs with no complications. It works right out of the box, so to say.

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