Published on MacDevCenter (
 See this if you're having trouble printing code examples

An Introduction to Tiger Terminal, Part 2

by Mary Norbury-Glaser

Part One of this series introduced the Terminal application in Mac OS X with the assumption that you're now running OS X 10.4.x (Tiger). If you made it through Part One unscathed, then you're ready to get some real work done.

In Part Two, you'll learn how to use the terminal app to look at external volumes, then enable ssh to access files, scp to securely copy them remotely, sftp for secure ftp, and finally how to use rsync to synchronize files between two computers.

What Do We Have Here?

Whenever you add a new hard disk, flash drive, network drive, iPod, CD, or DVD to your system, these additional disks are mounted onto the filesystem in the directory /Volumes. Open your terminal app and type ls /Volumes to see a basic listing of what you have mounted. On my 12" Powerbook, three disks show up:

Last login: Sun May 29 12:57:23 on ttyp1
Mary's Tiger!
tiger12:~ norburym$ ls /Volumes
BIG TIKI   DevilDuckie  Untitled
tiger12:~ norburym$ 

BIG TIKI is my 1GB USB drive housed in a Tiki statue, DevilDuckie is my red devil rubber duckie flash drive and Untitled is my internal boot disk. (Gee, I should get more creative with my local drive!)
Run a long listing with the option -l to get more information:

tiger12:~ norburym$ ls -l /Volumes
total 72
drwxrwxrwx 1 norburym norburym 16384 May 29 13:13 BIG TIKI
drwxrwxrwx 1 norburym norburym 16384 May 29 13:02 DevilDuckie
lrwxr-xr-x 1 root  admin     1 May 29 09:51 Untitled -> /
tiger12:~ norburym$

Total 72 gives me the amount of storage in blocks (each block is 1024 bytes) used by all the items in /Volumes. The following shows how to "decode" the rest of the information displayed:

Figure 1: Long listing of /Volumes (modeled after p. 41, Learning Unix for Mac OS X Panther, O'Reilly) Figure 1: Long listing of /Volumes (modeled after p. 41, Learning Unix for Mac OS X Panther, O'Reilly)

Notice that the type for Untitled is listed with the letter "l" which means it's a link pointing to root (/). Both BIG TIKI and DevilDuckie are listed with a "d" for directory.

Let's put in a DVD (Casablanca) and attach one of my iPods (Marys U2Pod):

tiger12:~ norburym$ ls -l /Volumes
total 76
drwxrwxrwx 1 norburym norburym 16384 May 29 13:13 BIG TIKI
dr-xr-xr-x 4 norburym norburym   136 Aug 30 2004  Casablanca
drwxrwxrwx 1 norburym norburym 16384 May 29 13:02 DevilDuckie
drwxr-xr-x 18 norburym norburym 714 May 27 11:25 Marys U2Pod
lrwxr-xr-x 1 root     admin     1 May 29 09:51 Untitled -> /
tiger12:~ norburym$

Let's use the terminal to look at the files on my iPod using the -F option with ls. If you man the command ls and read about the -F option, you'll see this description:

"Display a slash (/) immediately after each pathname that is a directory, an asterisk (*) after each that is executable, an at sign (@) after each symbolic link."

Control-Z to stop the man page and get back to your shell prompt.

Here are two ways to look at the files on your iPod:

  1. Without actually changing to the /Volumes directory, you can give the pathname to the directory. Using this method leaves you in your home directory:

    tiger12:~ norburym$ ls -F /Volumes/Marys\ U2Pod
    SlashdotReviews/   Desktop DB   Temporary Items/
    Calendars/    Desktop DF   iPod_Control/
    Contacts/     Icon?
    Desktop/      Notes/
    tiger12:~ norburym$

    Note that because the name of my iPod has a space in it (Marys U2Pod), I need to tell the shell about the space. To do this, you can use the backslash character directly before the space like this: Marys\ U2Pod (The backslash preserves the character immediately following which is, in this case, the space.) or enclose the name in single or double quotes* like this: 'Marys U2Pod' so the command becomes:

    tiger12:~ norburym$ ls -F /Volumes/'Marys U2Pod'

    *man bash and read the Quoting section to learn about the differences between using the single and double quotes. In this case, either can be used.

  2. Change to the /Volumes directory first and then use the -F option:

    tiger12:~ norburym$ cd /Volumes
    tiger12:/Volumes norburym$ ls -F /Volumes/'Marys U2Pod'
    SlashdotReviews/   Desktop/   Icon?     iPod_Control/
    Calendars/    Desktop   DB Notes/
    Contacts/    Desktop DF   Temporary Items/
    tiger12:/Volumes norburym$ 

    In this case, you end up in the directory that you changed into: the /Volumes directory. Let's go take a look in the iPod_Control directory. Change into the iPod volume and the iPod_Control directory and then do a listing with the -F option:

    tiger12:/Volumes norburym$ cd 'Marys U2Pod'/iPod_Control/
    tiger12:/Volumes/Marys U2Pod/iPod_Control norburym$ ls -F
    Device/   Music/   iPodPrefs*   iTunes/
    tiger12:/Volumes/Marys U2Pod/iPod_Control norburym$

    Remember, I have to use the single quotes (or backslash) to maintain the space character in the name of my iPod but notice that resulting file path (tiger12:/Volumes/Marys U2Pod/iPod_Control) simply shows the space. The -F option shows my directories (Device, Music and iTunes) and one executable (iPodPrefs), which is indicated by the asterisk. Let's take a look in the Music directory:

    tiger12:/Volumes/Marys U2Pod/iPod_Control 
    norburym$ ls -F Music
    F00/ F04/ F08/ F12/ F16/ F20/ F24/ F28/
    F01/ F05/ F09/ F13/ F17/ F21/ F25/ F29/
    F02/ F06/ F10/ F14/ F18/ F22/ F26/ F30/
    F03/ F07/ F11/ F15/ F19/ F23/ F27/ F31/

    Look in any of these directories and you'll see your audio files:

    tiger12:/Volumes/Marys U2Pod/iPod_Control norburym$ ls Music/F20
    01 Blow It Out.m4p            1-16 Thieves In The Temple.aif
    01 Clarity.m4p                    10 The Thrill Is Gone.m4a
    01 The Lady Is A Tramp.aif        11 Sweet Surrender.aif
    04 The Wind Cries Mary _Liv.mp3   13 Goin_ Down.aif

    This is a great example of how the terminal excels over the GUI: you can quickly see all the hidden ("protected-from-the-users-for-their-own-good") files and see how directories and their related files are structured.

ssh Will Help You Administer Clients Without Having to Get Out of Your Aeron Chair

When you're working on a network, there will be times that you need to access your second Mac or, if you're an administrator, another user's Mac. You may be lounging in bed with your PowerBook on a cold winter's night and need to copy critical files from that G5 way down in the basement office. Or perhaps you've taken the day off from work and a user halfway across town is having a problem with an application that won't quit.

The solution is to enable Remote Login on your networked computers so you can access the remote shell from your local Mac and solve these and other vexing problems from the comfort of your own chair (bed, or from the bar in Mazatlan... been there, done that).

To enable Remote Login, make a one-time visit to the networked Macs you want to access. Log in with an administrator's credentials, go to the Sharing preference panel (pref pane) in System Preferences and under the Services tab, select the Remote Login option. Remote Login will start automatically.

Figure 2: Enabling Remote Login. Figure 2: Enabling Remote Login.
Learning Unix for Mac OS X Tiger

Related Reading

Learning Unix for Mac OS X Tiger
By Dave Taylor


At the bottom of the window, you'll see instructions on how to log into the remote computer, "To log in to this computer remotely, type, 'ssh norburym@' at a shell command prompt."

If you have a firewall enabled, go to the Firewall tab in the Sharing pref pane and under Allow make sure you have Remote Login—SSH checked to open this particular port (port 22, incidentally). Once back in your comfy Aeron chair, bring your ever-active terminal app to the front and enter the command as instructed at the bottom of the Sharing pref pane:

tiger12:~ norburym$ ssh norburym@
The authenticity of host ' ('
can't be established.
RSA key fingerprint is 
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)?

Type in yes, hit the enter/return key and you'll get a warning and be prompted for the user's password (in this example, norburym's password):

Warning: Permanently added '' (RSA) to the list
of known hosts.

After entering your password and enter/return, you'll see:

tiger12:~ norburym$ ssh norburym@
Last login: Sun May 29 15:14:00 2005 from
Welcome to Darwin!
samsmacmini:~ norburym$ 

The prompt now shows the name of the computer you've connected to (samsmacmini) with the username you used to run the ssh command (norburym).

In the case of a machine with a stuck process, you can now run top to find out the process of the offending application and then run the kill command with the process number to stop the process.


Let's say you are home, working on your PowerBook and you realize that you need some files residing on the iMac G5 sitting on your desk at work, a 40-minute drive away. You want to copy these files from your remote computer to your PowerBook. You can copy files remotely and securely using the scp (secure copy) command. As an example, let's assume that you have a virtual private network (VPN) that you can log into at work (which enables you to securely connect to your workplace network) and that you enabled Remote Login on your work iMac G5.

The scp command creates an encrypted session using ssh and the files are sent encrypted so you don't have to ssh into the remote machine. The syntax for the scp command is simply:

scp source destination

However, since you're copying files from one machine to another, you need to specify the username and the host in the source (iMac G5 at work). We're logged into the destination computer (the PowerBook sitting in front of us) so we don't need to specify our login:

scp [user@host:]source destination

In other words:

tiger12:~ norburym$ scp \
norburym@ ~/TuxReview.txt
norburym@'s password:
TuxReview.txt 100% 843 0.8KB/s 00:00 
tiger12:~ norburym$

Here, I'm copying the file TuxReview.txt from my (norburym's) home directory on the remote computer at work ( and putting it in my home directory on the computer I'm logged into (the PowerBook). The command asks for my password and then gives me the total size of the copied file, the rate at which it copied, and the total time it took to copy the file.

If I were already logged into the remote computer via ssh, I would be actually on the other computer and I'd be sending the file back to my home computer, so let's look at that scenario. First, I'll use the ssh command to access my work iMac G5:

tiger12:~ norburym$ ssh norburym@
Last login: Mon May 30 13:25:31 2005 from
Welcome to Darwin!
workimac:~ norburym$

Notice that the shell prompt indicates that I'm logged into the remote computer. And then I'll run scp this way:

workimac:~ norburym$ scp ~/TuxReview.txt \
The authenticity of host ' (' 
can't be established.
RSA key fingerprint is 
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)? yes
Warning: Permanently added '' (RSA) to the
list of known hosts.
TuxReview.txt 100% 843 0.8KB/s 00:00 
workimac:~ norburym$

To copy an entire directory using scp, you must use the -r (recursive) option. For example, still ssh'd into my work computer, I will copy the contents of the directory called AllReviews from my work home directory to the desktop of the PowerBook I'm actually typing on at home:

workimac:~ norburym$ scp -r AllReviews \
.DS_Store 100% 6148 6.0KB/s 00:00 
OSXServerAdmin.txt  100% 2770  2.7KB/s  00:00 
TuxReview.txt   100% 843  0.8KB/s  00:00 
workimac:~ norburym$ 

Lo and behold, the directory appears right in front of me! To close the ssh connection, type logout at the command line prompt.


Since we're talking about copying files, and we're also trying to maintain a good level of security, let's look at sftp (secure file transfer protocol). Basic ftp is a way to transfer files between computers. sftp is compatible with ssh and operates in the same way as standard ftp. Let's use sftp to get that TuxReview.txt file from my work computer again. From my PowerBook (tiger12), I issue the sftp command along with my username and host of my work iMac G5 computer (

tiger12:~ norburym$ sftp norburym@
Connecting to

I'm prompted for my password, which I successfully put in. I'm rewarded with the sftp prompt. I can see where I am by typing ls:

sftp> ls 
.    ..     .CFUserTextEncoding 
.DS_Store  .Trash    .bash_history 
.ssh    AllReviews   Desktop 
Documents  Library   Movies 
Music   Pictures   Public 

I cd to my AllReviews directory and then use the get command to grab my file:

sftp> cd AllReviews
sftp> get TuxReview.txt 
Fetching /Users/norburym/AllReviews/TuxReview.txt to
100% 843 0.8KB/s 00:01 

Notice that when I cd to the AllReviews directory, the sftp prompt doesn't change to reflect my current location. You can issue a dir command to see a listing of the directory before using get if you want to be sure the file is there, or for the correct spelling of the file you need.

Once you have your file, simply type quit at the sftp prompt.


Another useful tool is the rsync (remote synchronization) command. This program allows you to copy directories and their contents from one computer to another. It can create a secure connection and encrypt the files it transfers. Basically, it's efficient differential mirroring: you designate a master computer and a clone, and rsync compares the contents of each and copies only the changes from the master to the clone.

Although rsync works either locally or between a local and a remote computer, you can ssh into a remote machine and run rsync from that computer to another remote computer. rsync syntax looks like this:

rsync [options] source destination

Take a look at the man pages for rsync for a detailed explanation of how to best use the options. Here is a simple example of how to use rsync to copy the contents of one local directory to a remote directory using ssh (from my local PowerBook AllReviews directory located on my desktop to my work iMac G5 Public folder):

tiger12:~ norburym$ rsync -e ssh -avz AllReviews \
building file list ... done

sent 7167 bytes received 80 bytes 439.21 bytes/sec
total size is 23284 speedup is 3.21
tiger12:~ norburym$

Here, I've used the options -e ssh -avz. The -e ssh option tells rsync to use the secure shell connection. The -a option does an archive and preserves access modes (permissions, owner and group), the -v option means verbose (returns details about the copy process), and the -z option compresses the files using gzip.

I'm prompted for norburym's password and after I put it in and hit return, I see that rsync builds the file list and then does its magic. I also see a nice summary in the final two lines telling me the amount of data transferred (sent 7167 bytes, received 80 bytes) and the data throughput (439.21 bytes/sec).

Let's add three new files (PHPMySQL.txt, FirefoxThunderbird.txt and LonghornBetaReview.txt) to my local directory and run rsync again:

tiger12:~ norburym$ rsync -e ssh -avz AllReviews \
building file list ... done

sent 7730 bytes received 60 bytes 502.58 bytes/sec
total size is 42571 speedup is 5.46
tiger12:~ norburym

After adding three files to my local directory, rsync compares the files in my PowerBook master directory and the iMac G5 clone directory and copies only the three new files over to my work G5 Public folder.

Now I'll delete the Longhorn Beta review (because of all the kernel changes happening in the product which would require a complete rewrite anyway) and then run rsync with the --delete option:

tiger12:~ norburym$ rsync -e ssh -avz --delete \
AllReviews norburym@
building file list ... done
deleting AllReviews/LonghornBetaReview.txt

sent 490 bytes received 94 bytes 40.28 bytes/sec
total size is 42571 speedup is 72.90
tiger12:~ norburym$

The rsync command compares the files in the source and destination and deletes any file that was removed from the source directory, in this case, the woefully out of date LonghornBetaReview.txt file.

rsync doesn't preserve resource forks, though, so if you are interested in using it with Classic apps or other files with type/creator codes then you're better off with RsyncX ( A further note for Tiger users: RsyncX doesn't currently support the additional access control list (ACL) metadata introduced in Tiger but there should be an update for RsyncX in future to support ACLs. RsyncX does work as expected for resource fork, icon, type/creator codes, as before.

Final Thoughts

The terminal offers some very useful methods for accessing disks locally and remotely. This can be done quickly and securely. While there are other GUI options for remote access to networked computers (notably, Apple Remote Desktop), Mac OS X comes with built-in command line access tools to accomplish a variety of tasks and can provide more control and options over some GUI alternatives.

Mary Norbury-Glaser is the IT director at a University of Colorado affiliate center. She has over 15 years of experience in cross-platform systems administration in the education sector. She loves fast cars and geocaching.

Return to

Copyright © 2009 O'Reilly Media, Inc.