FTP

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"FTP" means File Transfer Protocol one of the older file transfers protocols used over TCP/IP infrastructure, has a client/service philosophy (it needs a listening server and users are clients to make requests for files).

About FTP software Alpine Linux has only the right solutions packaged:

  • The most secure and fasted FTP server as vsftpd for the service part if you plan to install a FTP service on Alpine servers
  • The most profiling and perfect client as ncftp and also lftp for the client part if you dessire to use at the command line
  • Also you can use pcmanfm with gvfs plugins to handle ftp request too

In this document we will show you general information about FTP software related to Alpine linux

The FTP service: vsftpd

As alpine linux (simple, secure and eficientely) the provided FTP service software are vsftpd

vsftpd are not so used due common hosting panels does not handle it's configurations management.. in contrash vsftpd are secured respect rest of others without so much updates.

FTP server: About vsftpd package

It was the most secured FTP server. It is the default FTP server in the NimbleX and Slackware Linux distributions and many others.

Note: As for minimal FTP's and fast server purposes are very recommended due it easy configuration process and perfect performance without much configuration.
Feature/Artifac Value/Name Observations
Main package name vsftpd apk add vsftpd
Manpages and DOCs packages vsftpd-doc apk add vsftpd-doc
Configuration file /etc/vsftpd/vsftpd.conf It's not close to alpine, just vanilla provived!
Default place for files /var/lib/ftp cos anonnimous are default, is home for daemon user
Log files (error, access, etc) /var/log/vsftpd.log Defined in vsftp.conf also
User running the service vsftpd Others Linux used "ftp" alpine has as a group
Group to common to vsftpd Used to share things amont others daemons or services, like redis or apache files
Programed on C Main engine code in C

Important Limitations

No SFTP support, BUT has support for FTPS.

Install vsftpd

The installation does not work out of the box, cos enable by default anonimous and ipv4 only.

Per user ftp files can be supported by special directive in the vsftp.conf file using user_sub_token to somethign like /home/$USER/public_ftp directory by example if we enable it (process are described below in further section "vsftpd configuration".

vsftd is available in the Alpine Linux repositories. To install, simple launch the commands below:


apk add vsftpd

rc-update add vsftpd default

rc-service vsftpd restart

vsftpd Configuration

By default alpine vsftpd package does not provide any special configuration, just vanilla provided so we must specify what we want!

Configurations depends of the purpose of the FTP nature to serve, the most common cases are anonymously ftp service, user system ftp service and virtual users ftp service..

For production purposes the Production FTP virtual users: vsftpd + MySQL wiki page will explain in details all the needs for a virtual users case, there's the Production FTP user service: vsftpd wiki page with futher information to use with system users and lets encrypt certificates.

Due to the minimalism of alpine linux, unfortunately the vsftpd packaging only provided vanilla configurations not close to alpine or easy admin maintenance, see the Production VSFTP system: vsftpd + MySQL + SFTP wiki page to goin in deep about configuring lighttpd web server.

Controlling vsftpd

Start vsftpd: After the installation vsftpd is not running. As we said in first section, was started already but if you want to start vsftpd manually use:

rc-service vsftpd start

You will get a feedback about the status.

 * Caching service dependencies ...                           [ ok ]
 * Starting vsftpd...                                         [ ok ]

Stop vsftpd: If you want to stop the web server use stop in the same way of previous command:

rc-service vsftpd stop

Restart lighttpd: After changing the configuration file lighttpd needs to be restarted.

rc-service vsftpd restart

Proper Runlevel: By default no services are added to start process, sysadmin must know what we want and what will services do, also other main reason are due in dockers there's no runlevels per se and Alpine linux are mostly used in dockers containers. You must added the servide only to the default runlevel, not to boot, because need networking activated

rc-update add vsftpd default


Testing vsftpd

This section is assuming that vsftpd is running. Well, at the moment there is no user ftp allowed available but the server is up and running.

nc -zv 127.0.0.1 21

Note that we used "127.0.0.1" if you are using alpine as the only machine for all as your main desktop/pc/machine.

If you are using alpine remotelly as web server and just install it the package, chnage 127.0.0.1 with ip of the alpine machine. The "webserveripaddres" are the ip address of your setup/server machine.

The common response will be OPEN if server are running.

See also about vsftpd

The FTP clients: lftp, pcmanfm and ncftp

The FTP protocol need also a client support to property used. Alpine Linux provides two packages for command line and batch procesing of FTP protocol, apart of the firefox package: the lftp and the ncftp packages.

So then, commonly a web browser (firefox) supports FTP protocol so our FTP server just configured can be browsed using the address ftp://<webserveripaddres> The "webserveripaddres" are the ip address of your setup/server machine.

Cli FTP client: About lftp package

LFTP is a sophisticated file transfer program supporting a number of network protocols (ftp, http, sftp, fish, torrent).

  • Has job control and..
  • uses the readline library for input.
  • It has bookmarks,
  • Has built-in mirror command
  • Can transfer several files in parallel.
Feature/Artifac Value/Name Observations
Main package name lftp apk add lftp
Manpages and DOCs packages vsftpd-doc apk add lftp-doc
Configuration file (system) /etc/lftp.conf It's not close to alpine, just vanilla provived!
Configuration file (user) ~/.lftprc if found the first to parse!
Configuration file (user) ~/.lftp/rc second attempt to parse if first not found!
Programed on C Main engine code in C

Installing lftp

Is provided in main repository since 3.6, so is a team supported package ready for production deploys.


apk add lftp

Configuring lftp

The main configuration file, /etc/lftp.conf comes with various examples and comments. On startup, lftp executes /etc/lftp.conf and then ~/.lftprc and ~/.lftp/rc. You can use those files to set system-wide and user-specific settings.

In your configuration file, simply use the command set followed by the name of the setting, followed by its value. Use on/off for boolean values. Check this example:


set ftp:ssl-force on
set ssl:verify-certificate on
set ftp:use-feat off
set ftp:ssl-protect-data on

You can set specific settings for specific servers only. Simply append a slash (/) and the server name to the setting.


set ftp:use-feat off /example.com
set ftp:ssl-force on /example.com

Note: The closure for `dns:', `net:', `ftp:', `http:', `hftp:' domain variables is currently just the host name as you specify it in the `open' command (with some exceptions where closure is meaningless, e.g. dns:cache-size). For some `cmd:' domain variables the closure is current URL without path. For other variables it is not currently used. See examples in the sample lftp.conf.

General lftp usage examples

By default, lftp is silent about the operations it performs in the background. If you need some more output, e.g. for debugging purposes, you can use the 'debug' command (without the 'set' command):

  • debug 5 will display the full debug output.
  • debug 3 will only display greeting messages and error messages.

Note that if you use the -d switch from the command line, the debug setting will be overruled and the full debug output will be displayed.

If you prefer some commands to be called by another name, you can set aliases:


alias dir ls
alias less more
alias zless zmore
alias bzless bzmore
alias reconnect "close; cache flush; cd ."
alias edit "eval -f "get $0 -o ~/.lftp/edit.tmp.$$ && shell \\"cp -p ~/.lftp/edit.tmp.$$ ~/.lftp/edit.tmp.$$.orig && vim ~/.lftp/edit.tmp.$$ && test ~/.lftp/edit.tmp.$$ -nt ~/.lftp/edit.tmp.$$.orig\\" && put ~/.lftp/edit.tmp.$$ -o $0; shell rm -f ~/.lftp/edit.tmp.$$*"

The last alias (edit) should be all in one line. It allows you to get a remote file, edit it with vim (change as needed), and place the edited file back on the server. This is very convenient!

  • Example usage

Below is an example of a mult-part download over the SFTP protocol:

$ lftp -e 'pget -c -n 5 /path/to/file' sftp://username@server

short explanation:

  • -e: lftp option to execute command
  • pget: is the command for partial download
  • -c: pget option to resume
  • -n: pget option for number of parts

Gui FTP client: About pcmanfm package

PCMAnfM is a filemanager.. that by the usage of the gvfs gio we can use with ftp servers as graphical clients, is easy to use just open the pcmanfm program and then:

  1. From the bar menu open the "go" menu
  2. Then choose "Connect to a server"
  3. Choose the FTP protocol and input username (path is optional)
  4. After a while you will input the password

Check the picture for furter reference:

Ftp-gui-pcmanfm at 2020-09-11 14-13-03.png

See Also