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Mac Support

Here are some useful links, tips, and tricks for using Mac OS X machines to access the department's resources.

Terminal Access

As you know, the mathematics department systems only allow SSH connections, which means that you will need an SSH client to open a terminal session on one of the department's machines.

Mac OS X includes SSH (both as a service and as a client). All you need to do to connect to the department's machines is to open a Terminal window ( is located in the Utilities folder, which is, in turn, inside the Applications folder), and run ssh

X-Window System

It is possible to display X Window windows from a remote Linux server on a Mac over SSH. To do so, you will first need to install the X11 application from Apple (it's typically included in the Optional Installs package, under Applications; it can also be downloaded from Apple).

For Tiger, you will have to start the X11 application by finding its icon in Applications/Utilities and double-clicking on it. Leopard has a mechanism that launches X11 automatically when needed (you need to make sure that you are not setting a DISPLAY environment variable in your shell startup files to use this trick).

Once X11 is running, type

ssh -Y you@remotehost

to open a connection to a remote server. You should be able to launch applications that use X and have their windows appear on your machine.

File Transfer

You can use any of a number of methods to move files between your Mac and other machines. Note that if you have a desktop machine, your home directory is the same as your home directory on the cluster, so changes you make there will be available on other cluster machines (in particular, editing files in ~/public_html/ will cause changes to your website immediately).

Graphical Tools

There are some GUI tools that you can use to move files between your machine and the department's servers.


CyberDuck is an open source GUI client that works with FTP, SFTP, WebDAV, and other file-transfer protocols. We don't use FTP here, but SFTP works over SSH with your normal cluster username and password, and WebDAV is supported by services including Sakai.


Fugu is a free (as in beer and speech) program from the University of Michigan's Research Systems Unix Group that gives you a user-friendly graphical interface for transferring files via scp or sftp, and also includes support for setting up SSH tunnels.

Fugu can be downloaded from the official site.

MacFUSE and MacFusion

The FUSE—Filesystem in USErspace—allows you to mount remote file systems using protocols not usually used for sharing filesystems, such as SSH.

This method requires two pieces:

  1. The MacFUSE package gives you the behind-the-scenes pieces you need to mount FUSE filesystems.
  2. The MacFusion application gives you a GUI frontend to configure and start and stop mounts. (Including a menu-bar item to quickly access the mounts you set up.)

Once you have MacFUSE installed, you can start MacFusion and configure mounts over SSHFS. There are three panes for each mount, SSH, SSH Advanced, and Macfusion.

For the SSH pane, the key fields are

  • The top field, which is the name that will appear in the summary and in the menu-bar item;
  • Host, for a math department host name (using the full name,, will allow you to use MacFusion outside of the college's network);
  • User Name and Password, your username and password on the math cluster—note that if you're using the SSH-agent mechanism (see the SSH tutorial), you don't need to type your password;;
  • Path, the path you want to be able to mount —leave blank for your home directory;

For the SSH Advanced pane, you may want to check the Enable Compression check box; compression is especially useful when you have a slow network connection.

In the Macfusion pane,

  • Mount Point, the path to an empty directory that will be used to mount the remote volume; leaving it blank defaults to mounting the volume in /Volumes, which is almost certainly what you want.
  • Volume Name, name used by the system as the name of the mounted volume; leaving it blank defaults to using the host name as the name of the volume.

Icons for the mounted volumes will generally appear on your desktop. You can also get to them by opening a Finder window and choosing the computer name in the sidebar, or by opening a Finder window, hitting Command-Shift-G, and typing /Volumes; by selecting the mount in the Macfusion window and pressing Command-R (or right-clicking on the item or choosing Reveal from the gear menu at the bottom of the window); or by selecting the mounted volume from the menu in the menu-bar item.

Command-Line Utilities

There are several command-line options for moving files between machines. They rely on the Secure Shell—SSH, so you may want to read our SSH tutorial to get started.

With SSH Commands

Mac OS X includes the scp and sftp programs, which allow you to move files between machines over SSH. scp works on the files or directories specified on the command line; sftp gives you a basic terminal-based client that will allow you to cd into different locations and transfer files interactively.

With rsync (over SSH)

You can also use the rsync program, which allows you to synchronize single files or entire file system trees. The main advantage to rsync over scp is that rsync can be more efficient for large transfers, as it compares local and remote files and only copies the parts that have changed.

rsync is very useful, but also fairly complicated; we recommend that you read the tutorials and do a bit of experimentation before you jump in. Of particular use in exploring how rsync works are two flags—-n or --dry-run, which don't actually do the transfer but instead show you what would happen if you ran the command; and -i or --itemize-changes, which gives you a list of changes that rsync is making. (Using both flags together gives you a useful summary of what would be changed.)


For use inside the college's network, the department has a Samba file server, which uses the CIFS or SMB protocol to share filesystems and printers.

Samba connections can be made using the Finder application in Mac OS X. You can also use Samba to connect to CIS servers such as charlie.

Access to the math department's Samba server currently requires a separate account; please contact the department's systems administrator for more details.