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sshfs, MacFUSE, trouble

by Rob Friesel

Following up on a couple of references yesterday, I decided to try out sshfs and MacFUSE. To (er…) mixed results. They both seem like tremendously cool ideas and I like the direction this is headed in (from a usability through not necessarily security-related stance); I wanted to try these out. Alas, neither seems to have worked out in any practical way.


The sshfs utility is distributed as an Intel-only binary installation. The package installer runs smoothly enoughm installing to /Applications/sshfs/ for your command-line pleasure. It appears to load as a kernel extension the first time you load it; I say appears to because while the command line reported this, there was only partial evidence that anything further took place.

Following the provided instructions, I was left scratching my head an awful lot and asking Now what? I am fairly certain that I was able to successfully mount a volume over ssh/sftp (e.g., my box at home, poor Malkovich) but performance was awkward and slow. Command line navigation (e.g., cd and ls commands) produced the expected results fast enough – – but why not just ssh then? Navigating through the Finder was next to useless. Navigating to ~/tmp-sshfs showed us a list of files but response times were very poor (e.g., attempts at copying files to/from threw up a spinner and crashed the Finder in each instance) and it’s disappointing to have the volume mounted in a way that’s so different from every other access technique in OS X.

My verdict? Not ready for primetime. A little too slow, a little too finicky; a bit confusing with respect to how you need to interact with it. Let’s revisit this one in a few months.


Play time with MacFUSE yielded even worse results than the sshfs kext above. Full disclosure: I downloaded the binary installer and did not compile the application from source. That said, the author’s instructions do recommend compiling the beta from source; I (for one) don’t really call that beta – – but maybe that’s just me.

Anyhoo… MacFUSE appears to install itself to /usr/local/bin as mount_fusefs -> /System/Library/Filesystems/fusefs.fs/mount_fusefs – – or it tries to play along with the system’s conventions through some symlink trickery. I probably would have done the same…

That said, even with /usr/local/bin in my $PATH (and really, who doesn’t have it in there anyway?) this little app does not seem to work. It hangs in the Terminal… And then it hangs the Finder. Even ctrl+c does absolutely nothing here. In fact, after force quitting and restarting Finder (and force quitting the Terminal and any unfamiliar processes through the Activity Monitor), attempts at accessing the path specified as the MacFUSE mount point locked up OS X. Not a good scene at all.

And so my verdict on this one…? Pretty much the same. Ports of FUSE-y goodness to OS X are simply not there yet. But who knows… There are lots of reports from folks out there that MacFUSE and sshfs are both working splendidly for them. Perhaps my issues come from other, currently undetermined factors. Perhaps if I compiled MacFUSE from source it would work like a charm.

But until then: let us return to exploring our WebDAV options…

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

3 Responses to sshfs, MacFUSE, trouble

jdbartlett says:

I’m also having MacFUSE hanging issues–mine are network related: my system hangs until it gets a response to my query. To test, I tried shutting down AirPort before making a read request, then enabled AirPort to see if Finder would quit hanging. It did.

This is a problem for one of my servers: for security, the server drops inactive SSH sessions. First time I tried MacFUSE, I actually had to reset my Mac via the ON/OFF switch. First time ever.

I’m excited to see this development, but I’ll stick to using Fugu and Cyberduck until network issues have been solved. (BTW, Fugu also hangs when there’s no server response, requiring a force quit. However, Fugu doesn’t take Finder or the entire OS with it…)

Anonymous says:

I happen to have pretty good luck with MacFuse, better performance listing a large folder, in the finder, than with SMB connections to large directories. I prefer MacFuse / sshfs to using sftp in Text Wrangler. I have seen some issues in regard to mounts not mounting / not unmounting, but havn’t identified the problem, and havn’t taken a look at what MacOS thinks is the problem.

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