u1ftp: a demonstration of the Ubuntu One API

One of the projects I’ve been working on has been to improve aspects of the Ubuntu One Developer Documentation web site.  While there are still some layout problems we are working on, it is now in a state where it is a lot easier for us to update.

I have been working on updating our authentication/authorisation documentation and revising some of the file storage documentation (the API used by the mobile Ubuntu One clients).  To help verify that the documentation was useful, I wrote a small program to exercise those APIs.  The result is u1ftp: a program that exposes a user’s files via an FTP daemon running on localhost.  In conjunction with the OS file manager or a dedicated FTP client, this can be used to conveniently access your files on a system without the full Ubuntu One client installed.

You can download the program from:


To make it easy to run on as many systems as possible, I packaged it up as a runnable zip file so can be run directly by the Python interpreter.  As well as a Python interpreter, you will need the following installed to run it:

  • On Linux systems, either the gnomekeyring extension (if you are using a GNOME derived desktop), or PyKDE4 (if you have a KDE derived desktop).
  • On Windows, you will need pywin32.
  • On MacOS X, you shouldn’t need any additional modules.

These could not be included in the zip file because they are extension modules rather than pure Python.

Once you’ve downloaded the program, you can run it with the following command:

python u1ftp-0.1.zip

This will start the FTP server listening at ftp://localhost:2121/.  Pointing a file manager at that URL should prompt you to log in, where you can use your standard Ubuntu One credentials and start browsing your files.  It will verify the credentials against the Ubuntu SSO service and issue an OAuth token that it stores in the keyring.  The OAuth token is then used to authenticate requests to the file storage REST API.

While I expect this program to be useful on its own, it was also intended to act as an example of how the Ubuntu One API can be used.  One way to browse the source is to simply unzip the package and poke around.  Alternatively, you can check out the source directly from Launchpad:

bzr branch lp:u1ftp

If you come up with an interesting extension to u1ftp, feel free to upload your changes as a branch on Launchpad.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. jmaspons

    This means that finally there is a Ubuntu One client for KDE?

  2. James Henstridge

    @jmaspons: The standard Ubuntu One client should work with Kubuntu. This is more of a demonstration application rather than an official client, but if it is still useful to you then that’s great.

  3. Flup

    Hey, one question:
    Will this new U1DB replace the DBUS API ??
    Or will both stay avaiable?

  4. James Henstridge

    @Flup: U1DB is not a replacement for the file storage “syncdaemon”, if that is what you’re asking. Instead, it is intended for use cases similar to what we used to use DesktopCouch/CouchDB for where you want to store structured data (e.g. contacts, bookmarks, notes, etc).

  5. Marco Parillo

    > The standard Ubuntu One client should work with Kubuntu.

    Yes it does. But if this is your first Gnome app, you bring in a whole ton of dependencies.

    For some KDE users, if they cannot get a KDE app, they would prefer a bare-bones approach, like:
    A daemon that ‘just works’, albiet with some limitations not present in the fat client.

    Maybe your FTP approach can be extended to be like the dropbox daemon approach?

  6. James Henstridge

    @Marco Parillo: as you can see from further comments on that bug, not all of those are needed to run the file storage syncdaemon: some are for the GTK version of the control panel and SSO client (it seems both the GTK and Qt versions are being pulled in by the apt-get command you issued, which shouldn’t be necessary).

    As for Dropbox, if you’re talking about the “Install Dropbox via command line” instructions at https://www.dropbox.com/install?os=lnx, that involves downloading and installing a 19MB archive. Is that really much better than downloading 20MB of packages that may be reused by other applications you later install? (an amount that may go down if the dependency issue gets improved)

    Given the amount of work that has gone into the current Ubuntu One client, it seems silly to throw that away if you’re after a proper synchronisation solution (which u1ftp certainly isn’t: it will be useless if you go off line).

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