How-To: Using SCP to Manage Files on the Apple iPhone

iFuntastic is a great application, but currently limited. ModMyiPhone's iPhone Skinner rocks and makes skinning a piece of cake (and reskinning even easier than that, like after an Apple iPhone update.) The is really cool and makes installing many applications a simple process, but what about minor stuff, like changing the mail notification sound, or adding a custom ringtone, or changing the application icons on the Apple iPhone's Home Page? What program is good for that kind of stuff?

As it happens, a common command line utility known as SCP is perfect for these types of needs. Of course, you need to be familiar with commands like MKDIR, to create a directory using one of the Apple iPhone tools like iPhoneInterface, or iPHUC or SSH, but once the directory structure exists on the Apple iPhone, you can manage the actual files using the SCP command (SCP stands for secure copy and works via SSH.)

Adapted to your needs and own computing environment, a typical SCP command line might look like:

scp -r /directory/where/you/have/stuff/filename root@192.168.2.##:/directory/where/you/want/stuff/filename

NOTE: In this example, 192.168.2.## is the IP address of the Apple iPhone. Your own Apple iPhone's IP address may look different.

Important Notes About Managing the Apple iPhone with SCP:
  • SCP requires SSH to be installed and running on the Apple iPhone.
  • SCP can be used to move files to/from the Apple iPhone without needing jailbreak, or iPhoneInterface or iPHUC, etc.
  • You will be prompted for a password, use the SSH password.
  • Using SCP means being able to manage files and install goodies wirelessly, no USB tether required.
  • You can copy specific files, .app files or entire directories this way (the "-r" means recursive.)
  • You can reverse the order to copy files form your iPhone to any SSH server. Example:

    scp -r root@192.168.2.##:/directory/where/you/have/stuff/filename /directory/where/you/want/stuff/filename

    NOTE: In this example, 192.168.2.## is the IP of the SSH server. As with the previous example, the IP address may look different.

  • The SCP command is also useful for backing-up the Apple iPhone.
  • The SCP method works for replacing graphics, installing applications, installing ringtones, you name it. Again, no jailbreak or iPHUC or iPhoneInterface required, just SSH installed and running. The iPhone can even be "jailed".
  • Using SCP to move images maintains the image transparency. Said another way, PNG image transparency *is not lost* using SCP, unlike iFuntastic for instance. This is great news when it comes to changing the battery icons, etc.
The SCP command is very well documented, so if you are unfamiliar with it don't be afraid. Just google a term like "using SCP with X", where X equals your particular operating system, and go to town. Once you get the hang of it, you'll be glad you did. Enjoy!

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