Mac Lab Report

Working Around iDisk Public Folder Limitations in OS 9

- 2003.01.30

Imagine this: Students turn in draft work online. You mark it up electronically a couple of days before it's due and send it back. They turn it in corrected, and since you've already read it, grading is a snap.

That was my dream - until I actually tried to do it. Several readers read my column from last week, lamenting Apple's incomplete OS 9 support for the iDisk public folder. The exact problem stems from a new feature offered since the iTools accounts became .mac last year. The new feature allows OS X users to set permissions on just the public folder of their iDisk so that designated users could log into the account and save and retrieve files from this Web-based server.

OS 9 users, unfortunately, are restricted to read-only access. Even Windows 98-XP users can take full advantage of the same level of access enjoyed by an OS X user.

As usual, my well informed readership set me straight. Although it is true you cannot access the read/write capability of the Public folder directly from the Chooser or Network Browser in OS X, it is possible to connect with read-write privileges using a third-party freeware program called Goliath.

Goliath for OS 9 can be downloaded from <>

Instructions for users:

  • Start Goliath.
  • When prompted, use these values:
    • URL is <> - substitute your member name
    • User Name is: "public" (without quote marks)
    • Password is: whatever you set it to

Be careful when writing instructions, because these must be capitalized exactly as shown above.

A window for the Public folder will now open with full read-write access. Usage is directly analogous to the Fetch ftp application that so many of us have used. Instructions for how to connect with other operating systems, including OS X and the Windows variants, is located in the .mac help section at

I have tested this with Windows 98 via a cable modem, OS X and OS 9.2.2 (both at home and school), and this solution works great. In fact, it actually connects faster than the Chooser or even OS X's Go command. (An X-compatible version is available from the website. )

Now that I have a workaround for this problem, I will be rolling out the service for the kids as soon as the tests are complete and the instructions tested thoroughly. No more floppy failures!

Please note, however, that the privileges must be set by an OS X user initially, even if all of your clients are going to be OS 9. This seems like a reasonable and legitimate restriction due to the the approaching obsolescence of OS 9.

Everyone is certainly aware that Apple has to spend its resources carefully, and while we may not have everything in this workaround, having a way to get the work done is all that really maters.

Many thanks to Edwin E., Isea A., Larry Rosenstein, Scott Kendall, Bill Sheffler, and others who pointed me at the excellent program Goliath. Thanks also to everyone else who wrote. This just goes to show how helpful and supportive Mac fans are.

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is a longtime Mac user. He was using digital sensors on Apple II computers in the 1980's and has networked computers in his classroom since before the internet existed. In 2006 he was selected at the California Computer Using Educator's teacher of the year. His students have used NASA space probes and regularly participate in piloting new materials for NASA. He is the author of two books and numerous articles and scientific papers. He currently teaches astronomy and physics in California, where he lives with his twin sons, Jony and Ben.< And there's still a Mac G3 in his classroom which finds occasional use.

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