Originally Published: Tuesday, 9 November 1999 Author: Mike Chan
Published to: news_learn_firststep/Firststep News Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Sharing Files with Windows

Samba is the GNU software that allows Linux to share files with Windows environments. This means you can mount files from windows shares using 'smbmount' and also to share out your Linux files as a Windows share. People connecting to the machine will not know the difference. The configuration tools that come with Samba, namely SWAT makes Samba a better file sharing solution than even Windows.

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Samba File Sharing

Part of the reason why Linux is so popular in small intranets today is because Linux is able to share files with windows clients in a windows network. For those who simply want a fast file server without having to pay hefty Windows licensing fees, Linux is a great solution. Linux masquerades as an NT File server, and as far your clients are concerned, they think that they are connecting to a windows server. Linux achieves its windows file sharing ability with a great piece of GNU software called Samba. Along with SWAT (Samba Web Administration Tool), Linux can scale well to even heavily used workgroups. A dual PIII-500, with plenty of RAM and a RAID subsystem can easily handle up to 20 full time users. SWAT, the integrated administration tool for Samba was included in the distribution of Samba after version 2.0. SWAT provides a web interface (http port 901) to configuring Samba shares. You can add printers, add shares, add users, and likewise remove printers, shares, and users from the system all through the Web. Another great feature is the ability to view the connected users through the SWAT administration kit and disconnect users through the web interface. SWAT allows many configuration options to be set. A good case can be given to show that Samba is even more configurable than NT's file sharing. Samba comes with smbd, which is the actual file-sharing daemon, while nmbd is the netbios name resolution daemon. All you need to know about nmbd is that it allows you to use the windows protocol across subnets.

Another common use for Linux is to share files with Apple computers. Linux currently has netatalk (net appletalk) compiled into the latest kernels, which lets Linux communicate with Apple machines through their native protocol. If netatalk is configured correctly, Linux would then also show up not only in Windows "Network Neighborhood", but also as an Apple file share. Imagine the file sharing mayhem when you combine samba with NFS and FTP. The possibilities are as limitless as the creativity as your sysadmin. Linux is a great way to glue together a heterogeneous network and have everything working together. Apple clients connecting up to Linux, uploading files which are actually on a NFS mount on another Unix server, all transparently. The complaints about clients not being able to share files effectively with other operating systems are over. Samba and Linux can save your network from fragmenting, save times, especially in networks that have multiple operating systems that weren't designed to work with each other.

A quick comparison between Samba, FTP, and NFS shows that each has their own niche. Samba is state-full, that is, it contains information on who is connected, and can lock files so that you can actually use samba with a source control software, and not have to worry about file corruption or overwriting like what can sometimes happen with FTP or NFS. The downside is that Samba is slightly slower than FTP or NFS for actually moving files around. The advantage is that it's great for files that multiple people access, and you need to make sure that it isn't corrupted. If you're looking to research more into the possibilities that a Samba solution can provide you, head over to www.samba.org, learn to configure Samba and get it set up on your system here and read up on the Samba FAQ.

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