What is Samba?

Samba is a file and print server for Unix based systems (Linux, AIX, Tru64, MacOSX, etc etc) which aims to provide compatibility with Microsoft Windows File and Print Sharing.

Samba allows you to share files and printers with computers running Microsoft Windows, as well as being a client to access shares hosted on Windows computers. In this way Samba can provide significant savings in terms of licensing costs and administrative overhead compared to a Windows Server based solution.

For more information see http://www.samba.org/

How does it work?
On the Linux side, there is normally a directory (/etc/samba) which contains the configuration file (smb.conf) which specifies printers, shares and where to find users. Samba can be configured to use LDAP for user/password authentication if you so wish.

What can it do for me?
Allow you to share files with Windows computers, in a transparent manner.

What are the alternatives?
Samba is a more cost-effective and straightforward alternative to the domain logon, file and print sharing functions provided by Microsoft Windows servers (or desktops, in the case of small-scale deployments that use peer-to-peer networking).

Some proprietary Unix vendors have their own solutions which sometimes provide additional features, but these are often limited to a functionality level similar to Windows NT Server 4.0.

Example usage
An /etc/samba/smb.conf file may look like the following :

workgroup = TheOffice
netbios name = FileServer
security = User
encrypt passwords = true
passdb backend = tdbsam
guest account = pcguest
load printers = yes
printing = bsd
printcap name = /etc/printcap

comment = Home Directories
browseable = no

This will share all home directories to users when they go to \\FileServer from a Windows explorer shell.

In order to allow users to access the server, they will need to have a local Unix account. You then need to create a Samba account, which maps the Unix user to the Windows world –

smbpasswd -a david

This adds the user “david” to Samba and prompts you for the password required.

For migrating users, the “net rpc vampire” command can be used to copy user and/or computer accounts from legacy Windows NT/2000/2003 domains.

What are the developers upto?
Stand by for further Active Directory integration with integrated LDAP server and Kerberos key distribution centre support. Check out the Samba 4.0.0 Technology Preview 2 release notes to learn more.