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October 25, 2002

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Linux for Windows Users:

Using LinNeighborhood to Create a Network Neighborhood for Linux

Mike Angelo -- 25 October 2002 (C)

Terms and Simplified Definitions

Local Computer: The computer at which you are sitting.

Mount: (Oversimplified) Picture a now old-fashioned mainframe computer with a row of those huge, 2400-foot magnetic, data-tape reels spinning. In those days, the computer operator had to physically mount and un-mount those reels of tape. The notion of mounting and un-mounting data storage devices such as tapes, hard drives, CD ROM drives, and so forth still applies to Unix and Linux operating systems. So, in Linux, any data storage device must be mounted before you can access it. The same thing goes for shares on remote networked computers. Before a Linux-based computer can access a remote share, that share must be mounted on your local computer. Fortunately, these days you can mount and un-mount devices with a few keystrokes and/or mouse clicks rather than run around a big room physically mounting and un-mounting them. (See Mount Point, below.)

Mount Point: The place or point at which you mount a device such as a hard drive, floppy drive, or remote shared resource. In Linux, that usually amounts to directory name. Typically for example, your CD-ROM drive is mounted at /mnt/cdrom and your floppy drive is mounted at /mnt/floppy. (See Mount, above.)

NFS: Network file System, the native Linux networking file system.

Remote Computer: any computer on a computer network, including the Internet, which you access through your local computer.

Samba: A software suite originally developed by Andrew Tridgell to work with Microsoft's SMB network protocol. Samba allows Linux-based computers to access shared files on Windows-based computers over a computer network, and vice-verse.

Share: a file, directory, printer, or other computer resource or device that its owner has opened for sharing with other users on a network

SMB: Server Message Block protocol, the networking protocol used by Microsoft operating systems.

Note: Gnomba and Komba2, as is LinNeighborhood, are graphical front ends for Samba. Komba2 is part of the KDE desktop suite and Gnomba is part of the GNOME desktop suite. The Mandrake Control Center in Mandrake 9.0 has an interesting Mount Point section. One of the features in that section, Samba Mount Points, is somewhat similar to LinNeighborhood and perhaps a little easier to use. Gnomba, Komba2, and LinNeighborhood are third party software products and theoretically should be able to run with just about any Linux distribution. In contrast, the Samba Mount Points feature of the Mandrake Control Center is a distribution-specific networking tool. Other distributions also might have analogous, distribution-specific tools. Or they might include other third party networking tools. For example, if you type smb: into the location input box in the Nautilus file manager in Red Hat 8.0, you will get access to the remote shares on Windows-based boxes on your LAN. )

Note: the notion of trying to make the Linux desktop look and feel more like the MS Windows desktop has nothing to do with which is the better desktop. Frankly, in many ways the Linux desktop is better than the MS Windows desktop. However, likely more than 90% of personal computer users use MS Windows. People tend to like that to which they are accustomed. The rationale of making the Linux desktop more Windows-like simply is that doing that makes Linux more attractive to MS Windows users and it makes it easier for them to migrate to Linux.

I would myself never use samba to mount remote Linux shares. I would export the file system with NFS and then mount it with NFS on my client. I find SAMBA a bit tricky sometimes, and NFS more straightforward. SAMBA is good when you _must_ interact with Windows. And samba supports printer sharing as well. Richard Torkar, Open Source developer and Ph.D. student.

Networking can be one of the more tricky areas of personal computing. Microsoft has made configuring and using a network relatively easy for MS Windows users. Once a Windows-based computer has been configured to run on a local area network (LAN), shared resources on remote computers such as directories, files, printers, and so forth easily can be accessed through the Windows Network Neighborhood.

Today, we will add a Windows-like, Network-Neighborhood area to a Linux-based computer -- in a peer-to-peer network environment. That will give us full access to all the shared resources on all the computers connected to our LAN.

User-wise, accessing shared, remote resources with a Linux-based computer is not done as easily as it is done with a Windows-based computer. Linux networking gets even trickier when the LAN includes both Linux-based and Windows-based computers and vice-verse.

A special Linux program such as Samba must be used so that a Linux-based computer can access shared resources on remote, networked, Windows-based computers. Configuring Samba can be difficult for Linux beginners, computer newbies, and people migrating from MS Windows to Linux. However . . .

Overview of LinNeighborhood

LinNeighborhood by Hans Schmid and Richard Stemmer is a very handy, third-party, Open-Source, network utility. It lets you easily see and access Windows shares on your LAN from your Linux computer. You also can use LinNeighborhood to see and access shares from other Linux-based computers on your LAN. Simply put, LinNeighborhood is a graphical front end for Samba.

There is an easily installed Mandrake 9.0 compatible LinNeighborhood binary (RPM) located on at least some of the Mandrake download mirrors. LinNeighborhood is included in the SuSE 8.1 Professional Edition. Red Hat does not include LinNeighborhood in its Red Hat Linux distribution nor does it provide a LinNeighborhood RPM on the Red Hat FTP server.

LinNeighborhood RPMs and tarballs for other Linux distributions plus the LinNeighborhood source code are available from the LinNeighborhood Web site. (Links in the Resources section at the end of this article.)

(The Mandrake 9.0 LinNeighborhood RPM is version 0.6.5. The SuSE 8.1 LinNeighborhood RPM is version 0.6.4. The latest LinNeighborhood version is 0.6.5.)

You can use LinNeighborhood to mount shared Windows-based computer resources such as directories, files, printers, and so forth on your Linux-based computer -- so that you can access them from your Linux-based computer. Mounting network shares is not a big thing for experienced command-line, Linux power-users. However, graphic networking utilities such as LinNeighborhood, Gnomba, Komba2, and so forth that make it easy to mount network shares are very important to and useful for Linux beginners, computer newbies, and people migrating from MS Windows to Linux.

In Figure 1, below, a Windows-like Network Neighborhood directory (folder) has been added to the user's (drake's) home directory. Then LinNeighborhood was used to add remote Windows-computer shares to the Network Neighborhood directory.

You can mount a share to any directory you like. The Network Neighborhood directory was created for mounting the Windows shares in order make things simpler for Windows users who are use to the Network Neighborhood directory in Windows Explorer or the Windows MyComputer file managers. Please see Figure 2, below.

The simpler here refers to accessing and to using the remote shares once you have set up the Network Neighborhood directory on your Linux-based computer. That's because you can access and use the remote shares through your Linux Network Neighborhood directory rather than through what might seem to be a somewhat strange mnt directory. (mnt as in mount.)

If you feel comfortable using the default mnt directory for mounting and accessing remote shares, skip setting up a Network Neighborhood directory on your Linux-based computer. Just start right in with using LinNeighborhood.

However, creating a Network Neighborhood folder on a Linux-based computer can be a handy way for IT and IS managers and system administrators to make it easier for their MS Windows users to migrate to Linux. The more the Linux desktop looks and feels like the MS Windows desktop, the easier it is for MS Windows users to migrate to Linux. In part that means lower migration-training costs. In part it means less whining.

Creating a Network Neighborhood folder on a Linux-based computer, and using it to mount remote shares, is just one more way to make the Linux desktop look and feel more like the MS Windows desktop.

If you are Linux-experienced enough to set up and configure Samba yourself, you still can use a Network Neighborhood folder metaphor on a Linux-based computer to handle remote networked computer shares.

You also can use LinNeighborhood to mount shares from other Linux machines on your LAN. In order to do that, the root user (system administrator) for each such Linux box will have to add you as a Samba user on that box.

If you are an experienced enough Linux user, you should use the Linux NFS (Network File System) to deal with remote shares. And you might be better advised to go through the hoops of configuring Samba rather than using a graphical Samba front end. However, this tutorial is for Linux beginners, computer newbies, and people migrating from MS Windows to Linux. So it takes the easy to understand, easy to learn, and easy to do approach.

Please do not let the term mount used throughout this article baffle you if you are a Microsoft Windows user. It's not really that big a thing. In fact, mounting a share is somewhat similar to mapping a drive in MS Windows. So, if you are familiar with mapping a drive in MS Windows, it might help you to think of mounting a share as mapping a share.

Figure 1, above. AWindows-like Network Neighborhood directory (folder) has been added to Linux user's (drake's) home directory.

Figure 2, left. Network Neighborhood directory in Windows Explorer file manager.

How to Do It

Downloading and Installing LinNeighborhood

For this tutorial, you need to download and install LinNeighborhood, if it is not already installed on your Linux-based computer. You will need to have root privileges in order to install LinNeighborhood.

Note: you can use any file manager or Web browser you like rather than the KDE Konqueror file manager and Web browser. However, we only tested the procedures here with the KDE Konqueror file manager and browser and the KDE desktop. One reason we chose the KDE desktop for this article is that the KDE desktop is very similar in look and feel to the MS Windows desktop -- particularly if you choose the Windows configuration options. You can do this easily in Mandrake 9.0 by opening the K-menu and launching the K Desktop Settings Wizard -- K > Configuration > Other > Desktop Settings Wizard. Unfortunately, Red Hat 8.0 pretty much has castrated the K desktop environment. That's another story.

For Mandrake 9.0 download the file LinNeighborhood-0.6.5-1mdk.i586.rpm . An easy way to do that is to open the download URL (link in the Resources section at the end of this article) in the KDE Konqueror Web browser. Then open the KDE Konqueror file manager. Next copy the LinNeighborhood RPM file via the Konqueror context menu and paste it into your home directory in the Konqueror file manager again using the Konqueror context menu.

LinNeighborhood version 0.6.4 is included with the SuSE 8.1 Professional edition. To install the included LinNeighborhood on SuSE 8.1, click the green (start application) K-menu Icon on the task bar then System > YaST2 > Software > Search and enter LinNeighborhood.

To download LinNeighborhood for other Linux distributions check the distributions' Web sites or check the LinNeighborhood download area. Richard Torkar has some LinNeighborhood RPMs for Red Hat 7.x. (Links in the Resources section at the end of this article.)

Once you have downloaded the LinNeighborhood RPM file, simply click its icon in the Konqueror file manager. That brings up the RPM installer. Click Install. You will need to have root privileges to do this.

After LinNeighborhood is installed in Mandrake 9.0 you should find it in the K-menu: K > Networking > Other > LinNeighborhood. In SuSE 8.1, look in K-menu/SuSE-menu Icon > Internet > Tools > LinNeighborhood. For other Linux distributions, use the Konqueror Find tool to locate where the LinNeighborhood executable file has been placed. Click on the Find button to start the search. (Tools > Find file -- please make sure you do a case insensitive search, include subdirectories, and start the search by looking in the /. folder.)

Creating Your Linux Network Neighborhood

(Tech Note: By default, LinNeighborhood creates and uses a mnt directory in your Home Directory, /home/username/mnt/ to mount the remote shares -- using a mnt directory to mount a device is a somewhat typical procedure for Linux. If you like you can use that mnt default directory instead of creating a Network Neighborhood directory. Or you could call it the LinuxNeighborhood or LinNeighborhood directory or whatever label you like. Your choice.)

Open your Home Directory folder in the KDE Konqueror file manager. Then click on Edit > Create New > Directory and name the new directory Network Neighborhood.

Next, create a folder for each remote computer on your LAN from which you want to access shared resources. To do this, open your Network Neighborhood folder in the Konqueror file manager. Then click on Edit > Create New > Directory and name the new directory, for example, WindowsBox 1. Repeat that for each remote computer. In Figure 1, Network Neighborhood folders for remote computers HEW, MQM, and PLM have been so created.

  • See Viewing Remote Shares with LinNeighborhood on Page 2 ----->

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