Linux

Giving Samba its due

Jack Wallen offers up some healthy praise to a tool often overlooked in the accolade department. Can you think of a tool more deserving of open source love than Samba?

Recently, I have covered Samba in numerous articles (for various sites) and have had to take advantage of its power for a few clients. During this time I realized that I don't remember if I had ever actually given Samba (and the Samba development team) the praise they so deserve. So I thought I would finally take a moment to make sure everyone was aware of Samba and what exactly it means to Linux.

I think I can say this pretty simply: If not for Samba, Linux wouldn't be where it is today.

How can I say that? How can I give so much credit for the rise of Linux to one application? How can I not? Samba is the bridge built to bring together all systems. Samba is the great unifier, the great pacifier, the "one," the "way." Or, to put it in plain terms, Samba is the tool that allows Linux, Windows, and Mac to communicate to one another. That's why this tool belongs at the top of the heap of open source tools (licensed under the GPL). If it weren't for Samba, Linux wouldn't talk to Windows and Windows and Mac wouldn't talk to Linux.

Think about it. If the development team never created Samba, do you think either Microsoft or Apple would have developed a tool to allow their operating systems to communicate with Linux? I'm thinking no. Samba, and Samba alone, allows this functionality.

In modern Linux desktops you can right-click a folder and share that folder out as easily as you can in Windows. From the perspective of someone who has used Linux for a long, long time...that feat is amazing. That feat makes Linux accessible. That feat makes Linux viable.

But what is Samba?

Samba is a re-implementation of the SMB/CIFS. SMB was originally developed at IBM in order to turn the DOS local file access protocol into a network-able tool. Microsoft then got a hold of the protocol and then merged it with the LAN Manager tool. Microsoft continued adding features to starting with Windows for Workgroups. In 1996 Microsoft initiated a rename of SMB to CIFS (Common Internet File System) and added even more features. SMB had become incredibly important for networking operating systems. Even prior to this (in 1992) the Samba team was developed in order to reverse-engineer SMB in order for use with non-Microsoft operating systems.

Today Samba is used world-wide by all sizes and types of users and businesses. It has won plenty of awards (including an award to Andrew Tridgell from the Google O'Reilly Open Source Hall of Fame Awards), yet Samba remains humbly in the background connecting different operating systems together day in and day out.

And that's just it. So often, in the world of techno-media, what gets the bulk of the accolades is that which is right in front of us - the things we can see and use with such obviousness it hurts. GNOME, KDE, GIMP, Ubuntu, Compiz, Linux - you know, the things you hear about every day. That is all fine and good so long as those tools that have become such a necessity (as to make Linux as popular and large as it is) get their due. And that is why I am, today, singing the praise of Samba. It's not because I wanted to show you some cool trick or configuration you can do with Samba. We all know those exist (in huge amounts). We all know our businesses wouldn't, in many cases, be using Linux if it were not for Samba.

Today, for no other reason than it absolutely deserves it, I am praising Samba. I use it. I need it. I am grateful for it. And, besides, it's about time I gave Samba its due.

What about you? Where have you deployed Samba? Has this tool saved your skin? Let's all join in and give Samba the props it deserves.

Everyone...Samba!

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

7 comments
jamba
jamba

I first used Samba in 1996 as a CADD Sys. Admin. in a medium sized company to share files between SGI Irix (Unix), Windows95, Windows NT and Dos systems. It was easy to install, worked really well and I never had a problem with it for the 6+ years we used it. It really was/is a great piece of open source software!

harmlessdrudge
harmlessdrudge

Aye, if there a Nobel prize for open source Tridge would be a deserving winner. His PhD thesis on rysnc is a nice read. Very elegant stuff.

pgit
pgit

Indeed an unsung hero. This is one of the more complex components to be found in a Linux system, and as such features go is one of the more reliable. A very remarkable achievement in any environment. So yes; a tip of the hat and a hardy "thank you" to all the developers who've kept this extremely important tool secure, operable and up to date...

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

I have a SOHO server and kids in the house. Back in the gravy days, I had both a W2K server and a Novell server running on the network for testing and development. I have moved on to greener pastures, but I still use the network for the file server and email control. When the kids' grades went down in direct proportion to the amount of gaming time, "dad" got "mean." 2K went away, and SuSE Linux came in. The kids now access the internet via proxy with time and site limitations, and I ported all of the network files into Samba shares. The Linux server is now the PDC, using Samba. Smooth transition, Easy to use and administer... And FREE! Can't beat it. Love FOSS. :-)

edward.borland
edward.borland

I'm running VMs on a mac. The editor on OSX, the shell extension on XP and a Subversion working copy on Linux.. Samba lets me choose where I can put things and ties it all together. It is totally fundamental and useful. Amazing piece of work, thank you! The same guys are doing some very interesting work with file systems too.

LinuxUser
LinuxUser

I think you need to be specific, Samba's most important feature is for it to be able to become a BDC or a PDC in a Windows environment. Comes Samba 4.0 to become to the full pledge AD server! To be able to talk to Unix systems including Linux, Microsoft provides Windows Services for Unix. From what I've seen after I install it, most tools such as nfs comes from GNU tool chain to which have free software licenses. I have not use it, but just tested it once and I found those free software. So, MS just packaged the tools and made them available in a unified installer. You can even find the added MMC Unix tool at the administrative Tools in MS Windows' control panel.

SMparky
SMparky

I love Samba but there are issues. - Their official website is poorly maintained and like many open source sites looks like it was built in 1970. - Like many Linux/Unix tools it can be confusing for a beginner and they do little to make it easy. If you install it as part of an OS install it's simple, but if you want to get it afterwards or upgrade to the latest version it's the usual Linux fun. Terms like "build", "make", "binaries", "source" really prevent this and many Linux add-on's like this from becoming mainstream. This isn't the Samba teams fault, but the developers really need to make it easier on people who just want it to work.

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