Linux

Linux: Can it get any easier?

Jack Wallen illustrates how simple Linux has become by showing the process of sharing folders in GNOME.

Recently I did some articles on Samba and various ways to share folders in Linux. Now, normally Samba can be pretty tricky to set up right. Oh sure, there are tools to help you out with this (and some of those tools actually work quite well), but the end user doesn't want to have to monkey with Samba. In fact, the end user doesn't want (or even need) to know what Samba is. End users just wants to be able to tell their computers to share out a folder to other users. Period.

Of course, most of you are thinking - yeah right...on Linux? Even with Windows you typically have to join either a workgroup or a domain to make file sharing easy. So how in the world could Linux make this easier than it is on Windows? Believe it or not, it now is.

In recent iterations of Ubuntu, the process of sharing folders has become incredibly easy. No more configuring of Samba (at least not by the user). But can anything in Linux be that easy? Let me show you.

Sharing folders the easy way

Figure A

When you open up Nautilus (the GNOME file manager) if you right click on a folder you will see a new option called "Sharing Options" (see Figure A). If you click on it, a new window will open where you can configure the folder for sharing. But what if the user hasn't installed (or doesn't even know about) Samba? Samba is still necessary so that files and folders can be shared to a Windows machine. Well, in this new window, when the user checks the box marked "Share this folder", if they have not installed all of the components to allow the process of sharing, the system will prompt them to install some pieces. The user can click OK, give his password, and the system will install all the necessary bits. That's it for the user interaction (as far as installing is concerned).

Figure B

So what about sharing options? As I mentioned before, a new window will open where the user can configure sharing (see Figure B). All the user needs to do is:
  • Give the folder a name.
  • Set a comment (if needed).
  • Check the box if others should have write access to the folder.
  • Check the box to allow guest access.
NOTE: If you have already monkeyed with Samba and your Guest access check box is grayed out, you will need to add the following to your smb.conf file:
usershare allow guests = yes
security = share
guest ok = yes
guest account = USER_ACCOUNT

Where USER_ACCOUNT is an account to offer guest access. If you have to make the above modification, make sure you restart Samba.

Once this is configured, the user will click Create Share and then the system will alert the user that it needs to add permissions to the folder in order to create the share. The user can click Add The Permissions Automatically and all is complete. If you look at the shared folder in Nautilus you will now see the folder icon has changed (it now has a small hand below it) indicating it is a shared folder.

Go over to that Windows machine, open up Explorer and type \\IP_ADDRESS_TO_SHARE and that share will show up. You can then map the share in Explorer to make access even easier. Or the user can simple click on My Network Places and the folder will be there for the sharing.

Final thoughts

Did you ever think you would see the day when Linux made something easier than the competition? Well that time has come and I have a feeling it is only a sign of what is in store for all things Linux.

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.

41 comments
public_domain
public_domain

windozer permission structure format protocol whatever is a living convoluted nightmare getting worse. any fool who takes up windozer for security is dangerous and should be approached with caution like a rabid dog. face it - easy only gets so easy - beyond that, its a disaster.

ron.carlton
ron.carlton

Hey, you said go over to that Windows machine and it is shared easily. I ask you to go to another Ubuntu machine on the network and share those files easily ---- it doesn't look easy to me!

Lovs2look
Lovs2look

Answer: Yes...yes it can get a WHOLE lot easier, but it still hasn't.

roy.evison
roy.evison

yes but the easier something gets the simpler it gets (not all bad) but choice tends to suffer. If I want to be perverse and use an obscure version of linux (and so on) I should not be penalised for that. Roy.

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

Sure, if you want to allow "guest" access it's easy, but unless you join the Linux box to the domain, Samba is tricky. You can't grant a SMBPASSWD until the user is created as a Linux user; but creating the Linux user doesn't grant them Samba access until you also run SMBPASSWD -A. If you need more security than "Guest", SMB is still a pain.

Bj Raz
Bj Raz

/etc/init.d/samba restart | stop | start Here is the command to restart, stop, or start samba if you need to. written as (without quotes): "/etc/init.d/samba restart" "/etc/init.d/samba stop" "/etc/init.d/samba start"

john3347
john3347

"you will need to add the following to your smb.conf file:" "Once this is configured," Is it on topic to address the title of this article and not the specific subject matter included? The answer to the title of this article is a solid unqualified YES. Not only is the answer yes, but IF the Linux community wishes to increase market penetration by any measurable amount, it MUST get MUCH easier. The phrases quoted above must disappear from the Linux vocabulary before the rank and file non-professional home user will adopt any Linux version as their OS of choice. Phrases like "I only use Windows for...", and "I have Windows on a dual boot for those times when..." must disappear from a home user's vocabulary before Linux will become a major player in the OS battles. Yes, Linux can, and must, get easier. edited for spelling error.

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

Yes, there are some ideas and ways of doing things in Linux that are better and have been for some time. The issue is getting the information as it has always been with Linux. Yes, it is getting better, but still not there yet. Books? Not so much, and forget the community unless you are some kind of uber geek you get the brush off or flamed. The only consolation I have is that being well versed in computers in general and Mac, Solaris, Unix as well as Windows operating systems the learning curve isn't so steep. The only thing that pisses me off is all the "re-inventing the wheel" that goes on, because there aren't any comprehensive simple resources for the rest of us.

Gemmz
Gemmz

You said it, Jack: "your the sub.conf file" etc, etc. That is the part of Linux I find difficult. I tried installing several Linux OS - all were quite beyond me; even the help given me was beyond my understanding. I came back to Ubuntu and struggled with that, which now works, sort of. I will say that I prefer it to Windows if only on account of its philosophy: but as to ease of installation, ease of use? The software guys do need to take it to a higher level. Sorry.

lefty.crupps
lefty.crupps

Didn't KDE 3.5.x have this, years ago? I would bet the current KDE4 also does, but I don't do much with Samba that isn't on the CLI with a server, so I don't know right now.

Grantmasterflash
Grantmasterflash

Nobody in their right mind would do that as there's no accountability. Did you ever think Windows would be more secure than Linux out of the box? Looks like that time is now.

jlwallen
jlwallen

go to either Places > Network and view the share or, if it doesn't automatically show up, go to Places > Connect to Server and fill in the details for Windows Share. Very simple.

juanton
juanton

Use what you like and feel most comfortable with. I maintain several hundred servers all of various flavors, Windows, Linux and Mac and am happily doing it from the OS I feel most comfortable with, Linux Mint. If I really need to use Windows, I have it as a VM in VirtualBox, or I can RDP into any of various terminal servers. Though I have found, that after a decade of using Linux through all it's various iterations and distros, it's as comfortable to me as when I first fired up Win95 and had to go through yet another learning curve figuring out where everything was! I guess a secondary point would be that these discussions would be way more interesting if you could remove fanboy ego entirely. Just because you don't use Windows doesn't make you an elitist. I've been in this industry 10 years and provide solutions for what my customer wants/needs/feels comfortable with. My only argument against Windows is if I have to remove another AntiVir 2010/Security Center/[insert name here] scareware infection, I might just pull what little hair I have left out! Lastly, notice, my job role states "Student" simply because you never stop learning. . .

Brainstorms
Brainstorms

Windows is either: A) Just as bad as "desktop Linux" distros, especially when it comes to file sharing, printer setup & sharing, etc. for Joe & Mary public, or B) Much easier because Microsoft just defaults everything to be promiscuous and connect wide-open to the world to avoid any such criticisms. Which is worse? There's way too much grousing over the ease of using Linux issue while failing to acknowledge that it's continually *getting better*. The original post was simply noting that, not declaring it perfect. (Would that Windows would be improving at the rate LOTD is.) "Familiar" does not equate to easy or better. And, many times, the effort to learn something new pays many dividends. (My career's better for the effort I've put in -- and I understand the inner workings of the OS more.) Is Linux worse because one needs to surf the web to get info? Hardly. Ubuntu's forums & community pages are a great help -- the web in general is better than any book. And I no longer need to say "I only use Windows for...", and "I have Windows on a dual boot for..." Now, I say, "I use Wine for..." and "I have Windows in VirtualBox for..." Windows is just another app on the Linux desktop; a tool to be used sometimes for certain things. Yes, Windows can, and must, get easier / more secure.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Ease of use is actually at the distribution level as that is the assembled product. It's not "Linux" getting easier (as the title miss-represents) unless users are going to be tweaking the kernel directly. At the distribution level, Ubuntu and others distributions are working in the right direction. Mandriva was one of the first to do it. PCLinuxOS seems well liked among it's users. It's not "the linux community" as this includes many different groups of people with very different goals. Slackware, LinuxFromScratch or Gentoo are not targeted towards new users where the distros mentioned above are. We may as well demand that all car manufacturer's stop deviding effort and all ship the exact same model of car because it would be easier for average drivers. 'Phrases like "I only use Windows for...", and "I have Windows on a dual boot for those times when...' This is entirely caused by software vendors who choose to only ship software versions for Windows. We can't blame the OS distribution for AutoDesk not providing an AutoCAD version for linux based systems. It's not the fault of linux based systems because Adobe chooses to treat the platform users as third class citizens. This is a bit of a chicken and egg issue but it's not the result of distribution maintainers rejecting software being submitted by video game and other specialty software vendors. "yes, Linus can, and must, get easier." I don't know that Mr. Torvald's sexual openness is relevant. I would agree that Linux based platforms along with all other paltforms could always improve ease of use. At the same time: "Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler" -- Abert Einstein At some point, simplifying complex things results in dumbing them down beyond there usefulness.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It's not hard to find new user hostile forums for any platform and the FOSS communities historical treatment from those outside it probably justifies it's higher average. There are new user friendly forums though. Also, part of the problem is users who run to the forums to proclaim that "Linux is broken" because something doesn't work for them and they've made no attempt to find an answer on there own. TR is a good place to post; ignore the hostile responses and you'll find a number of helpful people open to new user questions. I'm not sure how Ubuntu's forums are but I'd expect those a good place to post after searching to confirm your question hasn't already been answered. Linux.com has a "new to linux" section that has a good list of introductory articles. Ubuntu for Dummies is also a good starting point as the "for Dummies" brand does good introductory books on many topics.

willda
willda

Let me start by saying that I cut my teeth as a admin on DOS 5.0 and windows 3, went to 6.2 & W3.1 for workgroups then W9x, W2k, etc..... So my first few adventures with Linux was to say....trying. That was when Redhat was v2. Those days are definitely gone. Granted you still need to understand disk formatting (for most distros) but, setup has almost gotten to be a no brainer. I have several servers running Linux of one form or another. I really like ubuntu. Do I use it everyday? No, I use Win7 pro, I administer 5 W2k3 servers, 35 Vista, & 10 W7 boxes. Setting up file sharing is a normal everyday task for admins be it Windows or Linux but, users....that's another story. I don't think that 2 out of our 18 employees could do it (safely) The gnome has make it easier, if you are not used to the command line. this is especially useful for the Windows power user/linux novice. Isn't that something to strive for? Making it easier for converts?

rduncan
rduncan

It's 2010 - now you can share folders on a Linux platform without editing a config file - WOW! will these developers ever be stopped?? - Don't I need to compile something first or install some dependencies?- really - who cares, I adminiser Some Red hat advance platform clusters and use Linux network tools - it great -rock steady, but in terms of simplifying the 'ordinary' users experience most *nix systems are dismal and you always get attitude from pissy 'advanced users' who frankly don't want a UI because thier better than you. Apple did One thing with iPhone & iPad they made a better and more user friendly experience the devices didn't even come with a manual, and now here we are discussing how to share files on Linux system in 2010- could Linux get an easier ?- yes it could! as sharing folders in most platforms is quite remedial as it happens, - why try to market Linux as an easy and intuitive UI -if it was this articile wouldn't exist

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Debian Lenny: 1. open file manager 2. locate folder to be shared 3. right click -> properties 4. tab "share" -> configure file sharing

j-mart
j-mart

The share only exists because the required steps were taken to create it. An IT consultant should be able to work that out after having read the article. Shares are not set up from the default install, admin privileges are required, and of course you only share the files that you are safe sharing, you would have to be a complete moron to share your system files or data that was private. I suggest if you consider yourself an IT consultant, learning a bit of basic Unix / Linux knowledge, would help, you don't need to become an expert, but some fundamental knowledge, might make you less likely to post rubbish as above.

ron.carlton
ron.carlton

I don't know why, but when I first looked for it I couldn't find it. But just like you said, it was there! I have no complaints about Ubuntu, it is better than Windows in my opinion. My media center is an Ubuntu machine, all of my guests love my music and other media, but not one of them has asked how to install Ubuntu on their machine. Those Microsoft marketers have totally crippled people's imagination. But, of course, American corporations have destroyed the health of our nation (obesity and diabetes, for example). It will be a miracle if people could overcome the power of Microsoft and accept this wonderful OS.

rduncan
rduncan

Simplying complex problems are what computers are made for, the clue is in thier name. Make things as simple as possible (to use) but not simpller (to develop) - Think iPhone. The ultimate user experience for say- getting the kind of knowledge we get today from the web browsing, talking on threads like this, collaborating will be even better when the User Interface is so intuitive it becomes second nature and we don't even know there is a computer in the mix at all, is this where Linux is going? or would you rather talk to the machine - hack the kernel.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Mandriva has had GUI tools in the control panel that share and mount Windows shares for years. This article may be new but I don't think the feature is given that it's been in KDE3.5 for a long while now. My problem is more with the protocol being used. Windows shares really need to be redone using a strong encryption wrapper. Especially with the amount of business network traffic that uses the protocol. If I can see usernames/passwords in that traffic then I can get your data too and in both cases, it's a clear sign of missing encryption. I'd drop CIFS in a heartbeat if Windows incorporated SSHFS like every other major platform available.

j-mart
j-mart

With Linux have been fairly straight forward with Linux for some time now. This can even be the case when using CL. Every time I need to search for files on the XP machine I use at work, using the search function, mucking about with, dialog boxes, farting around with drop down boxes, buttons to click etc. With my Linux machines at home, much simpler, one click to open konsole and type in "whereis (filename)". way faster and simpler.

FewClues
FewClues

You need to remember that God has not blessed us all with your supreme intellect. I for one found the article useful and your attitude desperately needing adjusting.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Ability to manually adjust aspect ratio (like GOM can, with Alt + number pad) and ability to choose which audio card is used to produce the audio. This is because my SB card is hooked to PC speakers, while my integrated is hooked up to the HDTV speakers.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I've been getting more use out of Kaffeine these days. It uses mplayer in the back ground and has opened anything that VLC wouldn't. Actually, it's to the point that I just open the .avi, .mp4 or whatever with it rather than VLC. VLC portable has been handy on windows machines without a DVD player app installed though.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Was super stupid, but probably more fault of the nVidia control panel. However, once I did get it to work, mysteriously the themes on the system just died, everything turned gray and blocky. But it DID work. Just needs a better media player, but it worked for that one episode of big bang theory, vegas episode, that just refused to play on all my windows machines. I was gonna make a post about a media player, if Nix has one like GOM or Media Player Classic, but didn't bother cause I knew the primary result of such a question would be VLC player, which cannot play the HD videos from my camera (In windows or nix).

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I was talking to someone the other day that setup an Ubuntu based media center machine and said the only issue was getting full HD resolutions through to the TV. Did you just stick with the default output resolutions or some such thing?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I see the quote as referring to a single thing rather than "to use" versus "to develop". The original quote actually referred to explaining theories in such a way that average people could understand them without simplifying them to the point that the theory lost most of it's meaning. Should brewing of whiskey be simplified to the point where any ten year old can do it? Is there a potential for them to harm themselves as a result? In general terms, some things should not be the domain of average users but instead we have oversimplified things to the point of being a single checkbox click without consideration of the implications from that. I'd point to the example of peer sharing programs. There was a time when the default would be to share the hard drive. This is not simplifying the setup and use of the program for average users bot oversimplifying it to the point of being detrimental. One of the news articles at that time was a law office where users had installed Kazaa or some such thing without bothering to look at what was shared be default; the entire hard drive including legally private files where exposed to anyone on the internet. In the case of the Iphone, simplification is great but it goes beyond an experience any user can pickup in ten seconds. The oversimplification is more to lock customers into Apple's related services. We can't add third party repositories because this means not using Apple's own distribution channel. We are all but locked into Apple for content on that device that this is at least a lesser lock-in that software sources. We are barred, from making use of the devices full potential to the detriment and potential prosecution of customers to the detriment of advanced users. (technically, jailbreaking can fall under DMCA criminal law not simply voiding of warranty as it should be or civil law as a worst case outcome) Consider passwords; they should be of a minimum length or greater and minimum complexity or greater but not more so. Sure, they are not as simple as they can be from the user perspective but they are as simple as possible without becoming detrimental to there own purpose. This is an area where users should smarten up rather than having the technology dumbed down. Consider the old Windows approach of running users as administrators; now anyone can install anything on there machine. It's nice and simple but more simple than it should be because any stray click or falsely represented setup.exe can be installed by little johnny and whose the entire families computer let alone the possible implications of exposing the families personal and financial records. This as a result of making things more simple than they should be rather than as simple as safely possible (later Windows and the *nix world have been doing a better job of it though). If we simplify Photoshop as much as possible, we end up with MS Paint. The value of Photoshop has been obliterated by oversimplification rather than appropriate simplification. It's not about "simplifying" the user experience but not the developer experience; it's about not oversimplifying things that should have some minimum amount of required knowledge involved. "what computers are made for, the clue is in their name" Based on their name? Computation and they simplify the computational processing of numbers very well. (sorry, I couldn't resist having a giggle with that last bit)

Sepius
Sepius

I find it harder to list the easy things in linux/gnome/KDE, even the stuff not used on the CL, which I am finding I use less these days. And I find I get more frustrated with Windows as I expect it to be easy, but no, you have to click something 3 times and still get the O.K. dialog, and right click offers nothing useful, and to get it right, you need to get more programs ... and then it still isn't quite right, and the layout feels like it will break a wrist ... aaaah. Linux is REALLY highlighting the shortcomings of Windows these days.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I usually go for the slightly more complicated "locate filename" or "locate filename | grep secondsearchcriteria" "find | grep filename" also works though I really should learn the basic Find command switches as I'm sure I'm duplicating an existing function. But, of course we've both just mentioned command line which is the dark scary place for anyone who can't be bothered to take five minutes and become familiar with a very basic list of commands. ;) For the GUI only users - there are things like Beagle though so they can have there Windows Search gui also.

Slayer_
Slayer_

As they by default, block incoming connection requests. Effectively stopping the random infections computers can get just from being connected to the internet.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Home user computers lax security has been a boon for malware. I'd actually suggest that it's more important for novice home users to understand networking. The consumer router isn't as big a hurdle to get past and once your in, a poorly secured internal network is like a candy store with the shopkeepers back turned.

Sepius
Sepius

I'd still gauge a Samba share on a Linux box set to "share" more secure than Windows best secure settings. I'd also say, the article seemed more for the home novice user who does not really know much ... or need to know much about network security.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Shallow attacks against each of the prefered platforms are common. Human nature and all that; it becomes hard to recognize an honest comment at times. Having gone back, your two liner does leave a lot to the imagination. Clarifying how you saw on platform's approach to SMB as insecure by default versus the other would have benefited your meaning. In absence of clarity "did you ever think Windows would be more secure than Linux out of the box" is an easily misinterpreted statement. Your meaning by "Security = share" is a little obscure. From my perspective, SBM/CIFS/Samba is more the cause of the issue than what OS it happens to be running on. Linux based systems actually have to reduce potential security to accommodate SMB/CIFS. It's not a matter of being less secure "out of the box" but having to remain compatible with a less secure protocol "out of the box". Further, unless one happens to have a Radius authentication server handy, SMB/CIFS is insecure by default. Even with Radius authentication, the data after authentication remains poorly secured. From network traffic, I can easily get SMB account credentials and Radius credentials so by extension, I can get whatever data also insecurely transfered. This is really more a matter of having to support an inherently insecure protocol to enable interoperability with the popular platform.

Grantmasterflash
Grantmasterflash

Wow, you guys got all up tight didn't you? In true Internet form those attacking my credentials don't possess the knowledge to understand the actual problem. My comment wasn't trolling at all. Granted I didn't explain my comment because I assumed someone here would know a little about Windows file sharing. security = share has no accountability at all. It's as if you just stepped back into Windows95 days and is never recommended on a Windows machine or Samba machine. Those of you who commented obviously thought I was saying that there was something wrong with Linux security and that Windows was better. This is not what I was saying. My point was that the default in Windows is to not use security = share and having Linux do this by default makes us less secure. Any admin worth his salt (or anyone that's taken at least ONE Linux class) would know that you need to do security = user at the very least and it's recommended by the Samba team. From Andrew himself. "It is the lack of a username in share level security that makes it unsuitable for many installations. SMB vendors and the SMB spec sensibly recommend that new installations use user level security." The question is why set up what's basically and insecure share by default? And before you reply you may want to go dig up a little on Windows file sharing and Samba (not that I think you will).

j-mart
j-mart

Just Grantmasterflash's interpretation. Grantmasterflash, being in the industry, I would have expected better.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I didn't think jmart's comment was actually that far off though it wasn't fluffy pillow friendly either. Grantmasterflash either needs to clarify the original comment or learn more about the platform being discussed otherwise it just looks like a "nahnah" trolling post.

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