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.