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(?) The Answer Guy (!)

By James T. Dennis, tag@lists.linuxgazette.net
Starshine Technical Services, http://www.starshine.org/

(?) Linux as a File/Print Server for Window and DOS boxes: Of course!

From jimr on Sat, 07 Nov 1998

Is it possible to set up a linux file and print server in an office of 95,98 & DOS?

(!) It is a very popular application for Linux boxes. You can easily take any old 386, 486, or Pentium with 16 or 32 Mb and an ethernet card (or two) and install Linux and Samba.
Samba is a popular Unix package for providing SMB file and print services. SMB is the technical name for the set of protocols that Windows NT, '95, '98, and OS/2 LANMan and LANServer (among others) all used for file and print sharing.
Samba was written by Andrew Tridgell has been enhanced by a host of others (much like Linux itself). While much of the development of Samba has been done on Linux --- it's worth noting that many of the Samba developers also work on FreeBSD and some even work on Solaris, SunOS, Irix, and other traditional forms of Unix. The code is quite portable.
The master web server for Samba is at:
Australian National University:
.. there are mirrors world-wide.
Note that Samba come with most Linux distributions. Also note that the Samba team is pretty close to releasing version 2.0 which will include some code to support DC services (allowing your Linux box to act as a "Domain Controller" a PDC or BDC for your NT systems).
It's also worth noting that your MS-DOS machines must be outfitted with TCP/IP suites to talk to Samba. I don't know of a Unix implementation of the NetBIOS networking protocols (the lower layer protocols over which the "server message blocks" of SMB are transported).
Another alternative is to run Netware for Linux (available from Caldera: http://www.caldera.com) and have your MS-DOS systems access their file and print services via IPX protocols. (I always found the IPX drivers for DOS to be the quickest, most stable, and compatible and to have the most modest memory footprint of any networking drivers on the platform --- I always attributed Novell's huge success to those qualities). There is also a free "Netware emulator" called "Mars_nwe" --- that may also be sufficient for your MS-DOS systems.
You may also want to consider switching some of your DOS systems to Linux with DOSEmu (a BIOS/system emulator for running a copy of DOS). You can also consider installing Caldera/DR-DOS as an alternative to MS-DOS. Basically MS isn't upgrading DOS any more, but Caldera and the Linux community are.
In any event Netware is not free software. Samba is. However, you can run them concurrently on the same server (although I'd suggest a Pentium with 64Mb of RAM if you're going to run those and the obligatory intranet web, mail, and other services on the one host).
Note that processor speed is not much of an issue here --- all of these services take very little processor power, and Linux doesn't require that you load the system with alot of unnecessary support (like all kinds of GUI baggage) when you just want to run a server in the closet. If you hook up a typical cheap laser or inkjet printer or two to the system, you can configure Linux to handle PostScript (TM) print jobs using the ghostscript drivers (a package that implements the PostScript (TM) language on the host computer and supports a large number of common printers.
Be sure to get a printer that is NOT a "winprinter" (a print engine with essentially no embedded system --- which relies on PROPRIETARY drivers to drive it). The problem with these is that the manufacturers won't (or can't) release the specifications to allow Linux developers to write Linux native drivers for them. So you can only run these printers from Windows systems. (Basically it's a ripoff. You pay almost as much for a much less sophisticated printer that will probably be rendered temporarily useless with every Microsoft OS upgrade --- since the old drivers will almost never work with their new OS versions).
I suggest that people considering Linux start with the Hardware-HOWTO at:
(and any LDP mirror).
The SMB-Howto by David Wood seems to be pretty old --- and I know that Samba has been upgraded quite a bit since August of '96 --- so we probably need to find someone revise this HOWTO. However, most of the principles and examples should still work --- so it's a good place to look. Be sure to read the FAQ at the ANU site, though. There's a whole newsgroup devoted to the topic: news://comp.protocols.smb --- and Samba is the most common topic of discussion there.

Copyright © 1998, James T. Dennis
Published in The Linux Gazette Issue 35 December 1998

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