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Final Samba steps

Aug 11, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

Last week we dug into the Samba system and suggested that you download a copy so we could set it up. Given the number of possible server operating systems that Samba is available on, we’re going to overview this procedure over Linux.

Depending on which Linux distribution you use, you can choose to install: a binary version you compile from source, which is likely to be mandatory if you have compiled a custom Linux kernel; a pre-compiled binary version, which is usually at a lower release level than you would get from compiling from the latest source; or as a “package” – in the case of Red Hat Linux, this is the “rpm” version.

For those of you not familiar with RPM the acronym is for Red Hat Package Manager, a powerful software management system that installs, removes, upgrades, verifies and builds RPM archives. These archives are files of the type .rpm that include source and or binaries, package identification data, component checksums and scripts for carrying out various operations.

There are all sorts of variants of package managers available for different Linux distributions such as the ancient Slackware Linux installpkg through to Debian’s apt and Red Hat’s rpm. The Samba site has downloadable packages for most of the mainstream package managers, which you’ll find in the appropriate operating system subdirectory.

Down to business

As much as we’d like to discuss the intricacies of compiling Samba and running package managers, space prohibits, so we’ll suggest that you check the documentation for your operating system and the version of Samba you downloaded.

Once you have installed Samba it needs to be configured. Under Red Hat Linux 9 the configuration file is named smb.conf and is created by the rpm processes in /etc/samba.

Here’s a simple configuration file:


workgroup = GEARHEAD

encrypt passwords = no


comment = My documents

path = /home/mgibbs/documents

read only = no

guest ok = yes

The global section above declares that we’re defining a workgroup named GEARHEAD and that we don’t want to use encrypted passwords (the next version of Samba, Version 3, won’t need this command because passwords will be encrypted by default). The myshare section defines a share of the same name that has both read and write privileges and has guest access enabled (a horribly unsecure combination).

Now, while you can set up Samba’s configuration file by hand, you might prefer to use GUI-based applications such as the Samba Web Administration Tool (SWAT), or if you are running Red Hat Linux 9, the Samba Configuration tool called redhat-config-samba. But while these tools are good – SWAT is by far the most sophisticated – if you need complex custom parameters, there’s no alternative but to get down and dirty with a text editor.

And when you make changes to a Samba configuration – particularly when you’ve edited it by hand – you will have the problem of trying to figure out if the configuration will work. Before you do anything else you should run the program testparm, which scans the configuration file for syntactic errors and dumps all defined and defaulted parameter values to the console.

Armed with this information and with the assistance of the Samba help files, you should be able to get a working SMB service up and running. We also would highly recommend that you get a copy of Using Samba by Ts, Eckstein and Collier-Brown (O’Reilly, 2003) – an invaluable and thorough reference to the Samba system.

Next week will be something completely different. In the meantime share your data with


Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

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