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4: Samba Overview
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Samba is a Portuguese word meaning a rhythm and a dance and is derived from the West African Bantu language term semba, meaning to pray or invoke the spirits of ancestors. As a Bantu verb semba means "to cry" or "the blues." In Brazil, a Samba is a woman who is a sacred dancer. In the world of UNIX, "Samba" is a software suite for remotely sharing UNIX files and printers with networked PCs via the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol. SMB is a NetBIOS-based protocol traditionally used in LAN Manager, Windows, and OS/2 networks for accessing remote files and printers, collectively known as shares (see 3). SMB provides a seamless interface between network resources and desktop applications that is often more tightly integrated and transparent than commonly used alternatives like PC-NFS, FTP, and LPR. Samba is a UNIX implementation of SMB-overTCP/IP (NBT, see RFC 1001 and RFC 1002). From a Windows or LAN Manager desktop perspective, Samba-shared UNIX resources appear just as if they were residing on another Windows or LAN Manager server. No special desktop client software is required. Source code and binary distributions are free to anyone interested in the product. We will cover Samba distribution sites in the next chapter.
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Figure 4.1: Samba home page
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Samba History
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Samba is the brainchild of Andrew Tridgell. It all started in December 1991, while he was working as a graduate student in the Computer Sciences Laboratory at Australian National University. According to his own account (see http://us3.samba.org/samba/ftp/docs/history), Andrew came up with the idea of trying to reverse-engineer the file-sharing protocol used in Digital Equipment Corporation's Pathworks network for DOS while testing a beta copy of DEC's eXcursion software. eXcursion provides X Windows services for PCs. Testing eXcursion required that he abandon PC-NFS for file sharing and mount disk space using Pathworks. The problem was that Pathworks limited his network file service options to DEC platforms running Ultrix or VMS. Being an open systems-minded fellow, Andrew decided to eavesdrop on Pathworks network traffic to see if it might be possible to port the protocol to other platforms. This required an extra bit of research on network programming and the building of a software tool to capture network packets off the wire. After poring over the bits and bytes of Pathworks' packet data, he was able to prototype a few basic file operations on a Sun computer he used as a development platform. Additional investigations in the protocol ultimately led him to the NBT RFC literature. Although apparently uncertain how the NBT specification related to his SMB implementation, he continued to refine the code and in January 1992, "Server 0.1" was born. Over the next few months, Andrew continued porting the software to other non-DEC platforms. This work also included a smattering of bug fixes and additional improvements. The time had come to brand the software with a real version number. "Server 1.0" was ready and subsequently released to the Internet community. Then like any good software development project, the code was left to ferment for a couple of years under public scrutiny. The project was brought back out of the cobwebs after receiving a note of interest concerning the software from Linux aficionado Dan Shearer. There was also a request from DEC to include the software on their Alpha-contributed works CD. A bit of Linux-to-PC home networking and the discovery of the full Microsoft SMB specification gave the development effort an additional push. In December 1993, the project resurfaced as "NetBIOS for UNIX." "Server" was temporarily recoined as "smbserver" however; the name
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was later discarded due to a trademark dispute with Syntax. In search of a new name for the software, Andrew looked through the UNIX /usr/dict/words database for a term that included the letters SMB. There on the screen in glowing phosphoresce was "Samba." He claims that when repeating the process now, the word seems to be missing from the database. Very spooky!
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