UNIX and Linux users have long been accustomed to networking over NFS, or Network File System. It’s been around for a quarter of a century, was made popular by SunOS, and if you can stomach it’s myriad security flaws, it’s always been the quickest, dirtiest way to share files between disparate systems. With the upcoming Windows 7, Microsoft has (finally!) deemed it neccesary to provide proper NFS client support (and requisite MMC snap-in) to consumer Windows.
First, set up NFS exports on the server- in my case a Ubuntu desktop. An /etc/exports file may look like this:
/home 192.168.1.0/24 (rw, async, insecure)
/opt 192.168.1.2 (rw, async, insecure)
/usr/share *.op.us (ro, insecure)
That’s it- three fields. The filesystem branch to export, names of allowed hosts (as IP address, netmask, or hostname, with wildcards if that makes your life easier), and whatever options you need to provide. The “insecure” option allows requests from ports above 1024. In the *nix world, only root can bind to a secure port. The ‘async’ option tells NFS to place a higher priority on client responses than to writing out to local disks, the result being improved performance with an increased risk of data loss. There are many more options- consult the manpages or this guide to NFS on Linux.
On the Windows side, you mount an NFS export much like any other network share, by issuing a command such as
mount [options] //nfs-server-unc-name/share-name [drive letter]
This is assuming, of course, that you’ve installed Client Services for NFS under Windows. NFS support is one of those optional packages that is available via the Add/Remove Software wizard in the Control Panel.
Once mounted, your Linux shares will appear as any other drive in Windows:
Perhaps best of all, by right-clicking on the share’s drive icon and selecting ‘Add to library…’, your NFS shares can be rolled into a library (libraries were discussed in this previous post) for sharing across Windows 7 homegroups.
Repurposing old, low-end hardware (running Linux) as a personal file server just got a lot easier.