I recently had a customer that was having some issues with using an XP Home PC as a file server… not an ideal solution, but since the office only had about 3 PCs, it should have worked.
Anyway, I can’t see the problem in action (its intermittent), so I take a guess that it might have something to do with the low limit on concurrent connections that you get with XP Home.
I check for any obvious problems with the server, but no major problems there. I also do some tuning.
A few days later, I’m told the problem is still there (ie sometimes printing doesn’t work, sometimes the network shares are not visible, sometimes network connections are lost/disconnected, and often, accessing network files is slow.
So I setup a “loan” server PC, and decide to use linux, together with Samba for file sharing and print serving.
I tried out Mepis Linux, but found that Samba somehow didn’t work well… So I eventually settled on PCLinuxOS 2009. I setup a Samba shared folder, and made sure all the permissions/security was set to “no security” (which is what the existing XP server had). I Also looked at the Samba website and followed their examples, to be sure I had everything setup correctly.
I also updated all the Samba packages, so I’d have the latest versions.
A test at my office worked well, but when I took the new server to the customer, I found my first stumbling block: All the Windows PCs were running Vista… After some initial problems, the extra Vista security seemed to cause ongoing security problems (only 1 PC kept asking the user for a username/password for accessing the shared folder, despite ticking the “remember password” box… all the other Vista PCs worked seamlessly).
The next problem was getting Linux to act as a print server (just like Sharing printers in XP). Well, it wasn’t as easy as sharing a printer in XP… it took me about 3 separate visits before I got it going.
Then the Samba file sharing got worse: Other PCs started asking for username/password (where they didn’t previously).
In the end, although Linux should make a great windows file and print server, in this case it just wasn’t to be.
I eventually re-commissioned the original PC, but uninstalled any software that wasn’t needed and tuned the PC for the best performance… and installed a gigabit Network switch (in case there were any network bottlenecks).
So far, the “improved” XP home server is now working well, and hasn’t missed a beat.
In the end, I’m left thinking: It shouldn’t be this difficult to make Linux/Samba work in a Vista environment.
I’ve managed to make Linux/Samba work well in an XP environment, but somehow, Vista seemed to cause extra problems that I couldn’t fully resolve.