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4 August, 2005
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Linux for Windows Users

In Pursuit of Good Desktop Linux:

Network Neighborhood and MS Windows Partitions

You can get access to shared files and devices on other computers on your LAN with almost any Linux distribution. The difference across Linux distributions is how much hassle and expertise it takes to do that.

Mike Angelo -- 4 August 2005 (C) -- Page 2

Article Index

Terms and Simplified Definitions

Local Computer: The computer at which you are sitting.

Mount: (Oversimplified) Picture a now old-fashioned mainframe computer with a row of those huge, 2400-foot magnetic, data-tape reels spinning. In those days, the computer operator had to physically mount and un-mount those reels of tape. The notion of mounting and un-mounting data storage devices such as tapes, hard drives, CD ROM drives, and so forth still applies to Unix and Linux operating systems. So, in Linux, any data storage device must be mounted before you can access it. The same thing goes for shares on remote networked computers. Before a Linux-based computer can access a remote share, that share must be mounted on your local computer. Fortunately, these days you can mount and un-mount devices with a few keystrokes and/or mouse clicks rather than run around a big room physically mounting and un-mounting them. (See Mount Point, below.)

Mount Point: The place or point at which you mount a device such as a hard drive, floppy drive, or remote shared resource. In Linux, that usually amounts to directory name. Typically for example, your CD-ROM drive is mounted at /mnt/cdrom and your floppy drive is mounted at /mnt/floppy. (See Mount, above.)

NFS: Network file System, the native Linux networking file system.

Remote Computer: any computer on a computer network, including the Internet, which you access through your local computer.

Please see More Terms and Simplified Definitions on page 3.

How the Linux Distros Match Up on Network and Local File Accessibility

For several months now, we have been looking over the latest releases of five important Linux distributions, Fedora, Mandriva, Novell, SUSE, and Xandros. We compared them using our Pogo Linux Altura64 test system and using multi-boot technology.

Only one Linux Distro matched up out-of-the-box on both the criteria of (a) access to shared files on other computers on our LAN and (b) access to MS Windows files on the box on which it was installed. That distro is Xandros Business 3. Mandriva Limited Edition 2005 came very, very close.

  • Xandros Desktop OS Business Edition 3

Xandros has a family of GNU-Linux products ranging from a free download version up to the Xandros Managed Desktop Bundle (5 Seat License) for ($645). These Linux desktop products from Xandros are specifically designed to have the same look and feel as do the Microsoft Windows OS and desktop -- but they run on top of the GNU-Linux operating system rather than the MS Windows OS.

Please take a look at Figure 2, the Xandros File Manager (XFM), below. Notice the similarity between MyLinux in the Xandros File Manager and My Computer in MS Windows. Also notice the similarity between the Network Neighborhood of MS Windows (Figure 1, on page 1) and the Windows Network in Xandros (Figure 2, below).

The look and feel are so similar that if you know how to use the MS Windows My Computer, you know how to use the Xandros MyLinux. Likewise, if you know how to use the MS Windows Network Neighborhood, you know how to use the Xandros Windows Network. That helps to make migration from MS Windows to GNU-Linux an easy transition with Xandros Desktop OS.

Additionally, the business edition of the Xandros Desktop OS ($129) includes CodeWeavers' CrossOver Office -- a suite of application programming interfaces (APIs) that let you run the Microsoft Office suite of programs and many other programs for MS Windows on Linux-based systems. It also includes StarOffice 7 from Sun -- a product designed as an alternative to MS Office. StarOffice is a commercial version of OpenOffice.

The inclusion of CrossOver Office helps to make migration from MS Windows to GNU-Linux an easy transition with the business edition of Xandros Desktop OS.

The latest release is the Xandros Desktop OS Business Edition 3. It has its own file manager, the Xandros File Manager (XFM). For you MS Windows users, the file managers most commonly used in Microsoft Windows are My Computer and Windows Explorer.

After Xandros Desktop OS Business Edition 3 was installed on our Pogo Linux Altura64 test system, the Xandros File Manager was opened. Voila'!

The four MS Windows partitions on the Pogo Altura64 had been mounted and were immediately available in XFM -- out-of-the-box. This was something that of the five distros looked at; only Xandros and Mandriva did it. Please see Figure 2, below, and Figure 3, on page 3.

Figure 2. the Xandros File Manager (XFM). Notice the similarity between MyLinux in the Xandros File Manager and My Computer in MS Windows. Also notice the similarity between the Network Neighborhood of MS Windows and the Windows Network in Xandros.

Additionally, Xandros automatically located all the other computers on the LAN and mounted the shares on those computers in XFM -- out-of-the-box. This was something none of the other four distros looked at did out-of-the-box.

The other computers on the LAN are mounted in the Windows Network section of XFM's MyLinux shown in Figure 2, above. The Workgroups are M and W and the computers are Pow, Duron-, Sq, and Xan.

  • See Mandriva Limited Edition 2005 - Download Edition on Page 3 ----->
  • Article Index

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