Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sharing Files and Applications Across UNIX and Windows Machines

Using UNIX Servers in Windows Networks

Windows clients can access UNIX servers to obtain services without knowing that the server is actually a UNIX machine. Here are some examples of how this can be accomplished.

UNIX Servers Acting as Windows Servers

Another way to access DOS files from a UNIX environment is offered by Sun Microsystems. Sun has a platform called PC NetLink (currently version 2.0) that allows a Sun server to sit on a Windows network and perform the functions of a Windows server (NT/2000/XP). Putting the UNIX machine in the network allows users of Windows clients to get file and print services, as well as authentication services, from the UNIX server as though it were a Windows server.

UNIX Servers Providing Transparent Services to Windows Clients

The Apache Web server is an example of a UNIX server environment that provides complete web server functionality to Windows clients. While Microsoft has its own web server called IIS (Internet Information Services), many hybrid-network administrators choose to use the Apache Web server due to its functionality, security, portability (it runs on all versions of Windows as well as UNIX variants), and cost (Apache is free).

A Windows user requesting web services from an Apache server does not see anything different than when using IIS. This is because the user sees only the browser interface (e.g., Mozilla or Internet Explorer).

Virtual Network Computing (VNC)

Virtual Network Computing was originally developed at AT&T. It consists of remote control software that allows you to view (using a program called the viewer) and interact with another computer (called the server) anywhere on the Internet. The two computers can be running different operating systems; for example, you can use VNC to view a Linux machine in your office on your Windows home computer. One of the key features of VNC is the capability to assume control of the remote networked computer as though it were your local machine. This is made possible by a technique called the RFB (Remote Frame Buffer) protocol, which transmits inputs across the network and transmits the resulting screen back to the initiating computer.

VNC has a wide range of applications, including system administration, IT support, and help desks. It allows several connections to the same desktop and can be used for collaborative (shared) work in the office environment. It also has applications in electronic classrooms. VNC is freely and publicly available. You can find more about it at either http://www.vnc.com/ or http://www.realvnc.com/.

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