Notes on Desktop Publishing Applications and Samba

Introduction

This document really addresses two different audiences: Part One is for the system administrator, mostly experienced with Windows or Mac networks with little experience with Unix/Linux networks – but curious about the fuss. The second part addresses some particular tweaks to the default configuration of Samba – mostly to cope with Pagemaker and Quark Xpress in particular.

First, before, diving into the details here, please make sure you are familiar with the notes on both Pagemaker on Windows 2000 and especially Pagemaker, Desktop Publishing and Networks before trying to implement/fixing a Samba solution. The most obvious difference between supporting DTP applications and more typical office applications is the huge file sizes which are common with DTP applications.

This is mostly based on experience with testing Samba 2.2.x hosting Pagemaker 6.5 /7.0 with Windows 2000 / Mac 8.6 and to a lesser extent Quark Xpress 4.1 with Macs. That said, Samba can be a terrific file server for DTP workgroups and many of the same issues could present themselves if your hosting InDesign or Corel Ventura Publisher, Photshop and the like.

I thought Samba was a Dance?

Short, over simplified answer – Samba is an application running on Linux/Unix like based servers, which allows them to operate within a Windows domain and (optionally) act as domain controller/file server/print server for clients using SMB (Server Messaging Block) or CIFS (Common Internet File System), typically Dos, Windows or OS/2 clients. A Samba server shows up like any Windows NT/ Windows 2000 server in Network Neighborhood. Drives can be mapped to shared folders on the server. Printers can shared and installed on SMB clients. Logins can be processed and synchronized with “real” Windows servers thanks to something called winbind. The long answer is best found on the Samba site and CIFS Documentation

Samba, simply put, gives you as a network admin, a very well documented and robust solution as a file server for desktop publishing files for either Macs or Windows clients. Samba is equally adept at print serving or acting as an NT domain contriller for DTP users.

There are some inherent advantages running Samba as file server for DTP:

  • You are not limited to running Windows NT,2000 or .Net as a server platform for file serving. You can insert your own (blank) reason here.
  • Given enough horsepower, you can also host other services, although, I would avoid anything too taxing, especially in terms of file I/O, like a SQL database or internal webserver.
  • Those with even a passing familiarity with Samba can attest to one of its strengths – its tunability. One could almost say there are too many knobs to tweak.
  • With Netatalk (the Appletalk counterpart to Samba), you might avoid some of the interoperability issues with (SFM) Windows Services for Mac, which some have long complained about so-so support. I can’t say it has been a big problem for my clients, but then other parts of their networks have been designed to avoid these issues i.e. platform neutral jetdirect printer servers.
  • It makes a heterogenous network that much easier to implement. Moreover, the other choice platform for a client neutral network OS, Novell, can be problematic with DTP apps. No knock on Novell, it just has more problems than Samba with DTP apps and they are more difficult to fix.

Tuning suggestions:

I generally avoid any grapical tools for configuring Samba. The one I can suggest for the “newbies” is the module in Webmin. It is fairly easy to follow how the sections within smb.conf are laid out. Better yet, it does not completely overwrite your existing file. Some DTP applications have a long heritage and by observation, must have some old 16 bit code under the hood. Thus, you need to be looking at the parameters for dos filename behavior and file locking.Observation has shown most DTP apps will honor proper locking on a server – if – the server can create them properly. With Pagemaker, for example, will set – read / deny on files.

Defaults to change or ensure are explicitly set:

  • dos filetimes = yes is a must for Pagemaker. The default is no.
  • blocking locks = Yes
  • fake oplocks = No Real locks work much better
  • deadtime=0 or at least 30. DTP apps are more sensitive to auto disconnects.
  • Ensure off-line caching of files is completely disabled on both client and server on Win2k and XP clients.
  • Users are well advised to avoid spaces in names, and deeply nested subfolders and long paths. Honor the 66 character limit in DOS.

Parameters which might need to be set to work with some graphic programs – if you get file locking errors i.e. “File in use”. This might vary by application and version:

  • oplocks = false
  • kernel oplocks = false
  • level2 oplocks = false

Lastly, encourage users to save externally linked files in the same directory or sub-directory.

The defaults in Samba are optimized for a general purpose file server. However, they are well configured for DTP applications. Most every code level issue which could affect Samba clients has been fixed. If you have issues it is a matter of finding the correct set of options in Samba.

References:

Samba HQ

http://netatalk.sourceforge.net/

Comments? Drop us a line tech@atlantictechsolutions.com

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