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Sharing files over a network with NFS

By Paul Stewart. Published: 15th Sep 2004, 14:49:47 | Permalink | Printable

RISC OS, Windows and Linux getting friendly [Updated]

As users chose to supplement their RISC OS computers with a second machine, there grows a need to manage files over a network. With this in mind, Paul Stewart guides us through evaluating and configuring NFS with RISC OS and Windows.

Mini-Howto Networking RISC OS to a Windows PC is sometimes problematic. Various articles have been written on the issue in the past, whether they be about the physical connection or the configuration of RISC OS and Microsoft Windows.

The traditional way of connecting to Windows machines is via LanMan supplied as part of OmniClient by way of the SMB (or Samba) protocol. LanMan isn't particularly hot, with restrictions on filenames and speed. Much more satisfactory solutions are found in LanMan98 and LanManFS (although the RISC OS 5 version has notable bugs), which can be effective solutions. However, with more recent Windows versions (i.e. XP), it often involves altering settings deep within the Windows Registry in order to make it work.

Whilst SMB's origins are Windows, the Unix world has traditionally used NFS (Network filing system) for the sharing of files, and its use continues to be widespread. SMB and NFS also have slightly different security models - SMB is user/password based, whilst NFS relies upon Unix user ID and group ID access.

NFS is supported by RISC OS through OmniClient's NFS filesytem (which again has filename restrictions and is slow), Warm Silence Software's ImageNFS (commercial) and the recently developed Sunfish, by Alex Waugh. Sunfish is released under the GNU Public license. Under Linux and other Unixes, NFS is unsurprisingly, an integral part of the operating system. For Windows, an NFS server is provided by TrueGuid NFS discussed below.

Unlike ShareFS, which is a peer-to-peer file sharing system, both NFS and SMB have distinct clients and servers. This distinction is important because, for example, there's no NFS server for RISC OS meaning you can't browse your RISC OS files via NFS from Windows (although you could use the RISC OS Samba server). Below, we'll discuss how you can go about setting up an NFS system between your RISC OS and Windows computers.

  • A RISC OS computer, connected to an existing TCP/IP network.
  • An NFS client - for the purpose of this article we will be using Sunfish, available from here.
  • A Windows computer, connected to an existing TCP/IP network.
  • An NFS Server - for the purpose of this article we will be using True Grid NFS version 1. True Grid NFS server can be downloaded freely from here.

Before we begin, make sure you read through this article first to get an idea of what you need to do, and then get cracking with the installation and configuration steps.

Installing True Grid NFS server (Microsoft Windows)
Installing and configuring your NFS Server is easy. The NFS server is supplied as a single zip file. Unzip the file, using something suitable like Winzip, to a location of your choice. For the purpose of this article, we will assume you have unzipped it to C:NFS and that your operating system is installed to C:Windows and is WindowsNT based.

  1. Create folder "etc" in C:Windows
  2. Copy file C:NFSrpc to C:Windowsetc
  3. Copy file CNFSexports to C:Windowsetc

The Exports file is the method used by the True Grid NFS server to share folders and full details of the available options are included in the text files within the C:NFS folder. Your attention should be directed to install.txt. By use of the exports file you are able to share whole discs or just sub-folders. Security can also be applied to the shares and well as making them read only.

It is recommend you read the installation instructions provided within the NFS folder and the examples in the exports file to ensure you implement the most appropriate security for your installation.

True Grid NFS server comes pre-configured with both the C: and D: drives shared without any security implemented. The default shares are share access is everybody read/write, so be warned. The various options available for security are covered in the text files available in the C:NFS folder - see figure 1.

Screenshot of Windows filer
Figure 1

When running TrueGrid NFS server on a Windows NT platform (ie: Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP), you can set the NFS server to start automatically as a service, as shown in figure 2.

Screenshot of Windows command prompt
Figure 2

  1. Open a command prompt on Windows
  2. Navigate to the NFS folder "cd c:nfs"
  3. Type "PORTMAP add" (which adds TrueGrid PORTMAP service).
  4. Type "NFS add" (this adds TrueGrid NFS as a service).
  5. Type "NFS start" (starts PORTMAP AND NFS services).

Your NFS server is now started. By default, your C: and D: drives are shared without any security via the NFS server. The default share names are /c and /d.

Screenshot of editing settings file
Figure 3: Example c:windowsetcexports file

Installing Sunfish NFS client (RISC OS)
Download Sunfish from http://www.cp15.org/internet/. Sunfish is supplied as a zip archive and unzip this to a location of your choice. For the purpose of this article, we will assume it has been unzipped to $.Network.Sunfish.

Double click on !Sunfish and an icon will be installed on the left hand of the iconbar. Left or right clicking on the icon will open the Sunfish:mounts folder (this will be empty) (see Fig 4).

Sunfish mounts filer window
Figure 4

There are two ways to create a connection:
  • Manually create it using your favourite text editor. More information about this is provided within the Sunfish program documentation.
  • Create a new connection from within the program.

For the purpose of this article, the latter option will be used.

Sunfish menu
Figure 5

Press the middle mouse button whilst over the Sunfish iconbar icon and select 'New mount'. From the Create mount window (see Figure 6 below), the basics you need to connect to the default configuration of the TrueGrid NFS server are:
This is the physical name of your Windows workstation.
This is the name of the NFS share, as defined in the C:Windowsetcexports file
Mount leafname
This is the friendly RISC OS name for the share.

Type in the details appropriate to your installation.

Create mount window
Figure 6

Click the 'Create' button to create and open the share. As figure 7 shows, the share is automatically saved in the Sunfish:mounts folder and opened.

Sunfish window showing Windows mount icon
Figure 7

You can now begin accessing the files on the remote computer via the standard RISC OS filer window. All of the standard file operations are supported, such as copy, rename, delete and new directory. Working with the NFS share is as easy as working on your local hard disc.

Windows hard disc mounted in a RISC OS filer window
Figure 8: Your Windows PC mounted on RISC OS

The speed should be more than than acceptable (although a 100Mbit connection on an Iyonix may be a significant improvement over a RiscPC's typically 10Mbit connection). MP3 music files and MPEG movies run without any issues from the remote workstation. Below is figure 9, which is a table produced from David Holden‘s HDspeed test program. This gives a comparison based on accessing an 8MB file from my local ADFS drive, the remote computer using OmniClient NFS and the remote computer using Sunfish NFS. The results produced are an interesting read.

Table of benchmark results
Figure 9

Performed using a StrongARM 287MHz RPC, 50MB RAM, 100MB Simtec NIC, RISC OS Select 4.39. Remote PC is an AMD Athlon 1200, 512MB RAM, 3COM 10/100 NIC and Windows XP Pro (SP1a)

NFS on Linux
Setting up an NFS server on Linux can be a bit trickier, and we won't cover the full details here, since they can be quite involved. What you will need to install is an NFS server - under Debian you will need nfs-kernel-server if your kernel has NFS support in it (which gives better performance) or nfs-user-server.

The important file determining shares is /etc/exports ('man exports' describes this page in detail), and the exact setup can be notoriously difficult to get wrong for beginners. Don't forget to restart the server once this file is changed (/etc/init.d/nfs-kernel-server restart under Debian, for example).

One difference you might note with NFS versus Samba on Linux is that is NFS server doesn't resolve absolute symlinks - although in most cases this probably isn't a problem.

The NFS way of accessing files on a Windows workstations is easy to setup, configure and use. Whether or not you find it easier to use than a Samba solution will depend upon your familiarity with Windows and RISC OS networking - many users may already have a perfectly working Samba setup. Apart from its easy setup, some of the advantages of NFS over other solutions are:
  • Free client and server software
  • Long filenames
  • Ease of installation and configuration for basic use

There you have it - don't be shy, give NFS a try yourself and see if you agree.

Update at 22:33 16/9/2004
Paul's updated us with some instructions for setting up the new Windows firewall in service pack 2 to work with the above NFS guide. You can read it all here.


SunFish NFS client
True Grid NFS
LanMan98 and ImageNFS (Warm Silence Software)
RISC OS Samba server
Linux NFS guide Additional content by Drobe staff

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Excellent HowTo - thanks very much for this. I've successfully got my XP box up and running with Sunfish in minutes. Nice to at least have long filename use :o).

Now, the only thing I've got left to do is get my dialup internet account on the PC working from the RISC OS box. Anyone able to write a mini-Howto on that???

 is a RISC OS Usermd0u80c9 on 15/9/04 10:38PM
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Very interesting - I wasn't even aware that Sunfish existed.

 is a RISC OS Userjohn on 15/9/04 10:43PM
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Thanks for a very interesting article.

Something I could not tell from the article or screenshots; does it add the annoying ",fff" to the end of filenames? Or does it just leave as is? As someone who transfers files between RISC OS and other OSs a lot that particular thing annoyed me in the past with NFS. Also how does ImageNFS compare in speed?

 is a RISC OS Userdansguardian on 16/9/04 12:34AM
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dansguardian: Judging from figure 9, no, it doesn't add ',fff' like another networking app does. It performs filetyping correctly, as far as I'm aware - it was Paul and Peter who worked on the article, so I haven't had a chance to play with Sunfish in detail.

I personally have all my music and source code on the RiscPC, and this runs !smbserver so that the Linux PC can access the files. I'm told I'm slightly mad for doing it this way round, so I may get a larger hdd for the Linux PC, and use Sunfish on the RPC to get at the files on it.

andrew (md0u80c9): You're in luck as sharing a connection is fairly painless with RISC OS and a recent version of Windows, if you know where to look. I've shared dial up and broadband with RISC OS and Windows XP (Home) before (XP acting as the gateway), so I'll see if another howto can be written.

I'll google first to see if an existing guide already exists, though, as I recall seeing one recently.

Chris. Just me.

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 16/9/04 12:48AM
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Which "it"? There are a number of pieces of software under consideration here. Adding the ,xxx filetypes (or lack thereof) is a function of the RISC OS client and is discussed in detail in: [link]

Adding the text fff type is usually incorrect, as this should be the default filetype as the article explains.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 16/9/04 8:03AM
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Well, in-favor of not adding comments to old threads:

Any reason why mime-types havn't been used, it would add a layer of complication but a full set of filetype/mime-type translations for RISC OS can't be a bad thing, and pretty good file-extention/mime-type tables exist for the PC world... I always hated having ,xxx on the end of files anyway :)

 is a RISC OS UserNoMercy on 16/9/04 12:56PM
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so assume! ;) If you look in !Sunfish.c.imageentry_common, you'll see how it does fileypes in filename_to_finfo(). It does use mimemap.

You can from the GUI configure it to always add ',xyz'; add ',xyz' only when needed; or never add ',xyz'.

I have it working with NFS on my Debian Linux PC. S'pretty cool imho.

Chris. Just me.

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 16/9/04 1:10PM
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I'm not aware of any software of this type that doesn't use mimemap.

Mimemap tends to make things simpler, not add complexity.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 16/9/04 1:56PM
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There /is/ an NFS server for RISC OS. Called, shockingly, !NFSServer. By Dickon Hood. I've never really played with it so couldn't comment on how good it is.

 is a RISC OS Usercaliston2 on 16/9/04 8:50PM
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thanks for this great - step-by-step - article. it brought me to my first good and fast connection between WinXP [SP II] & iyonix 5.07.

but the following problems occur - maybe somebody has an idea how to resolve them?:

1. i have to switch off the winXP-firewall, or else i get the error: 'connection timed out' on my iyonix. is there a way to get the connection to work with the firewall switched on?

2. copying files larger than say 40 mb from iyo to win gives 'error while writing - connection timed out' errors. is there a fix for this?

3. it seems i have to study the article 921 mrchocky refers to, because some files get some ,xyz-additions while copied over from iyo to win.

 is a RISC OS Usermarch on 16/9/04 8:53PM
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i have submitted an update to Chris @ Drobe which explains how to get around the firewall problem. Look out for it being posted on here soon.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 16/9/04 9:26PM
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Does the same firewall change apply to LanMan too? XP SP2's firewall isn't the best invention AFAICT.

 is a RISC OS Usermd0u80c9 on 16/9/04 10:21PM
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md0u80c9, probably not. I believe LanMan will use different ports.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 16/9/04 10:25PM
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Could you submit the ports for LanMan as well if you know them? 'Twould be useful. The combination of being able to operate the XP firewall properly with LanMan and NFS, and having my PC connection shared on my RISC OS box would be an excellent combination :o).

BTW - nice work Drobe - the article has been linked to OSNews already; for a non-OS-related piece, that's not bad :o).

 is a RISC OS Usermd0u80c9 on 16/9/04 10:37PM
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Wow - is Sunfish really that much faster? How typical! Omni comes with RISC OS Select... and the (free) Sunfish is faster... nice one!

 is a RISC OS Userharmsy on 17/9/04 7:56AM
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When was the last time Omni Client was updated? Isn't the version ROL supply just the same old original version that Acorn did, and therefore subject the exactly the same limitiations. I for one would like to see Omni Client overhaulled and brought into the 21st century. But until then, we have some great free software such as Sunfish to help us out.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 17/9/04 8:03AM
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Has anyone tried to use the (now free) Services for Unix [link] from Microsoft ? That also includes an NFS server.

 is a RISC OS Userjoty on 18/9/04 1:53PM
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Well forgive my ignorance over the mime-type issue, I didn't spot any references to it in the aritcle, and my only expierence has been with things which don't use mime-types but add horrid ,xxx extentions to the ends of files which allows RISC OS files to be saved on other systems but makes a horrid mess of cross-plaform compatability.

Now if only I hadn't given away my spare monitor I could plug my R7500 back in to test it out :/

 is a RISC OS UserNoMercy on 18/9/04 3:08PM
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Thanks for this guide, needed 10GB transferred from my Iyonix to my PC and within 2 minutes had it working with the aid of this guide. Tried everything including FTPs. :D

 is a RISC OS Userianscott on 18/9/04 4:22PM
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It work's good, but I had problems with the XP firewall. The port of the mountd will change with every start of the NFS server. Take a look to "rpcinfo -p". It seems, that the port moves between 600 and 999. So I wrote a little batch file to open this 399 ports only for my Risc PC (one line):

for /L %%i in (600,1,999) do netsh firewall add portopening protocol = udp port = %%i name = mountd_%%i mode = ENABLE scope = CUSTOM addresses =

I only manage to run FTPs with the first public version of FTPs. All other versions doesn't run with FTPc. The first FTP Client for Windows I found and which works with FTPc was Filezilla.

It seems, that NFS works better than FTPs.

 is a RISC OS Usersolrac on 18/9/04 9:17PM
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I can't get TrueGRID to work :(

When I type nfs start it tells me unable to register (MOUNTPROG, MOUNTVERS, udp)


 is a RISC OS Userskock on 19/9/04 11:25PM
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Joty, i am now downloading Microsoft Services For Unix. It is a 217MB download. Will install it, configure it and let you know how it goes.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 20/9/04 10:00PM
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Skock, I have had that in the past. I can't remember how i got round it. Try deleting it from your HD, including the etc folder from Windows. You will also need to delete the services. Reboot your machine, then reinstall it again. There is info in the help file for removing the services.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 20/9/04 10:02PM
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[link] has a link to the RISC OS NFSServer

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 21/9/04 10:49PM
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I mean [link]

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 16/10/04 5:52PM
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I actually mean [link]

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 16/10/04 5:56PM
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I can report that the nfsd port to cygwin does work rather nicely with !Sunfish. The only problem I've had is the server dying now and then but it can be restarted via the services manager thingy in windows.

I had the server die when copying files so I used remote desktop, restarted the nfsd service and hit 'retry' on the risc os copy dialog. seems fine.

I've also heard it said that the Windows Services for Unix NFS server doesn't work reliably with !Sunfish. Anyone care to add to this?


 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 19/11/04 12:43PM
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Windows Services for Unix, is a 250Mb download and takes a lot more configuration then the simple nsf client in the article.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 19/11/04 7:48PM
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