Contributor: Andrew Tridgell and the Samba Team
Date: June 27, 1997
Satus: Always out of date! (Would not be the same without it!)
Subject: A bit of history and a bit of fun
This is a short history of this project. It's not supposed to be
comprehensive, just enough so that new users can get a feel for where
this project has come from and maybe where it's going to.
The whole thing really started in December 1991. I was (and still am)
a PhD student in the Computer Sciences Laboratory at the Australian
National University, in Canberra, Australia. We had just got a
beta copy of eXcursion from Digital, and I was testing it on my PC. At
this stage I was a MS-DOS user, dabbling in windows.
eXcursion ran (at the time) only with Dec's `Pathworks' network for
DOS. I had up till then been using PC-NFS to connect to our local sun
workstations, and was reasonably happy with it. In order to run
pathworks I had to stop using PC-NFS and try using pathworks to mount
disk space. Unfortunately pathworks was only available for digital
workstations running VMS or Ultrix so I couldn't mount from the suns
I had access to a a decstation 3100 running Ultrix that I used to
administer, and I got the crazy notion that the protocol that
pathworks used to talk to ultrix couldn't be that hard, and maybe I
could work it out. I had never written a network program before, and
certainly didn't know what a socket was.
In a few days, after looking at some example code for sockets, I
discovered it was pretty easy to write a program to "spy" on the file
sharing protocol. I wrote and installed this program (the sockspy.c
program supplied with this package) and captured everything that the
pathworks client said to the pathworks server.
I then tried writing short C programs (using Turbo C under DOS) to do
simple file operations on the network drive (open, read, cd etc) and
looked at the packets that the server and client exchanged. From this
I worked out what some of the bytes in the packets meant, and started
to write my own program to do the same thing on a sun.
After a day or so more I had my first successes and actually managed
to get a connection and to read a file. From there it was all
downhill, and a week later I was happily (if a little unreliably)
mounting disk space from a sun to my PC running pathworks. The server
code had a lot of `magic' values in it, which seemed to be always
present with the ultrix server. It was not till 2 years later that I
found out what all these values meant.
Anyway, I thought other people might be interested in what I had done,
so I asked a few people at uni, and noone seemed much interested. I
also spoke to a person at Digital in Canberra (the person who had
organised a beta test of eXcursion) and asked if I could distribute
what I'd done, or was it illegal. It was then that I first heard the
word "netbios" when he told me that he thought it was all covered by a
spec of some sort (the netbios spec) and thus what I'd done was not
only legal, but silly.
I found the netbios spec after asking around a bit (the RFC1001 and
RFC1002 specs) and found they looked nothing like what I'd written, so
I thought maybe the Digital person was mistaken. I didn't realise RFCs
referred to the name negotiation and packet encapsulation over TCP/IP,
and what I'd written was really a SMB implementation.
Anyway, he encouraged me to release it so I put out "Server 0.1" in
January 1992. I got quite a good response from people wanting to use
pathworks with non-digital unix workstations, and I soon fixed a few
bugs, and released "Server 0.5" closely followed by "Server 1.0". All
three releases came out within about a month of each other.
At this point I got an X Terminal on my desk, and I no longer needed eXcursion
and I prompty forgot about the whole project, apart from a few people
who e-mailed me occasionally about it.
Nearly two years then passed with just occasional e-mails asking about
new versions and bugs. I even added a note to the ftp site asking for
a volunteer to take over the code as I no longer used it. No one
During this time I did hear from a couple of people who said it should
be possible to use my code with Lanmanager, but I never got any
One e-mail I got about the code did, however, make an impression. It
was from Dan Shearer at the university of South Australia, and he said
I heard a hint about a free Pathworks server for Unix in the
Net channel of the Linux list. After quite a bit of chasing
(and lots of interested followups from other Linux people) I
got hold of a release news article from you, posted in Jan 92,
from someone in the UK.
Can you tell me what the latest status is? I think you might
suddenly find a whole lot of interested hackers in the Linux
world at least, which is a place where things tend to happen
fast (and even some reliable code gets written, BION!)
I asked him what Linux was, and he told me it was a free Unix for PCs.
This was in November 1992 and a few months later I was a Linux
convert! I still didn't need a pathworks server though, so I didn't do
the port, but I think Dan did.
At about this time I got an e-mail from Digital, from a person working
on the Alpha software distribution. He asked if I would mind if they
included my server with the "contributed" cd-rom. This was a bit of a
shock to me as I never expected Dec to ask me if they could use my
code! I wrote back saying it was OK, but never heard from him again. I
don't know if it went on the cd-rom.
Anyway, the next big event was in December 1993, when Dan again sent
me an e-mail saying my server had "raised its ugly head" on
comp.protocols.tcpip.ibmpc. I had a quick look on the group, and was
surprised to see that there were people interested in this thing.
At this time a person from our computer center offered me a couple of
cheap ethernet cards (3c505s for $15 each) and coincidentially someone
announced on one of the Linux channels that he had written a 3c505
driver for Linux. I bought the cards, hacked the driver a little and
setup a home network between my wifes PC and my Linux box. I then
needed some way to connect the two, and I didn't own PC-NFS at home,
so I thought maybe my server could be useful. On the newsgroup among
the discussions of my server someone had mentioned that there was a
free client that might work with my server that Microsoft had put up
for ftp. I downloaded it and found to my surprise that it worked first
time with my `pathworks' server!
Well, I then did a bit of hacking, asked around a bit and found (I
think from Dan) that the spec I needed was for the "SMB" protocol, and
that it was available via ftp. I grabbed it and started removing all
those ugly constants from the code, now that all was explained.
On December 1st 1993 I announced the start of the "Netbios for Unix"
project, seeding the mailing list with all the people who had e-mailed
me over the years asking about the server.
About 35 versions (and two months) later I wrote a short history of
the project, which you have just read. There are now over a hundred
people on the mailing list, and lots of people report that they use
the code and like it. In a few days I will be announcing the release
of version 1.6 to some of the more popular (and relevant) newsgroups.
6th February 1994
It is now May 1995 and there are about 1400 people on the mailing
list. I got downloads from the main Samba ftp site from around 5000
unique hosts in a two month period. There are several mirror
sites as well. The current version number is 1.9.13.
It's now March 1996 and version 1.9.16alpha1 has just been
released. There have been lots of changes recently with master browser
support and the ability to do domain logons etc. Samba has also been
ported to OS/2, the amiga and NetWare. There are now 3000 people on
the samba mailing list.
It's now June 1997 and samba-1.9.17 is due out soon. My how time passes!
Please refer to the WHATSNEW.txt for an update on new features. Just when
you think you understand what is happening the ground rules change - this
is a real world after all. Since the heady days of March 1996 there has
been a concerted effort within the SMB protocol using community to document
and standardize the protocols. The CIFS initiative has helped a long way
towards creating a better understood and more interoperable environment.
The Samba Team has grown in number and have been very active in the standards
formation and documentation process.
The net effect has been that we have had to do a lot of work to bring Samba
into line with new features and capabilities in the SMB protocols.
The past year has been a productive one with the following releases:
1.9.16, 1.9.16p2, 1.9.16p6, 1.9.16p9, 1.9.16p10, 1.9.16p11
There are some who believe that 1.9.15p8 was the best release and others
who would not want to be without the latest. Whatever your perception we
hope that 1.9.17 will close the gap and convince you all that the long
wait and the rolling changes really were worth it. Here is functionality
and a level of code maturity that ..., well - you can be the judge!
Happy SMB networking!
ps: The bugs are ours, so please report any you find.
It's now October 1998. We just got back from the 3rd CIFS conference
in SanJose. The Samba Team was the biggest contingent there.
Samba 2.0 should be shipping in the next few weeks with much better
domain controller support, GUI configuration, a new user space SMB
filesystem and lots of other neat stuff. I've also noticed that a
search of job ads in DejaNews turned up 3900 that mention Samba. Looks
like we've created a small industry.
I've been asked again where the name Samba came from. I might as well
put it down here for everyone to read. The code in Samba was first
called just "server", it then got renamed "smbserver" when I
discovered that the protocol is called SMB. Then in April 1994 I got
an email from Syntax, the makers of "TotalNet advanced Server", a
commercial SMB server. They told me that they had a trademark on the
name SMBserver and I would have to change the name. I ran an egrep for
words containing S, M, and B on /usr/dict/words and the name Samba
looked like the best choice. Strangely enough when I repeat that now I
notice that Samba isn't in /usr/dict/words on my system anymore!