A correct method of configuring Samba for browsing SMB shares in a home network

SMB
SMB (Server Message Block) is the underlying protocol that Microsoft Windows computers use to connect to resources, such as file shares and printers, and to transfer information when the connections are established. Samba is the Linux implementation of SMB that allows file and printer information to be transferred between Windows and Linux computers. An early variant of the SMB protocol is known as ‘CIFS’ (Common Internet File System). CIFS is actually obsolete, so the correct term to use these days is ‘SMB’ (see the blog post Why You Should Never Again Utter The Word, "CIFS"), although ‘CIFS’ is still used sometimes when referring to SMB.

Terminology
You are likely to come across several terms when reading about Samba, such as NetBIOS, Active Directory (AD), Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), Kerberos, Windows Internet Name Service (WINS) and Winbind, to name but a few. Most are used in larger corporate or enterprise networks but you can ignore most of them – only broadcast NetBIOS name resolution or WINS are necessary to configure Samba in small home networks. For example, my home network uses broadcast NetBIOS name resolution and sometimes has up to 15 devices connected (Linux, Windows 7/10, macOS, Android and iOS), all of which can browse file shares using SMB/Samba.

Note: You should not use Broadcast NetBIOS Name Resolution and WINS at the same time.

To explain the terminology – Active Directory is a central database of user accounts and passwords used primarily in Windows networks to authenticate users, and LDAP is the protocol that clients and servers use to access the Active Directory database. Kerberos is a separate encrypted authentication mechanism used for client-server applications, such as computers that access a specific file or web server, or SQL database. WINS is a mechanism for storing Windows computer name to IP address mappings on a central server – the WINS Server. Computers in a LAN interrogate the WINS server to obtain the IP addresses of other computers. It’s a bit like DNS except that the WINS Server stores Windows computer names rather than URLs or domain names. Winbind is a Unix/Linux mechanism that allows Windows NT accounts to look like a Unix service to Unix/Linux machines.

NetBIOS
How is NetBIOS relevant to Samba? Samba uses NetBIOS in three different ways:

  1. NetBIOS over UDP Port 137 to advertise Windows computer names for name to IP address resolution;

  2. NetBIOS over UDP Port 138 to advertise services that the computer offers and to elect a ‘Master Browser’ (explained below);

  3. SMB over NetBIOS over TCP/IP Port 139 to connect to file shares or printers. Once connected, the computers may negotiate using SMB direct over TCP/IP Port 445 to improve efficiency of the connection.

NetBIOS over UDP (Port 137) is a connectionless broadcast protocol that Windows machines use to advertise over the LAN their names and corresponding IP addresses. Other computers receive the broadcasts and cache the names and IP addresses in a name to IP address mapping table.

NetBIOS over UDP (Port 138) is a connectionless broadcast protocol that Windows machines use to advertise their eligibility to become the Master Browser or Backup Browser for a Windows Workgroup in the LAN. An automatic election process elects only one machine in a Workgroup to become the Master Browser for that workgroup, and elects one or more ‘Backup Browsers’ in the Workgroup. The Master Browser and Backup Browser(s) collate a list of all the computers in the Workgroup and the services that they offer. It is more efficient for a single computer to assume the master role and to collate the information than it is for the information to remain distributed. When you click on ‘Network’ in File Explorer’s ‘Network Neighbourhood’ window, your computer interrogates the Master Browser(s) to obtain a list of the Windows Workgroups in the LAN, the members of the Workgroup(s) and the file and printer services that each Workgroup member offers. If the Master Browser fails or is disconnected, a re-election takes place and a new Master Browser is elected from the list of Backup Browsers in that Workgroup. The same process occurs if you are using a Linux file manager (Dolphin in KDE, Nautilus in GNOME, etc.) with Samba. You can configure the ‘priority’ of the Samba server in each machine in the Workgroup so that it is either more likely or less likely to be elected the Master Browser for the Workgroup. You could even configure Samba on a Linux machine so that it will never be a Master Browser. (It is also possible to configure a Windows machine so that it will never be a Master Browser.)

     Renamed ‘Entire Network’ in some versions of Windows.
     Renamed ‘My Network Places’ or simply ‘Network’ in some versions of Windows.

SMB over NetBIOS over TCP/IP (Port 139) is a connection orientated protocol that Windows computers use to connect to file shares and printers, to retrieve directory listings and to transfer files. Having obtained a list of computers and file shares from the Master Browser, if you click on a particular file share to connect to it, your computer looks up the name of the target computer in the local name table, obtains the target computer’s IP address and initiates a SMB over NetBIOS over TCP/IP connection to it. The target computer then issues a username and password prompt for you to complete the connection. If authentication is successful, the SMB protocol is used to transfer a directory listing of the contents of the share. If you drag and drop a file from the share to your local machine, or vice-versa, SMB is used to transfer the file. Behind the scenes, during the initial connection set-up, your computer and the target carry out a negotiation. If both machines support SMB direct over TCP/IP, the directory listing and subsequent file transfer are transported using SMB over TCP/IP Port 445. This is much more efficient because it eliminates completely the NetBIOS overhead.

When you install and configure Samba on a Linux computer, the ‘smbd‘ and ‘nmbd‘ daemons enable all of the functionality above. In a small network you do not need to enable or use AD, LDAP, Kerberos, WINS, Winbind or anything else for that matter. Samba and its built-in NetBIOS mechanisms will allow you to participate in a Windows Workgroup environment to share and use folders, files and printers.

Workgroups
The majority of Windows computers running in home networks are configured, by default, in a single Workgroup. A Workgroup is a simple way for computers in small networks to advertise and share resources, such as folders and printers, with other members of the same group. You can configure multiple Workgroups in the same LAN but each computer can belong to only one Workgroup. The theory is that different computers can share different resources within their group.

Please Note: A Windows Workgroup is not the same thing as a Windows HomeGroup. The latter concept was introduced in Windows 7 and is an ‘evolution’ of the Workgroup concept, in which you share folders and files but specify a pre-determined group password. All computers wishing to join the HomeGroup specify the same password to connect to the resources in that group. Samba does not participate in Windows HomeGroups because the latter is a Windows-only feature.

Configuring Samba
Firstly, install Samba on the Linux computer. Use Samba 4 and avoid Samba 3, which is obsolete. I have several laptops and a Network Addressable Storage (NAS) server, all running Linux with various releases of Samba 4. I also have a desktop computer running Windows 10 for family use. In addition, family and friends connect various laptops running Windows 7 and Windows 10 to my home network, as well as tablets and smartphones (see How to Access Shared Windows Folders on Android, iPad, and iPhone). This NAS runs 24/7 so I could have configured Samba to always make it the Master Browser but this is not necessary as the remaining computers in the network will elect a new Master Browser should the NAS fail.

Below is a summary of the steps to configure Samba in a Windows Workgroup:

  1. Configure the same Workgroup name on all of the Windows computers (for example, How to Change Workgroup in Windows 10). The default Windows 10 Workgroup is called ‘WORKGROUP‘. In the example further down I used the Windows GUI to change the Workgroup name to ‘GREENGABLES‘. There is plenty of information on the Internet about how to configure Windows file sharing so I won’t repeat any of it here (for example, How to Enable Network Discovery and Configure Sharing Options in Windows 10 and How to set up file sharing on Windows 10 (Share files using File Explorer)).

  2. Configure Samba on the Linux machines by editing the file ‘/etc/samba/smb.conf‘ on each. The contents of the file ‘smb.conf‘ are shown below for a Linux NAS and two Linux laptops. The NetBIOS name of the NAS is ‘akhanaten‘ and the laptops are ‘tutankhamun‘ and ‘smenkhkare‘. You can use either of the smb.conf files of the two laptops as a template for the smb.conf file of any Linux computer in your own home network. You can ignore the smb.conf file of the NAS if you simply want to be able to browse SMB/Samba shares on other computers in your home network.

  3. Use the command ‘pdbedit‘ on each Linux machine to define and configure the Samba users on that machine. The command ‘smbpasswd‘ is an alternative to ‘pdbedit‘ but I recommend you use the latter, as ‘smbpasswd‘ is deprecated. Each Samba user must exist as a Linux user because it is the Linux users who own the shares and are used for authentication.

  4. The NAS has Linux users ‘anne‘, ‘marilla‘, ‘matthew‘ and ‘guest‘, whereas each of the laptops has a Linux user ‘anne‘. The user name does not have to be the same on different computers.

  5. The purpose of each variable in ‘smb.conf‘ is explained on the applicable Samba manual page (enter the command ‘man smb.conf‘ in a terminal window) and the Samba documentation page for smb.conf on the Web.

Furthermore, make sure the Winbind daemon is not running. If Winbind is installed, make sure the service is not running and is disabled.

smb.conf of NAS running Ubuntu Server Edition:

[global]
# SMB uses ports 139 & 445, as explained in this blog post
smb ports = 139 445
netbios name = akhanaten
workgroup = greengables

# Use either NetBIOS broadcast for name resolution or entries in the /etc/hosts file
name resolve order = bcast host

# Don't care if the workgroup name is upper or lower case
case sensitive = no

# User authentication is used to access the shares
security = user
map to guest = bad user
guest account = guest

# Don't allow the use of root for network shares
invalid users = root

# Domain master only applies to LANs that are inter-connected across a WAN
domain master = no

# This machine is eligible to be a Master Browser and its priority is 4
# (the higher the os level, the more preferred to be Master Browser)
# (the maximum allowable value for os level is 255)
preferred master = yes
os level = 4
dns proxy = no

# Always advertise the shares automatically
auto services = global

# Interfaces on which to listen for NetBIOS broadcasts and to allow SMB connections
# Include "lo" because it is the internal interface
# em1 is the name of the Ethernet interface, found using the ifconfig command
interfaces = lo em1
bind interfaces only = yes
log file = /var/log/samba/log.%m
max log size = 1000
syslog = 0

panic action = /usr/share/samba/panic-action %d
server role = standalone server
passdb backend = tdbsam
obey pam restrictions = yes

# Don't synchronise the Linux and Samba user passwords - they can be different
unix password sync = no
passwd program = /usr/bin/passwd %u
passwd chat = *Enter\snew\s*\spassword:* %n\n *Retype\snew\s*\spassword:* %n\n *password\supdated\ssuccessfully* .
pam password change = yes

# This Samba configuration does not advertise any printers
load printers = no

# File to map long usernames to shorter Unix usernames, if necessary
username map = /etc/samba/smbusers

# Allow guest user access if specified in the shares
guest ok = yes

# First user share is called "anne" - only user "anne" specified below can connect to the share
[anne]
comment = "anne share"
path = /nas/shares/anne
writeable = yes
valid users = anne

# Second user share is called "marilla" - only user "marilla" specified below can connect to the share
[marilla]
comment = "marilla share"
path = /nas/shares/marilla
writeable = yes
valid users = marilla

# Third user share is called "matthew" - only user "matthew" specified below can connect to the share
[matthew]
comment = "matthew share"
path = /nas/shares/matthew
writeable = yes
valid users = matthew

# Fourth user share is called "guest" - any user can connect to the share
[guest]
comment = "guest account"
path = /nas/shares/guest
writeable = yes
guest ok = yes

smb.conf of laptop #1 running Gentoo Linux:

[global]
;no need to specify 'smb ports' as ports 139 & 445 used by default
workgroup = GREENGABLES
netbios name = tutankhamun
case sensitive = no
browseable = yes

;If this machine becomes a Master Browser, the following parameter allows it to hold the browse list
browse list = yes

printcap name = cups
printing = cups

log file = /var/log/samba/log.%m
max log size = 50

security = user
map to guest = bad user

encrypt passwords = yes
passdb backend = tdbsam

domain master = no
local master = yes
preferred master = yes
; os level = 6 on the other laptop, so I have made it 5 on this laptop.
os level = 5
name resolve order = bcast
wins support = no
dns proxy = no

;Listen for NetBIOS on Ethernet and Wireless interfaces
;Names of the interfaces found using ifconfig command
interfaces = enp4s0f1 wlp3s0

[netlogon]
comment = Network Logon Service
path = /var/lib/samba/netlogon
guest ok = yes

[printers]
comment = All Printers
path = /var/spool/samba
guest ok = yes
printable = yes
create mask = 0700

[print$]
path = /var/lib/samba/printers
write list = @adm root
guest ok = yes

[anne-share]
path = /home/anne/anne-share/
guest ok = yes
;read only = no
writeable = yes
browseable = yes
valid users = anne

[Public]
path = /home/anne/Public/
guest ok = yes
;read only = no
writeable = yes
browseable = yes

smb.conf of laptop #2 running Gentoo Linux:

[global]
;no need to specify 'smb ports' as ports 139 & 445 used by default
workgroup = GREENGABLES
netbios name = smenkhkare
case sensitive = no
browseable = yes

;If this machine becomes a Master Browser, the following parameter allows it to hold the browse list
browse list = yes

printcap name = cups
printing = cups

log file = /var/log/samba/log.%m
max log size = 50

security = user
map to guest = bad user

encrypt passwords = yes
passdb backend = tdbsam

domain master = no
local master = yes
preferred master = yes
; os level = 5 on the other laptop so I have made it 6 on this laptop
os level = 6
name resolve order = bcast
wins support = no
dns proxy = no

;Listen for NetBIOS on Ethernet and Wireless interfaces
;Names of the interfaces found using ifconfig command
interfaces = eth0 wlan0

[netlogon]
comment = Network Logon Service
path = /var/lib/samba/netlogon
guest ok = yes

[printers]
comment = All Printers
path = /var/spool/samba
guest ok = yes
printable = yes
create mask = 0700

[print$]
path = /var/lib/samba/printers
write list = @adm root
guest ok = yes

[anne-share]
path = /home/anne/share-share/
guest ok = yes
;read only = no
writeable = yes
browseable = yes
valid users = anne

[Public]
path = /home/anne/Public/
guest ok = yes
;read only = no
writeable = yes
browseable = yes

Samba Commands
The following are Samba commands you can use on any of the Linux computers to find information on the Samba shares.

The ‘smbtree‘ command lists the computers currently using SMB in the local network:

user $ smbtree
GREENGABLES
        \\AKHANATEN                     Samba 4.3.11-Ubuntu
                \\AKHANATEN\IPC$                IPC Service (Samba 4.3.11-Ubuntu)
                \\AKHANATEN\guest               guest account
                \\AKHANATEN\matthew             matthew share
                \\AKHANATEN\marilla             marilla share
                \\AKHANATEN\anne                anne share
        \\SMENKHKARE                    Samba 4.2.14
                \\SMENKHKARE\Samsung_CLX-8385ND Samsung CLX-8385ND
                \\SMENKHKARE\Canon_MP510_Printer        Canon MP510 Printer
                \\SMENKHKARE\Virtual_PDF_Printer        Virtual PDF Printer
                \\SMENKHKARE\Canon_MP560_WiFi   Canon MP560 WiFi
                \\SMENKHKARE\IPC$               IPC Service (Samba 4.2.14)
                \\SMENKHKARE\Public         
                \\SMENKHKARE\anne-share     
                \\SMENKHKARE\print$         
                \\SMENKHKARE\netlogon           Network Logon Service
        \\TUTANKHAMUN                   Samba 4.2.11
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Samsung_Xpress_C460FW     Samsung Xpress C460FW
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Canon_MP560_Printer       Canon PIXMA MP560
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Canon_MP510_Printer       Canon PIXMA MP510
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Virtual_PDF_Printer       Virtual PDF Printer
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\IPC$              IPC Service (Samba 4.2.11)
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Public
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\anne-share
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\print$
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\netlogon          Network Logon Service
HOME
        \\BTHUB5                        BT Home Hub 5.0A File Server
                \\BTHUB5\IPC$                   IPC Service (BT Home Hub 5.0A File Server)

BTHUB5‘ is a BT Home Hub 5 (a network router and broadband modem). Notice that it is configured by default to be in a Windows Workgroup named ‘HOME‘. The BT Home Hub 5 has a USB port to which an external USB HDD could be attached, so I assume computers in the home network could have been configured to use the HOME Workgroup instead of GREENGABLES and hence access that USB HDD, i.e. use it as a NAS. However, no HDD is attached to the BT Home Hub 5, so just ignore the BTHUB5 device and the HOME Workgroup.

The ‘nmblookup‘ command is used to see which services each computer offers. The strings ‘..__MSBROWSE__.‘ and ‘<1d>‘ in the output indicate that the computer is currently the Master Browser (see the Microsoft TechNet article NetBIOS Over TCP/IP for details):

user $ nmblookup akhanaten
192.168.1.70 akhanaten<00>

user $ nmblookup -A 192.168.1.70
Looking up status of 192.168.1.70
        AKHANATEN       <00> -         B <ACTIVE>
        AKHANATEN       <03> -         B <ACTIVE>
        AKHANATEN       <20> -         B <ACTIVE>
        GREENGABLES     <00> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>
        GREENGABLES     <1e> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>

        MAC Address = 00-00-00-00-00-00

user $ nmblookup tutankhamun
192.168.1.79 tutankhamun<00>

user $ nmblookup -A 192.168.1.79
Looking up status of 192.168.1.79
        TUTANKHAMUN     <00> -         B <ACTIVE>
        TUTANKHAMUN     <03> -         B <ACTIVE>
        TUTANKHAMUN     <20> -         B <ACTIVE>
        GREENGABLES     <00> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>
        GREENGABLES     <1e> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>

        MAC Address = 00-00-00-00-00-00

user $ nmblookup smenkhkare
192.168.1.90 smenkhkare<00>

user $ nmblookup -A 192.168.1.90
Looking up status of 192.168.1.90
        SMENKHKARE      <00> -         B <ACTIVE>
        SMENKHKARE      <03> -         B <ACTIVE>
        SMENKHKARE      <20> -         B <ACTIVE>
        ..__MSBROWSE__. <01> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE> 
        GREENGABLES     <00> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>
        GREENGABLES     <1d> -         B <ACTIVE>
        GREENGABLES     <1e> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>

        MAC Address = 00-00-00-00-00-00

..__MSBROWSE__.‘ and ‘<1d>‘ in the above output indicates that the laptop named smenkhkare is currently the Master Browser of the Workgroup named GREENGABLES. See the Microsoft TechNet article NetBIOS Over TCP/IP to interpret the output.

Now let’s look at what happens when thutmoseiii, the Windows 10 desktop connected to this home network, is powered up:

user $ smbtree
GREENGABLES
        \\AKHANATEN                     Samba 4.3.11-Ubuntu
                \\AKHANATEN\IPC$                IPC Service (Samba 4.3.11-Ubuntu)
                \\AKHANATEN\guest               guest account
                \\AKHANATEN\matthew             matthew share
                \\AKHANATEN\marilla             marilla share
                \\AKHANATEN\anne                anne share
        \\SMENKHKARE                    Samba 4.2.14
                \\SMENKHKARE\Samsung_CLX-8385ND Samsung CLX-8385ND
                \\SMENKHKARE\Canon_MP510_Printer        Canon MP510 Printer
                \\SMENKHKARE\Virtual_PDF_Printer        Virtual PDF Printer
                \\SMENKHKARE\Canon_MP560_WiFi   Canon MP560 WiFi
                \\SMENKHKARE\IPC$               IPC Service (Samba 4.2.14)
                \\SMENKHKARE\Public
                \\SMENKHKARE\anne-share
                \\SMENKHKARE\print$
                \\SMENKHKARE\netlogon           Network Logon Service
        \\TUTANKHAMUN                   Samba 4.2.11
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Samsung_Xpress_C460FW     Samsung Xpress C460FW
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Canon_MP560_Printer       Canon PIXMA MP560
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Canon_MP510_Printer       Canon PIXMA MP510
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Virtual_PDF_Printer       Virtual PDF Printer
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\IPC$              IPC Service (Samba 4.2.11)
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\Public
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\anne-share
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\print$
                \\TUTANKHAMUN\netlogon          Network Logon Service
        \\THUTMOSEIII                   Lounge Computer
HOME
        \\BTHUB5                        BT Home Hub 5.0A File Server
                \\BTHUB5\IPC$                   IPC Service (BT Home Hub 5.0A File Server)

user $ nmblookup thutmoseiii
192.168.1.74 thutmoseiii<00>
192.168.56.1 thutmoseiii<00>

user $ nmblookup -A 192.168.1.74
Looking up status of 192.168.1.74
        THUTMOSEIII     <20> -         B <ACTIVE> 
        THUTMOSEIII     <00> -         B <ACTIVE> 
        GREENGABLES     <00> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE> 
        GREENGABLES     <1e> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE> 

        MAC Address = AA-BB-CC-DD-EE-FF (anonymised by me)

So Linux computer smenkhkare remained the Master Browser. This is because the Windows 10 computer has its Registry subkey HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Browser\Parameters\MaintainServerList set to ‘Auto‘, and also there is no subkey \HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Browser\Parameters\IsDomainMaster so implicitly its value is False (i.e. the computer is not a Preferred Master Browser). See Microsoft TechNet article Specifying Browser Computers for details.

By the way, notice that two IP addresses are listed for thutmoseiii. This is because thutmoseiii is connected to two network adapters: 192.168.1.74 is the IP address of thutmoseiii in the home network, and 192.168.56.1 is the IP address of the virtual network interface for the virtual computers in VirtualBox installed on thutmoseiii.

If the Samba service on smenkhkare is now stopped from the command line, Windows 10 computer thutmoseiii is elected Master Browser after more than a minute has elapsed:

user $ nmblookup -A 192.168.1.74
Looking up status of 192.168.1.74
        THUTMOSEIII     <20> -         B <ACTIVE> 
        THUTMOSEIII     <00> -         B <ACTIVE> 
        GREENGABLES     <00> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE> 
        GREENGABLES     <1e> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE> 
        GREENGABLES     <1d> -         B <ACTIVE> 
        ..__MSBROWSE__. <01> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>

        MAC Address = AA-BB-CC-DD-EE-FF (anonymised by me)

If the Samba service on smenkhkare is then restarted from the command line and the Windows 10 computer is allowed to go to sleep, the laptop named smenkhkare becomes the Master Brower again as expected.

NetBIOS Commands in Windows
Now let’s look at some NetBIOS equivalent commands on the Windows 10 computer (Windows computer name: thutmoseiii).

First let’s see which remote computers thutmoseiii detects:

C:\WINDOWS\system32>nbtstat -c

VirtualBox Host-Only Network 2:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.56.1] Scope Id: []

    No names in cache

Ethernet:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.1.74] Scope Id: []

                  NetBIOS Remote Cache Name Table

        Name              Type       Host Address    Life [sec]
    ------------------------------------------------------------
    AKHANATEN      <20>  UNIQUE          192.168.1.70        381
    TUTANKHAMUN    <20>  UNIQUE          192.168.1.79        407
    SMENKHKARE     <20>  UNIQUE          192.168.1.90        416

WiFi:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    No names in cache

Local Area Connection* 11:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    No names in cache

Four adapters are listed in the above output: ‘VirtualBox Host-Only Network 2‘, ‘Ethernet‘, ‘WiFi‘ and ‘Local Area Connection* 11‘. Let’s look at why they are listed:

  • The first adapter listed exists because VirtualBox is installed on thutmoseiii and has a virtual network adapter to enable virtual computers to be networked together (see What Is A Oracle VM VirtualBox Host-Only Network Adapter? if you don’t know what is a VirtualBox Host-Only Network Adapter).

  • The second adapter listed is the computer’s Ethernet adapter. thutmoseiii is connected to the home network via this interface, and the above output shows that thutmoseiii has correctly detected the three other computers connected to the home network.

  • The third adapter listed is the computer’s wireless adapter. thutmoseiii also has a Wi-Fi interface, currently disabled in Windows, hence no active wireless connection is listed.

  • The fourth adapter is a ‘Microsoft Wi-Fi Direct Virtual Adapter’ according to the output of the ipconfig/all command. As the Wi-Fi interface is currently disabled in Windows, no active connection is listed here either.

Now let’s see what thutmoseiii reports about itself:

C:\WINDOWS\system32>nbtstat -n

VirtualBox Host-Only Network 2:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.56.1] Scope Id: []

                NetBIOS Local Name Table

       Name               Type         Status
    ---------------------------------------------
    THUTMOSEIII    <20>  UNIQUE      Registered
    THUTMOSEIII    <00>  UNIQUE      Registered
    GREENGABLES    <00>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1E>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1D>  UNIQUE      Registered
    ☺☻__MSBROWSE__☻<01>  GROUP       Registered

Ethernet:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.1.74] Scope Id: []

                NetBIOS Local Name Table

       Name               Type         Status
    ---------------------------------------------
    THUTMOSEIII    <20>  UNIQUE      Registered
    THUTMOSEIII    <00>  UNIQUE      Registered
    GREENGABLES    <00>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1E>  GROUP       Registered

WiFi:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    No names in cache

Local Area Connection* 11:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    No names in cache

The above is correct: thutmoseiii is the Master Browser in the Windows Workgroup of VirtualBox Host-Only Network 2, but not a Master Browser in the GREENGABLES Workgroup to which thutmoseiii is connected by Ethernet cable. As the Wi-Fi interface in thutmoseiii is currently disabled, no active wireless connection is listed.

Now let’s take a look at what thutmoseiii reports about akhanaten:

C:\WINDOWS\system32>nbtstat -a akhanaten

VirtualBox Host-Only Network 2:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.56.1] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

Ethernet:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.1.74] Scope Id: []

           NetBIOS Remote Machine Name Table

       Name               Type         Status
    ---------------------------------------------
    AKHANATEN      <00>  UNIQUE      Registered
    AKHANATEN      <03>  UNIQUE      Registered
    AKHANATEN      <20>  UNIQUE      Registered
    GREENGABLES    <00>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1E>  GROUP       Registered

    MAC Address = 00-00-00-00-00-00


WiFi:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

Local Area Connection* 11:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

The above is also correct, as akhanaten is indeed not a Master Browser.

Now let’s have a look at what thutmoseiii reports about tutankhamun:

C:\WINDOWS\system32>nbtstat -a tutankhamun

VirtualBox Host-Only Network 2:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.56.1] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

Ethernet:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.1.74] Scope Id: []

           NetBIOS Remote Machine Name Table

       Name               Type         Status
    ---------------------------------------------
    TUTANKHAMUN    <00>  UNIQUE      Registered
    TUTANKHAMUN    <03>  UNIQUE      Registered
    TUTANKHAMUN    <20>  UNIQUE      Registered
    GREENGABLES    <00>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1E>  GROUP       Registered

    MAC Address = 00-00-00-00-00-00


WiFi:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

Local Area Connection* 11:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

The above is also correct, as tutankhamun is indeed not a Master Browser.

Now let’s have a look at what thutmoseiii reports about smenkhkare:

C:\WINDOWS\system32>nbtstat -a smenkhkare

VirtualBox Host-Only Network 2:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.56.1] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

Ethernet:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.1.74] Scope Id: []

           NetBIOS Remote Machine Name Table

       Name               Type         Status
    ---------------------------------------------
    SMENKHKARE     <00>  UNIQUE      Registered
    SMENKHKARE     <03>  UNIQUE      Registered
    SMENKHKARE     <20>  UNIQUE      Registered
    ☺☻__MSBROWSE__☻<01>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <00>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1D>  UNIQUE      Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1E>  GROUP       Registered

    MAC Address = 00-00-00-00-00-00


WiFi:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

Local Area Connection* 11:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

The above is also correct, as smenkhkare is indeed the Master Browser (notice the ‘☺☻__MSBROWSE__☻‘ and ‘<1D>‘).

Q.E.D.
So there you have it; Browser Elections take place and the Master Browser is any one of the Linux or Windows computers in the home network, thus enabling SMB browsing to take place. No WINS, no LDAP, no AD, no Kerberos. All SMB communication is carried out using NetBIOS over TCP/IP and Broadcast NetBIOS Name Resolution, as shown by the output of the command ‘nbtstat -r‘ on thutmoseiii:

C:\WINDOWS\system32>nbtstat -r

    NetBIOS Names Resolution and Registration Statistics
    ----------------------------------------------------

    Resolved By Broadcast     = 65
    Resolved By Name Server   = 0

    Registered By Broadcast   = 233
    Registered By Name Server = 0

    NetBIOS Names Resolved By Broadcast
---------------------------------------------
           BTHUB5         <00>
           呂啈㕂†††††䱃噅坏㌲匰⁓†
           TUTANKHAMUN    <00>
           AKHANATEN      <00>
           SMENKHKARE     <00>

I assume the line of Chinese and other characters is because of some deficiency in NBTSTAT.EXE, CMD.EXE or Windows 10 generally — despite having entered ‘CHCP 65001‘ and chosen a Unicode TrueType font in CMD.EXE — but the important point is that the statistics listed by the ‘nbtstat -r‘ command clearly show that only broadcasts are used for NetBIOS Name resolution, as promised. NetBIOS name resolution works fine in the home network and all the sharing-enabled computers in the home network can browse SMB shares on other sharing-enabled computers, whether they are running Windows, Linux, macOS, Android or iOS. I reiterate that this is for a typical home network.

Command to find Master Browsers
In Linux you can use the ‘nmblookup‘ command as follows to find out which machine in the home network is currently the Master Browser in each Workgroup:

user $ nmblookup -M -- -
192.168.1.254 __MSBROWSE__
192.168.1.90 __MSBROWSE__
192.168.56.1 __MSBROWSE__

You can see above that there are currently three Master Browsers in this home network. Let’s check the details for these three Master Browsers:

user $ nmblookup -A 192.168.1.254
Looking up status of 192.168.1.254
        BTHUB5          <00> -         B <ACTIVE>
        BTHUB5          <03> -         B <ACTIVE>
        BTHUB5          <20> -         B <ACTIVE>
        ..__MSBROWSE__. <01> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>
        HOME            <1d> -         B <ACTIVE>
        HOME            <1e> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>
        HOME            <00> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>

        MAC Address = 00-00-00-00-00-00

You can see above that the machine BTHUB5 (which is actually the home network’s router) is the Master Browser in the Workgroup named HOME (see earlier).

user $ nmblookup -A 192.168.1.90
Looking up status of 192.168.1.90
        SMENKHKARE      <00> -         B <ACTIVE>
        SMENKHKARE      <03> -         B <ACTIVE>
        SMENKHKARE      <20> -         B <ACTIVE>
        ..__MSBROWSE__. <01> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>
        GREENGABLES     <00> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>
        GREENGABLES     <1d> -         B <ACTIVE>
        GREENGABLES     <1e> - <GROUP> B <ACTIVE>

        MAC Address = 00-00-00-00-00-00

You can see above that computer SMENKHKARE is currently the Master Browser in the Workgroup named GREENGABLES.

user $ nmblookup -A 192.168.56.1
Looking up status of 192.168.56.1
No reply from 192.168.56.1

You can see above that the network node 192.168.56.1 is inactive, which is not surprising considering that it is a node on a VirtualBox virtual subnet on the Windows 10 computer thutmoseiii (see earlier) and VirtualBox is not running at the moment on that computer.

On a Windows machine it is not quite so easy to find out which machines are currently Master Browsers. However, on the face of it the third-party utility lanscan.exe can do it (see How to Determine the Master Browser in a Windows Workgroup):

C:\WINDOWS\system32>lanscan

LANscanner v1.67 - ScottiesTech.Info

Scanning LAN...

Scanning workgroup: HOME...

Scanning workgroup: GREENGABLES...

BTHUB5            192.168.1.254    11-11-11-11-11-11  HOME         MASTER
THUTMOSEIII       192.168.56.1     22-22-22-22-22-22  GREENGABLES  MASTER
SMENKHKARE        192.168.1.90     aa-bb-cc-dd-ee-ff  GREENGABLES  MASTER
TUTANKHAMUN       192.168.1.79     33-33-33-33-33-33  GREENGABLES
AKHANATEN         192.168.1.70     55-55-55-55-55-55  GREENGABLES

Press any key to exit...

(MAC addresses anonymised by me.)

Notice above that lanscan.exe listed the VirtualBox virtual subnet node 192.168.56.1 in Windows 10 computer thutmoseiii (see earlier) but omitted to list the node 192.168.1.74 (also thutmoseiii) in the real network. Now, in this particular case thutmoseiii on 192.168.1.74 is not a Master Browser. Nevertheless, as lanscan.exe is supposed to list all nodes, its failure to list the node 192.168.1.74 is a shortcoming.

And what happens if thutmoseiii on node 192.168.1.74 becomes a Master Browser? In that case lanscan.exe still omits the node from the list and, in addition, wrongly shows tutankhamun as a Master Browser:

C:\WINDOWS\system32>nbtstat -n

VirtualBox Host-Only Network 2:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.56.1] Scope Id: []

                NetBIOS Local Name Table

       Name               Type         Status
    ---------------------------------------------
    THUTMOSEIII    <20>  UNIQUE      Registered
    THUTMOSEIII    <00>  UNIQUE      Registered
    GREENGABLES    <00>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1E>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1D>  UNIQUE      Registered
    ☺☻__MSBROWSE__☻<01>  GROUP       Registered

Ethernet:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.1.74] Scope Id: []

                NetBIOS Local Name Table

       Name               Type         Status
    ---------------------------------------------
    THUTMOSEIII    <20>  UNIQUE      Registered
    THUTMOSEIII    <00>  UNIQUE      Registered
    GREENGABLES    <00>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1E>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1D>  UNIQUE      Registered
    ☺☻__MSBROWSE__☻<01>  GROUP       Registered

WiFi:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    No names in cache

Local Area Connection* 11:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    No names in cache

C:\WINDOWS\system32>nbtstat -A 192.168.1.79

VirtualBox Host-Only Network 2:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.56.1] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

Ethernet:
Node IpAddress: [192.168.1.74] Scope Id: []

           NetBIOS Remote Machine Name Table

       Name               Type         Status
    ---------------------------------------------
    TUTANKHAMUN    <00>  UNIQUE      Registered
    TUTANKHAMUN    <03>  UNIQUE      Registered
    TUTANKHAMUN    <20>  UNIQUE      Registered
    GREENGABLES    <00>  GROUP       Registered
    GREENGABLES    <1E>  GROUP       Registered

    MAC Address = 00-00-00-00-00-00


WiFi:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

Local Area Connection* 11:
Node IpAddress: [0.0.0.0] Scope Id: []

    Host not found.

C:\WINDOWS\system32>lanscan

LANscanner v1.67 - ScottiesTech.Info

Scanning LAN...

Scanning workgroup: HOME...

Scanning workgroup: GREENGABLES...

BTHUB5            192.168.1.254    11-11-11-11-11-11  HOME         MASTER
THUTMOSEIII       192.168.56.1     22-22-22-22-22-22  GREENGABLES  MASTER
TUTANKHAMUN       192.168.1.79     33-33-33-33-33-33  GREENGABLES  MASTER
SMENKHKARE        192.168.1.90     aa-bb-cc-dd-ee-ff  GREENGABLES
AKHANATEN         192.168.1.70     55-55-55-55-55-55  GREENGABLES

Press any key to exit...

(MAC addresses anonymised by me.)

Linux appears to have the edge on Windows in this respect, as the Samba command ‘nmblookup -M -- -‘ detects all the Master Browsers correctly in the above situation:

user $ nmblookup -M -- -
192.168.1.254 __MSBROWSE__
192.168.1.74 __MSBROWSE__
192.168.56.1 __MSBROWSE__

So it appears that, from a Windows computer, the only sure way to find all Master Browsers is to use the command ‘nbtstat -a <computer name>‘ to check each remote machine in the home network, plus the command ‘nbtstat -n‘ to check the Windows computer you are using.

Footnote
The ebuild of the current Gentoo Stable Branch package net-fs/samba-4.2.11 (and probably the ebuild of the Testing Branch package net-fs/samba-4.2.14 as well) is not entirely correct, as it pulls in unnecessary dependencies (see Gentoo Bug Report No. 579088 – net-fs/samba-4.x has many hard dependencies, make some optional). For example, Kerberos is not required at all if you are not using LDAP, AD, etc. and are just using NETBIOS Name Resolution by Broadcast in a Windows Workgroup (like most home users). However, the Gentoo samba ebuild forces the user to install Kerberos (either the MIT implementation app-crypt/mit-krb5 or the Heimdal implementation app-crypt/heimdal) even if you specify that Samba should be built without support for LDAP, AD, etc. This does not cause any harm, but it is unnecessary.

user $ eix -I samba
[I] net-fs/samba
     Available versions:  3.6.25^t 4.2.11 ~4.2.14 [M]~4.3.11 [M]~4.4.5 [M]~4.4.6 [M]~4.5.0 {acl addc addns ads (+)aio avahi caps (+)client cluster cups debug dmapi doc examples fam gnutls iprint ldap ldb +netapi pam quota +readline selinux +server +smbclient smbsharemodes swat syslog +system-mitkrb5 systemd test (+)winbind zeroconf ABI_MIPS="n32 n64 o32" ABI_PPC="32 64" ABI_S390="32 64" ABI_X86="32 64 x32" PYTHON_TARGETS="python2_7"}
     Installed versions:  4.2.11(19:40:03 16/09/16)(avahi client cups fam gnutls pam -acl -addc -addns -ads -aio -cluster -dmapi -iprint -ldap -quota -selinux -syslog -system-mitkrb5 -systemd -test -winbind ABI_MIPS="-n32 -n64 -o32" ABI_PPC="-32 -64" ABI_S390="-32 -64" ABI_X86="64 -32 -x32" PYTHON_TARGETS="python2_7")
     Homepage:            http://www.samba.org/
     Description:         Samba Suite Version 4

If you are a Gentoo Linux user, you can merge the package net-fs/samba with the same USE flags shown above (obviously change “-systemd” to “systemd” if you use systemd instead of OpenRC), and use the laptops’ smb.conf files shown in this post as templates, and you will be able to share files and printers using Samba and NetBIOS name resolution. Don’t forget to use pdbedit to define the Samba users, and don’t forget to stop and disable winbindd if it is already installed.

Further reading

ADDENDUM (October 30, 2016): You probably already use the Public folder in Windows. If not, you can find a brief explanation in the article Simple Questions: What is the Public Folder & How to Use it?. There are a number of default sub-folders in C:\Users\Public\ on a Windows machine. There are some differences depending on the version of Windows, but in Windows 10 (Anniversary Update) these sub-folders are named:

C:\Public\Libraries
C:\Public\Public Account Pictures
C:\Public\Public Desktop
C:\Public\Public Documents
C:\Public\Public Downloads
C:\Public\Public Music
C:\Public\Public Pictures
C:\Public\Public Videos

These predefined sub-folders are not ordinary folders, and I have noticed a surmountable minor limitation when accessing them from a Linux machine using Samba, as explained below.

If I enable Public Folder Sharing on a Windows machine (‘Turn on sharing so that anyone with network access can read and write files in the Public folders’) and configure the security permissions of the Public folder for Everyone, from another Windows machine in the Workgroup I can copy files to the first machine’s Public folder and default sub-folders. From a Linux machine in the Workgroup I can copy files to the Public folder on Windows machines in the Workgroup but I cannot copy files to the default sub-folders (the Dolphin file manager displays the error message ‘Access denied. Could not write to .‘). However, this is not a big deal because I can copy files into the Public folder itself and into manually created sub-folders in the Public folder.

Automatically log off inactive users in Windows 10

Although I use Linux on my own machines, the family PC in my lounge runs Windows 10. It has five user accounts and the other members of my family never bother to log out (‘sign out’ in Windows 10 parlance), usually leaving a browser window open. If I logged in to my account and clicked on my icon in the top left corner of the Start Menu, ‘Signed in’ was shown below any of the other users who had not bothered to log out. I found this behaviour somewhat frustrating and resolved to configure the PC to log out a user after a specified period of inactivity by that user. Although it is generally not recommended to forcibly logout someone in case e.g. they have a document open, in my family’s case it would be unlikely to cause a problem and is preferable to leaving several accounts unnecessarily active (albeit requiring each user to re-enter their password in order to access the account, as the default setting for ‘Require a password on wake-up’ is ‘Yes’). Below I explain how I configured Windows 10 to log out each user automatically after a period of inactivity.

First I downloaded the application idlelogoff.exe using the following link:

http://ftp.intelliadmin.com/release/idlelogoff.exe

See the Web page Automatically log off inactive users for details of that application.

I used the Windows 10 File Explorer to copy the file to the root directory C:\ and then I created a batch file IDLELOGOFF.BAT by right-clicking on the Windows 10 Start Menu icon, selecting ‘Command Prompt (Admin)’ and entering the following commands in the Command Prompt window:

cd C:\
notepad IDLELOGOFF.BAT

I made the contents of the batch file IDLELOGOFF.BAT the following, so that a user would be logged out automatically after 900 seconds of inactivity in their session:

start /min C:\idlelogoff.exe 900 logoff

and I changed the owner of the batch file to Users by right-clicking on it in File Explorer and then clicking ‘Properties’ > ‘Security’ > ‘Advanced’ > ‘Owner: Change’ and specifying ‘Users’.

Then I created a standard shortcut to the batch file for each user by getting each user in turn to log in to their account and following the instructions on the Web page Windows 10 – How to Run Program Automatically at Startup. Basically, you press the Windows Key and the R key simultaneously and enter ‘shell:startup‘ to open the user’s Start-up folder, and from there you right-click and select ‘New’ > ‘Shortcut’.

After that, the application idlelogoff.exe should be started automatically the next time a user logs in. You can check by pressing Ctrl-Alt-Delete in each user’s session, selecting ‘Task Manager’, clicking on the ‘Processes’ tab and idlelogoff.exe should be in the list of background processes. If you then log in to your own account and click on your account icon in the top left corner of the Start Menu, you’ll notice ‘Signed in’ is shown below the other user’s icon. If you check again after fifteen minutes, you’ll see that the ‘Signed in’ has gone, indicating that the user has been forcibly logged off.

Virus infection in Windows 8.1 Connected Account

Although I use Linux on my own machines, the family PC runs Windows 8.1 (awful OS, by the way). When I bought the PC I installed AVG AntiVirus Free. As a way of thanking AVG for the free application, I allow the application to send anonymous data about detected threats back to AVG so that the company can improve the detection capabilities of its products.

Anyway, a couple of days ago while I was using the family PC to browse the Web, AVG AntiVirus Free popped-up a window informing me it had detected the trojan VBS/Dropper. Whilst it was able to isolate and remove the threat, re-infection kept recurring periodically and frequently. Each time AVG AntiVirus Free was able to isolate and remove the threat. I launched a full scan (including looking inside archive files etc.) of all hard drives several times, but AVG AntiVirus Free always reported that there were no infected files.

Screen snapshot 1 - VBS/Dropper infection

Whenever the AVG AntiVirus Free window popped-up warning that it had detected the trojan, the message showed that the infected file was in a long directory path, and the infected object was named livecomm.exe. Searching the Web showed me that Livecomm.exe is also known as ‘Communications Service’ and is something to do with the Metro application for e-mail (server in the ‘Cloud’). So I launched the Metro Mail application (it was not running previously) and deleted all the e-mails in the Junk, Deleted and POP folders of my Microsoft Hotmail account (the POP folder contains copies of e-mails downloaded by the e-mail client on my main laptop). Lo and behold, there were no more pop-up warnings from AVG AntiVirus Free regarding VBS/Dropper. Presumably one of the deleted unread e-mails or unread junk e-mails either contained an infected attachment or a link to an infected remote file.

I’m posting this because I did not find anything on the Web regarding this phenomenon, and it looks to me like a problem that occurs specifically on Windows 8/8.1 when a user has a Windows account on the PC that is connected to his/her Microsoft e-mail account (what Microsoft refers to as ‘Connected Account’). If I understand the design correctly, the LiveComm.exe service communicates with remote servers in the ‘Cloud’, so I assume this is another pathway for virus infection in Windows 8 and above that users need to be aware of.

WINE tips: File associations for Windows applications in Linux (continued)

There is a downside to the approach described in my previous post regarding file associations for Windows applications run via WINE, at least in the case of KDE.

By using KDE’s ‘System Settings’ > ‘File Associations’ to change the application launch command from:

env WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-visio5" WINEARCH="win32" wine /home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-visio5/drive_c/Program\ Files/Visio/Visio32.EXE

to:

env WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-visio5" WINEARCH="win32" wine C:\\windows\\command\\start.exe /Unix %U

the launch command in KDE’s Kicker application launcher menu is also changed to the latter. Trying to launch the Windows application from the Kicker menu (Wine > Programs > a_Windows_application) then fails. Presumably this is because the wine command expects a filename (the %U in the command string) but that is not being provided.

Alternative 1

One solution is to use a shell script as described in my earlier post: WINE tips: How to associate IrfanView with an image file type in Linux. Kicker can still be used to launch the application (e.g. Wine > Programs > IrfanView) when the menu command is of the following form but no filename is provided (even though the %f is left in the command string):

/home/fitzcarraldo/launch_IrfanView.sh %f

Alternative 2

Another solution – well, really a work-around – is to accept that the Windows application cannot be launched from the Kicker menu and to create a separate Desktop Configuration File in /home/fitzcarraldo/Desktop/ which uses a different command to launch the application. For example, in my previous post the file association I configured via ‘System Settings’ > ‘File Associations’ for Visio was:

env WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-visio5" WINEARCH="win32" wine C:\\windows\\command\\start.exe /Unix %U

and therefore the command in the Kicker menu entry is the same, but I created a Desktop Configuration File which I named ‘/home/fitzcarraldo/Desktop/Visio 5 Professional‘ which contains the command:

env WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-visio5" WINEARCH="win32" wine /home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-visio5/drive_c/Program\ Files/Visio/Visio32.EXE

$ ls -la ~/Desktop/Visio*
-rwxrwxrwx 1 fitzcarraldo users 562 Aug 26 17:42 /home/fitzcarraldo/Desktop/Visio 5 Professional

Notice that the command to launch the Windows application does not contain a filename parameter (%U), so when I double-click on the icon on the Desktop it launches Visio.

Summary

Ideally, KDE should be changed to allow the application launching command in ‘System Settings’ > ‘File Associations’ to be edited to be different to the application launching command in the Kicker menu. In the absence of that, you have two alternatives in the case of WINE:

  1. Create a shell script to launch the application. This allows you to launch the Windows application via Kicker and by double-clicking on a file of the applicable type.

    or

  2. Create a separate Desktop Configuration File in e.g. the ~/Desktop/ directory. This allows you to launch the Windows application by double-clicking on a Desktop Configuration File for the application and by double-clicking on a file of the applicable type. However you cannot launch the application from its entry in the Kicker menu.

WINE tips: File associations of Windows applications in Linux

I have several applications for Windows installed under WINE in Linux. These applications launch correctly if I double-click on a file for that application, but, in the case of some of these applications, the file itself is not opened. Therefore I first have to launch the application and then load the file from within the application (File > Open, or whatever). Some time ago I explained how to fix this in the case of IrfanView by creating a shell script – see my post WINE tips: How to associate IrfanView with an image file type in Linux – but there is an easier way to do it in many cases, as illustrated by the example below for another Windows application I use regularly in Linux. I finally got fed up with not being able to open .vsd (Visio drawing) files by double-clicking on them in Linux, and decided to fix this. The same procedure applies, whatever the Windows application.

I use KDE, but the principle applies whatever Desktop Environment you are using. Just use the relevant File Association configuration tool for that Desktop Environment.

  1. I selected ‘System Settings’ > ‘File Associations’ from the KDE Kickoff menu launcher.

  2. I entered ‘vsd’ (without the quotes) in the search field in order to find the application associated with that file type.

    The ‘Known Types’ box then displayed the following:

    >- application

  3. When I expanded that by clicking on it, the ‘Known Types’ box displayed the following two application file types:

    v- application
            vnd.ms-visio.viewer
            vnd.visio

  4. Clicking on either displayed ‘Visio 5.0 Professional’ in the ‘Application Preference Order’ box. I selected it and clicked on ‘Edit…’, which opened a Properties window for the application’s desktop configuration file.

  5. I clicked on the ‘Application’ tab. The ‘Command’ box contained the following command:
    env WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-visio5" WINEARCH="win32" wine /home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-visio5/drive_c/Program\ Files/Visio/Visio32.EXE

    (The wine command itself has to be preceded by the definition of the WINEPREFIX and WINEARCH environment variables because I specified those environment variables originally when I installed the application via WINE.)

    I changed the command to be the following:

    env WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-visio5" WINEARCH="win32" wine C:\\windows\\command\\start.exe /Unix %U

    for both vnd.ms-viso.viewer and vnd.visio application file types, and clicked on ‘OK’ and ‘Apply’.

That’s all there was to it. Now when I double-click on any file ending with ‘.vsd’, Visio launches as before but the actual file is opened in the application. Very straightforward, and I really should have made the effort to fix it sooner.🙂

Installing the Windows version of Google Earth in WINE

Some Gentoo Linux users have reported that, although the native Linux release of Google Earth crashes, they can run the Windows version successfully under WINE. However, those users have also reported that the Windows installer for Google Earth did not work under WINE and so they copied the C:\Program Files\Google\Google Earth\ directory from a Windows PC to the virtual C:\ drive in their .wine directory (it would be ‘Program Files (x86)‘ in a 64-bit Windows installation, as Google Earth is a 32-bit application).

Now, if you download the Windows Google Earth installer from the Google Web site, what you get is a file GoogleEarthWin.exe that is 534.6 KiB in size (the size may vary depending on the release). However, you can instead download the Offline Installer using the following URL:

http://dl.google.com/earth/client/advanced/current/GoogleEarthWin.exe

and then you get a file GoogleEarthWin.exe that is 24.3 MiB in size (the size will vary depending on the release), which does run in WINE and does install the Windows version of Google Earth in WINE.

So, you might like to try that if you cannot run Google Earth in Linux but you have WINE installed. However, note that you will be wasting your time if the native Linux version of Google Earth crashes because of its incompatibility with the closed-source ATI or NVIDIA video driver. For example, Google Earth 7.1.2.2041 for Linux crashes on my main laptop using the 14.3_beta version of ati-drivers (AMD ATI Catalyst driver, a.k.a. FGLRX).

Anyway, if you want to install the Windows release of Google Earth under WINE here’s how to do it in a Konsole/Terminal window:

$ cd
$ export WINEPREFIX=$HOME/.wine-googleearth
$ export WINEARCH="win32"
$ winecfg
$ cd ./.wine-googleearth/drive_c/
$ wget http://dl.google.com/earth/client/advanced/current/GoogleEarthWin.exe
$ wine GoogleEarthWin.exe

And, to run it later:

$ env WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-googleearth" WINEARCH="win32" wine C:\\windows\\command\\start.exe /Unix /home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-googleearth/dosdevices/c:/users/fitzcarraldo/Start\ Menu/Programs/Google\ Earth/Google\ Earth.lnk

(Of course replace “fitzcarraldo” with your user name.)

But, as I wrote above, if the native Linux version of Google Earth crashes due to its incompatibility with the closed-source video driver (ATI or NVIDIA), it is highly unlikely the native Windows version will work under WINE.

Can Linux cope with 24 Hours of Happy?

I enjoyed Pharrell Williams’ feel-good songs in ‘Despicable Me‘ and its sequel, ‘Despicable Me 2‘. ‘Happy‘, a very catchy ditty he wrote for the sequel, also features in the World’s first 24-hour-long music video, ‘24 Hours of Happy‘, shot in and around Los Angeles and released on 21 November last year. The song is played a total of 360 times over the duration of the video, each 4-minute take featuring a different person or persons dancing (improvised) along streets, in petrol stations, through Union Station, in a church, around a school, in a moving school bus, around a supermarket, in a bowling alley, and so on. Each 4-minute performance was filmed in one take using Steadicam, and the location at the end of each take segues into the next take. You see the sun rise; you see the bright sunlight of the morning and the warm sunlight of the afternoon; you see the sun set; you see the twinkling city lights at night. The concept is simple yet brilliant.

Clips from some of the takes were used to create the 4-minute official music video for ‘Happy’, so you can watch that on YouTube to get a flavour of the takes, although it does not do justice to the full video.

Williams appears in a different take every hour on the hour, and a few other takes have celebrity cameos, but the vast majority of the participants are unknown extras of all ages, races, shapes, sizes and looks. To quote Williams talking to the Los Angeles Times: “We wanted all humanity in there, not just the model-types you might expect.” Some are good dancers, others not so good. But they all have one thing in common: they’re having fun, so they look good. The joy is infectious, and I found myself watching far longer than I would have expected, having to return to the site again and again. Half the fun is watching the bystanders.

When you open the ’24 Hours of Happy’ site, the take that was in progress at the current time of day starts playing from the beginning. However, you can drag the pointer around the clock dial and watch any take from the 24-hour period. There are also buttons you can click on to jump between takes or to jump to each take featuring Williams. The yellow on-screen controls can be made to disappear by not moving the mouse pointer for 5 seconds.

Still from 24 Hours of Happy, showing on-screen controls

Still from 24 Hours of Happy, showing on-screen controls

The Web site is well-designed and fun to use, so I was not surprised it was voted ‘Site of the Month‘ and ‘Site of the Year Users’ Choice‘ by AWWWARDS, and voted ‘Site of the Month‘ and ‘Site of the Year‘ by TheFWA.

It’s impossible to list them all, but a few of my favourite takes are:

01:36  Very perky woman with ponytail.
05:28  Jogger who has to keep pulling his shorts up!
08:24  Woman on roller skates.
09:52  Very cute little girl.
09:56  Woman with some groovy moves.
10:40  Woman in Union Station. Some of the bystanders are particularly amusing.
11:16  Man with cast on foot.
11:20  Boy with an Afro.
11:36  Three groovy old ladies.
11:44  Chubby guy with style.
12:36  Woman with some groovy moves.
13:32  Dancing couple in pink.
14:20  Two cool guys in dinner jackets inside and outside Union Station.
15:00  Pharrell Williams in a church with a gospel choir.
19:04  Woman with a lizard puppet. The lizard does the lip-synching!
19:36  Guy on stilts.
23:40  Woman with LED hula hoop (love it!).

If you want to start viewing a take made at a specific time of day, you can append the time to the URL, like so:

http://24hoursofhappy.com/09h53am

Obviously I think ’24 Hours of Happy’ is fabulous, but why am I discussing it in a blog predominantly about Linux? Because Firefox 27.0.1 (32-bit) running in Windows 8.1 (64-bit) on my new Acer Aspire XC-600 micro-tower PC (dual-core Intel Pentium G2030 @ 3 GHz & 3 MB cache, 4 GB DDR3 RAM) handles ’24 Hours of Happy’ at 720p with ease, but the story is very different on my main laptop running 64-bit Gentoo Linux with KDE (quad-core Intel Core i7 720QM @ 933 MHz & 6 MB cache, 4 GB DDR3 RAM). Both machines are on my home network, connected to the Internet via high-bandwidth broadband (FTTC).

On my laptop, the latest available versions of Firefox (27.0) and Opera (12.16_p1860-r1) for Gentoo, both 64-bit, do not even complete loading the ’24 Hours of Happy’ site: the black progress bar at the bottom of the home page stops about 7/8th of the way across the page and the KDE Network Monitor widget shows there is no network activity. Clearing Firefox’s Web content cache or increasing the cache’s size to 1 GB make no difference. Konqueror 4.12.2 (configured to use the WebKit browser engine rather than the KHTML engine) loads the site and plays it quite well at 720p to start with, but eventually video becomes choppy and I notice a lot of spawned kio_http processes. The KDE Network Monitor widget shows a continuous 3600 Kib/s data stream, which does not stop when I exit Konqueror. Numerous kio_http processes are spawned and remain after I exit Konqueror, and the 3600 KiB/s activity on the network only ceases when I kill all the kio_http processes. The number of spawned kio_http processes increases if I drag the pointer around the clock to select different takes, and the page just displays ‘LOADING’ ad infinitum if I do this several times. To be fair, if I do this a lot in Firefox running in Windows 8.1, I can get Firefox to stall too. I thought I’d try a lightweight browser and installed NetSurf (3.0-r1), but that couldn’t even render the title on the home page, let alone begin to load the video.

So, does ’24 Hours of Happy’ play nicely in your Linux installation? If it does, what hardware, distribution, desktop environment, browser and quality (360p, 480p, 720p or 1080p) are you using?

ARTE Live Web videos

The Franco-German cultural Web site ARTE Live Web is an excellent resource for lovers of music (classical, jazz, alternative and World) and dance. The show videos at the site are enjoyable but unfortunately only viewable for a fixed period of time before the site removes them. Back in 2011 I wanted to download the video of a performance I’d attended and loved. I searched for a Linux tool but could not find one, then found a Windows freeware GUI tool called artepupper, and used version 0.2 to download the video. You can read about the tool on the author’s blog pages artepupper 0.1, artepupper 0.2 and artepupper 0.3. The reason for the change from 0.2 to 0.3 was that ARTE Live Web changed the format of an embedded URL inside the XML page for the video on their Web site.

Now, artepupper is based on livewebarte1.1.sh, a 2010 Bash script by Carmelo Ingrao, and a Perl script livewebarte.pl by Juan Domingo based on livewebarte1.1.sh, both of which are still available on line at Carmelo’s download page and which I only discovered after using artepupper in Windows. I tried the Perl script in Linux back in 2011, and it worked for me.

Recently I wanted to download another video from the ARTE Live Web site and found that, although artepupper 0.3 in Windows worked, the Perl script livewebarte.pl no longer worked. Presumably this was because of the aforementioned change to the embedded URL. However, I found that the Bash script livewebarte1.1.sh still worked. Actually, I had to edit the script to replace “./rtmpdump” with “rtmpdump“, as I had installed the command-line tool rtmpdump using the Linux distribution’s package manager and the executable is not stored in the same directory as the Bash script. But, apart from that, it worked.

Carmelo is a star for having deciphered how to access and download videos from the site. However, looking at his Bash script, the part where he parses a line in the XML code and extracts a string between the delimiters “MP4” and “mp4” is based on a hard-coded character position, which could change if the Web site’s owners change the format of the URL. So I decided to modify the Bash script to avoid using character positions to extract a string. The Bash script livewebarte1.2.sh is an updated version of Carmelo’s livewebarte1.1.sh script.

#!/bin/bash
# Script pour récupérer les vidéos FLV du site liveweb.arte.tv
# par Carmelo Ingrao <carmelo42@gmail.com> http://c.ingrao.free.fr/code/
# version 1.0
# release date 21 février 2010
## modified by Fitzcarraldo 24 April 2013
## version 1.2
## release date 24 April 2013
# licence : GPLv2
# rtmpdump compilé doit être dans le même répertoire que le script
## rtmpdump must be installed and in user's $PATH (e.g. I have it in /usr/bin/)
# utilisation du script :
#
# ./script.sh url fichier.flv
# _______________

# url --> $1
# fichier --> $2

# fichier de sortie
# on efface l'écran avant de commencer
clear

# on affiche les infos sur le script
echo "livewebarte.sh version 1.0."
echo "(c) 2010 Carmelo Ingrao; License : GPL"
echo "livewebarte.sh version 1.2."
echo "updated from version 1.1 by Fitzcarraldo on 24 April 2013; License : GPL"
echo "usage : ./livewebarte.sh url_concert_sur_liveweb.arte.tv fichier.flv"
echo "rtmpdump must be installed and in your path."

# on télécharge le code source de la page streamant le concert dans le fichier sourceconcert.html
wget $1 -O sourceconcert.html

# on récupère le numéro d'event et on le copie dans eventok.txt
#cat sourceconcert.html | grep "new LwEvent" > event.txt
#cat event.txt | cut -b "15 16 17" > eventok.txt
grep "new LwEvent" sourceconcert.html | grep -E -o -e "[0-9]+" > eventok.txt

# on prend le fichier XML d'arte et on crée l'url avec le bon numéro d'event
# xmloriginal="http://arte.vo.llnwd.net/o21/liveweb/events/event-610.xml"

# url du xml sans le numéro d'event original (pour faciliter)
xmloriginal2="http://arte.vo.llnwd.net/o21/liveweb/events/event-"

# on assigne à la variable b le contenu de eventok.txt --> numéro correct d'event
b=$(cat eventok.txt)

# on créer l'url correct du fichier XML qu'on téléchargera
xmlok=$(echo $xmloriginal2$b)
finxml=".xml"
xmlfinal=$(echo $xmlok$finxml)

# on télécharge le bon XML
wget $xmlfinal -O xmlok.xml
echo "Fichier XML téléchargé"

## I have changed the code in this part:
# on extrait le nom du fichier MP4 depuis le fichier xmlok.xml
mp4hd=$(cat xmlok.xml | grep "urlHd")
# on efface le début de l'url du MP4
# on efface le surplus à la fin du nom du MP4 et on sauve le nom dans la variable mp4hdcut2
mp4hdcut2=${mp4hd#*MP4}
mp4hdcut2=${mp4hdcut2%%mp4*}
mp4hdcut2="MP4"$mp4hdcut2"mp4"
## end of my changes to evaluate mp4hdcut2

# on lance la commande rtmpdump avec les paramètres
# rappel :
# $2 = nom du fichier de sortie
# $mp4hdcut2 = nom du fichier MP4

## Carmelo had ./rtmpdump here, but I removed the "./"
rtmpdump -r rtmp://arte.fcod.llnwd.net:1935/a2306/o25 -a a2306/o25 -f LNX 10,0,45,2 -W http://liveweb.arte.tv/flash/player.swf -t rtmp://arte.fcod.llnwd.net:1935/a2306/o25 -p http://liveweb.arte.tv/ -o $2 -y $mp4hdcut2

# on efface les fichiers crées
rm sourceconcert.html
#rm event.txt
rm eventok.txt
rm xmlok.xml

# Affichage des infos de fin
echo "________"
echo "Voilà, le téléchargement est terminé."
echo "Le fichier se trouve ici :"
echo " "
echo $2
echo " "
echo "Bon visionnage"
echo " "
echo " "
exit 0

Save it in your home directory and make it executable:

$ chmod +x livewebarte1.2.sh

Also make sure you have the package rtmpdump installed and that it is in your $PATH.

Then you can browse the ARTE Live Web site and select the performance video you wish to download. Hover the mouse pointer over the video pane and click on “INTEGRER LA VIDEO” to find the URL for that video, which will be of the form http://liveweb.arte.tv/fr/video/foo/, where “foo” is some string of characters (not literally “foo”, of course). The command to download it is then as shown below. I’ll use a file name foo.flv here, but any prefix would do:

$ ./livewebarte1.2.sh http://liveweb.arte.tv/fr/video/foo/ foo.flv

Note that it is essential to include the forward slash at the end of the URL. The file will be downloaded to your home directory and you can watch it in VLC or any other Linux media player that plays Flash video.

So there you have it; currently you can use artepupper 0.3 in Windows or livewebarte1.2.sh in Linux to download from ARTE Live Web a video of a performance you attended and loved.

How to play MSS2 codec (Windows Media Video 9 Screen) .wmv files in 64-bit Linux

One type of legacy .wmv file uses the ‘Windows Media Video 9 Screen’ MSS2 codec (“DMO-based codec, optimized for low-bitrate sequential screen captures or screencasts”, according to Wikipedia). Now, it is not possible to use win32codecs with the 64-bit versions of Linux multimedia players, so they cannot play .wmv files that use the MSS2 codec. However, there is a way around this: use the Windows version of SMPlayer in WINE. Below I explain the procedure I used to enable me to play .wmv files that use the MSS2 codec.

1. I surfed over to the download page of the MPlayer Web site and downloaded to ~/Desktop/ the installer for the latest version of SMPlayer for Windows (smplayer-0.6.9-win32.exe at the time of writing).

2. I configured WINE and installed SMPlayer for Windows:

$ cd
$ export WINEPREFIX=$HOME/.wine-smplayer
$ export WINEARCH="win32"
$ winecfg
$ cd .wine-smplayer/drive_c/
$ cp ~/Desktop/smplayer-0.6.9-win32.exe .
$ wine smplayer-0.6.9-win32.exe

3. I launched SMPlayer for Windows:

As I had opted to use a WINEPREFIX, to launch SMPlayer (Windows version) from the command line I would need to enter the following command under my normal user account:

env WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-smplayer" WINEARCH="win32" wine /home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-smplayer/drive_c/Program\ Files/SMPlayer/smplayer.exe

Instead it was easier for me to edit the Desktop Configuration File that was created on the Desktop, and also edit the menu entry that was created in the Kickoff menu, to execute the above command for me. Now all I need to do to launch SMPlayer for Windows is either to select it from Kickoff > Applications > Wine > Programs > SMPlayer > SMPlayer or to double-cick on the SMPlayer for Windows icon on my Desktop.

EDIT (December 11, 2012): OK, for those of you having trouble seeing the video component and only hearing the audio component of a .wmv file using MSS2, you need to do the following:

When you launch the SMPlayer 0.6.9 Setup program (wine smplayer-0.6.9-win32.exe) and click on Next and accept the Licence Agreement, make sure Binary Codecs (under MPlayer Components) is ticked.

When you launch SMPlayer for Windows and open the .wmv file, click on Options > Preferences to open the Preferences window. Click on General in the left pane, then click on the Video tab in the main pane and select “directx (fast)” or “directx(slow)” as the Output driver. I have just done this again (I’m currently using WINE 1.5.18) and I’m watching a MSS2-encoded .wmv file ‘Kai_Software2.wmv‘ as I type this, as shown in the information listed by SMPlayer for Windows:

Kai_Software2.wmv
General
File H:/Kai_Software2.wmv
Size 3193 KB (3 MB)
Length 00:04:33
Demuxer asf

Video
Resolution 883 x 720
Aspect ratio 1.22639
Format MSS2
Bitrate 100 kbps
Frames per second 1000.000
Selected codec wmsdmod

Initial Audio Stream
Format 353
Bitrate 16 kbps
Rate 22050 Hz
Channels 1
Selected codec ffwmav2

Audio Streams
# 0
Language
Name
ID 1

Just to recap:

$ cd
$ export WINEPREFIX="/home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-smplayer"
$ export WINEARCH="win32"
$ winecfg
$ cd /home/fitzcarraldo/.wine-smplayer/drive_c/
$ cp ~/Downloads/smplayer-0.6.9-win32.exe ~/.wine-smplayer/drive_c/
$ wget http://winetricks.org/winetricks
$ chmod +x ./winetricks
$ ./winetricks # 'Select the default wineprefix' + OK first then 'Install a Windows DLL or component' + OK and tick 'allcodecs' and OK.
$ wine smplayer-0.6.9-win32.exe # Make sure Binary Codecs is ticked.

Help for Windows users: How to create a Linux LiveCD, LiveDVD or LivePenDrive from an ISO file

Existing Linux users are completely familiar with ISO image files, LiveCDs and LiveDVDs, but a newcomer to Linux may have never heard of ISO files, let alone created a LiveCD or LiveDVD. I was reminded of this yesterday when a confused Windows user contacted me to ask how to create a LiveCD, so I thought I’d post the instructions here as they may help other Windows users wanting to create a bootable LiveCD, LiveDVD or pen drive in order to try Linux without installing it, or indeed to use to install Linux to their hard drive.

In this particular case the Windows user wanted to create a LiveDVD for 64-bit Sabayon Linux 5.5 KDE Edition, so I oriented my instructions to Sabayon Linux. But the procedure is essentially the same for other Linux distributions that release ISO files for the creation of LiveCDs or LiveDVDs.

Below I cover two options: the creation of a bootable ‘Live’ optical disc (be it a CD or a DVD), and the creation of a bootable ‘Live’ pen drive. Steps 1 to 3 below are common to both options.

1. Download e.g. the ISO file for 64-bit Sabayon Linux 5.5 KDE Edition from one of the repository mirrors listed on the Sabayon Linux Web site’s Download page. For example: http://na.mirror.garr.it/mirrors/sabayonlinux/iso/Sabayon_Linux_5.5_amd64_K.iso

2. Find the MD5 checksum of the ISO file you downloaded. In Windows you can do this by using e.g. the freeware GUI utility WinMD5sum.

3. Visually compare the MD5 checksum with the MD5 checksum listed in the .md5 file for the ISO file you downloaded in Step 1 (some distributions just list the MD5 checksum on the Download page, rather than issuing a file). For example: http://na.mirror.garr.it/mirrors/sabayonlinux/iso/Sabayon_Linux_5.5_amd64_K.iso.md5

If they differ then the downloaded ISO file is corrupt, so go back to Step 1, otherwise proceed to Step 4.

Option A: How to create a LiveCD/DVD via Windows

If the ISO file size is less than the capacity of a CD-R (usually 650 MiB, but check on the media box or disc label) then use a CD-R. If the ISO file size is bigger than the capacity of a CD-R then use a DVD-R. If you burn to a CD-R then you will create a ‘LiveCD’; if you burn to a DVD-R then you will create a ‘LiveDVD’. Even if the ISO file is smaller than the capacity of a CD-R, there is nothing stopping you using a DVD-R instead of a CD-R if you wish.

4. Burn the ISO file to a blank optical disc, but not as a data file: you need to select the ‘Burn Image’ or ‘Burn ISO’ option in your burning utility. Optical media and optical drives are notoriously fickle, so burn using a low speed e.g. x1 or x2 in order to maximise the chance of a good burn. There are many commercial and freeware burning utilities for burning to CD-R and DVD-R. Commercial burning utilities include well-know applications such as Nero and Roxio. There are also many freeware burning utilities which you can find using e.g. Google. The Sabayon Linux Wiki article HOWTO:_Burn_Sabayon_from_Windows recommends the freeware burner ISO RECORDER but you can also find others using Google. Upate 5 June, 2016: Rufus is a FOSS ISO burner for Windows that I have used successfully.

Many burning utilities have a Verify option to check that the burn was successful. If the utility you use does have such an option, select it. If it does not have a Verify option, there are other ways of checking the burnt CD/DVD in Windows (and Linux) if you want to. For example, see Method 3 in Sabayon Linux Wiki article HOWTO: Checking the integrity of a LiveCD or LiveDVD.

5. Boot the LiveCD/DVD to see if it works. You may need to configure your computer’s BIOS to boot first from an optical drive, or your computer may have a boot menu option which lets you select which drive to boot.

Option B: How to create a LiveCD/DVD on a pen drive (I call this a ‘LivePenDrive’) via Windows

This is only viable if your computer has a BIOS option to boot from USB pen drives, or a boot menu option to boot from USB pen drives. Legacy computers did not have these options, so, if you have an old computer that cannot boot from a pen drive, your only option would be to create a ‘Live’ optical disc.

4. Download the utility UNetbootin for Windows, and install it.

5. Run UNetbootin to create the LivePenDrive using the ISO file you downloaded. In the UNetbootin GUI window, don’t tick ‘Distribution’, tick ‘Diskimage’. Then select ‘ISO’, browse (use the ‘…’ button) to the folder containing the ISO file and select it. Make sure you have selected Type: ‘USB Drive’, and Drive: the drive letter for the pen drive. The pen drive will probably be D:\ or E:\ but, if you are not sure, check in Start > Computer (Start > My Computer if you are using Windows XP).

6. Boot the LivePenDrive to see if it works. You may need to configure your computer’s BIOS to boot first from a pen drive, or your computer may have a boot menu option which lets you select which drive to boot.

The beauty of using a pen drive is that you can overwrite its contents in future if you want to create a LivePenDrive of a newer version of the same Linux distribution or a different distribution. Unlike a CD-R or DVD-R, which will probably end up being thrown away when a new version of the ISO is released. Another advantage of using a pen drive is that the creation of a LivePenDrive is more reliable than burning an optical disc. It is not uncommon to end up with a corrupted optical disc, which is just a waste of plastic.