One thing all Mac users have had to come to accept is that we live in a Windows world. Because of it, file sharing was a major sticky point for OS X when it first appeared and it tried to answer this problem with a UNIX technology called SMB. SMB helps emulate Window shares for UNIX operating systems. Since OS X is based on BSD, an UNIX variant, SMB was a no brainer to implement. Well, not quite a no brainer. There were problems early on and Apple has done a pretty good job of fixing the problems but many still linger.
The great folks at Objective Development have graciously shared a little program, called Sharity, it made for itself. Their problem was a bit different as Obdev’s team wished to integrate more seamlessly with Windows from UNIX clients such as Nextstp/Openstep and then later with later, “SGI/IRIX, Sun/Solaris, (and) HP-UX”. It just happens that this would be an easy port to the Mac.
Using a more robust CIFS (Common Internet File System) client than Apple, Obdev is able to handle many of OS Xs short-comings. My main beef with how Apple handles Windows shares is that I am always losing my connections to them. Reboots is the most frequent place I am forced to re-establish the share and waking up my Mac from sleeping is another place this occurs. But with Sharity, I don’t have this issue, they’re always there! In fact, browsing directories and shares is way easier than with Apple’s solution. It’s how things should have been from the get go.
In my conversations with Obdev for this piece, they really want to make one thing clear about Sharity. It’s not a Mac application as you know it. Christian told me, “With Sharity the deal is that you get a slightly different (we think better) behavior than Apple’s CIFS client, but the App comes from the Unix world (with all implications).” Meaning, you’re not going to get the pretty and easy OS X interface you’ve come to expect. This is pure UNIX. In fact, I told Christian how the interface totally reminded me of my SunOS days back when I worked at Hitachi. For me, a good fuzzy feeling since I loved SunOS. To many, this fuzzy may be too irritating of an itch. So be forewarned.
In playing with Sharity in the last month, I’ve come to be thankful for it. When I used my PowerBook or my wife’s Mac mini and I have to surf to our sole Windows machine, I do it so cringing. No fun. Obdev has spoiled me. With it’s use of symbolic
links to automatically mount a share after boot is awesome. I found this trick in Obdev’s Tricks and Tips section which I highly recommend any Sharity user to review.
Overall, I would say if you have a need for better file sharing between either UNIX or Windows clients, then this is a sure bet. I figure most desiring this advanced client will have a strong foundation enough to know how to use the UNIX looking UI. Again, with the documentation and the tips section on Obdev’s site, you’ll be sitting pretty in no time with this excellent program.
And oh ya, due note that lack of an announcement of improved file sharing at this years WWDC for Tiger.
UPDATE: Some aspects of this article have been modified for accuracy. Thanks to Christian at Obdev for the clarity.