mtools backend for gnome-vfs

[sending again after actually subscribing, sorry if you get this twice]

Hey all,

I just did a stupid-sounding thing: I implemented an mtools backend for

Why would someone waste their time on such a pursuit, you ask? After
all, the normal mounting/unmounting backend works just fine[0]. And it
does work quite well, y'all did some nice work on that.

The thing is, I run a thin-client computer lab. It's in rural Namibia,
and everything except for the server is a refurb machine. Having a
thin-client setup is cheaper, allows 486's with 16M of RAM to run the
latest GNOME (!!), makes maintainance easier, etc etc. Everything runs
fine, except for the fact that programs can't access hardware on the
clients, except for X, because the programs actually run on the server.

Enter mtools. mtools bundles something called `floppyd', which
transparently integrates with the mtools suite to offer access to the
floppy on a machine. It is designed for thin clients, and authenticates
with standard X authentication. There's no encryption, but that's not
much of an issue on the typical switched thin-client network. All it
takes is a couple of lines in mtools.conf, and you can expose a: or b:
or x: as the remote floppy. You can still have the local floppy (which
is actually on the server) available as well.

Michael Meeks was contemplating a different solution, using SSH and
running some kind of automounter on the client. It's clear this isn't a
general solution to the client-hardware problem, but it is a piece. I
don't know what form the general solution has, but I think it involves X

 -- Doesn't check to see if a file is writable
 -- Need to figure out a sane URI scheme: nautilus doesn't like
floppy://a:/foo (but floppy:/// will take the first listed floppy)
 -- mtools calls need to be serialized, which doesn't play well with
nautilus' strategy for pouncing on a uri with gazillions of threads (no,
it doesn't crash but it does get a but slow. I check the cancellation,
but there's nothing.)
 -- many gnome programs can't write to URIs from gnome-vfs, even if
they're writable. I was bummed a bit that this was the case. Maybe I can
get in a patch or two for the programs my users use. Would be nice to
see "client floppy" in the epiphany save-as list, for instance.

Anyway, the files are attached. I'm sure other thin-client people would
be interested in this. Just wanted to let you all know about it, too.

Cheers, and keep up the wonderful work -- spatial nautilus rocks

[0] Aside from the fact that the whole mounted/unmounted difficulty
still exists. It would be nicer if you could somehow turn on the floppy
light to indicate the floppy was mounted. In this way the mtools model
is better, but it's clunkier in other ways.
Andy Wingo <wingo pobox com>

Attachment: gnome-vfs-floppy.tar.gz
Description: application/compressed-tar

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