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I need a solution for mounting *nix /home dirs remotely from Windows. I need something that will have Windows treat the files as a native device and allow you to open/edit files with any local program (similar to how SSHFS works). If I'm not being clear enough I can elaborate.

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What version of Windows are you running? Is it on a LAN, or does it have to traverse a public network? – Avery Payne Oct 14 '09 at 22:34
there is an sshfs available for Windows - though I've never used it – warren Oct 15 '09 at 8:20
I already checked that out, sadly the licensing is too restrictive for what we want to use it for. – Michael Pobega Oct 15 '09 at 10:12

Have you tried Samba? It has a [homes] section in its config file that is meant to do exactly what you need - sharing out home directories to Windows client machines.

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The problem is that we are already using this on the lab machines, but the servers that physically hold the /home data are behind firewalls; I need something that will be less prone to problems than making our Samba share public. – Michael Pobega Oct 14 '09 at 21:35

What you want is (roughly) roaming profiles. Roaming profiles turn the local copy of the Windows user account into a carbon-copy of what is stored on the server; when the user logs out, the changes are copied back. In this manner, the account is kept "in sync", and the user can log into any other machine and receive all of their documents, changes, etc.

In the past, to get "Roaming Profiles", you would need a domain controller and a SMB mount to attach to. Given that you've already mentioned being behind a firewall, this might not work. ErikA is right in that Samba would be the traditional solution here; as it will provide you with both of these requirements.

That being said, using Roaming Profiles is fraught with peril. I have seen way too many profiles "implode", leaving a mess when the user logs in the next time. Some people have had good luck with it, never encountering any kind of issue, but at my work, I have yet to see someone go more than 3 months before suffering some kind of corruption in the profile, leading to the system creating a completely new stub account with a new desktop environment, and all the files are in the old account, inaccessible except by an Administrator.

So if roaming profiles are out of the question, either because you don't have a domain controller, or you don't want to use Samba, or you do use Samba but you have profile issues, then you're left with doing "alternative" connections to a file server. This might not be so bad, especially if you can get users to keep everything in a single folder that represents a mount point back on the server. "My Documents" was, and I believe still is, capable of a redirect to a server elsewhere; and this might be your way to deal with the situation.

Windows 7 provides support for NFS; however, I don't know if it will support a user's profile in the way you're thinking. If you're planning to have people access data over the Internet, then this is out of the question - security is minimal at best, and a wide-open door for abuse at worst. If you use it, you'll get a drive letter, so that's a start.

You might want to look into OpenAFS as well, which has a matured Windows client and provides all kinds of nifty features, including kerberos authentication (which Windows supports out of the box). This might be more to your liking, especially if you have *nix-style servers on the back end. And it supports record locks, something critical for sharing Microsoft-style files between users. This means shared Access databases and Excel workbooks won't corrupt themselves.

In the end, I think you'll probably mount their home directory as a drive letter, using whatever service you decide on, and do a redirect of My Documents etc. to this drive. This will probably be the sanest solution for you.

Good luck, and come back and post a comment about how it worked out, what your decisions were, why the decisions were made, etc. so everyone can share.

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You may be able to do what you need with the Subsystem for Unix-based Applications, from Microsoft. A version can be downloaded for XP (maybe Vista?), and there is a newer version included with the Vista Ultimate & Enterprise.

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