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NetWare and Linux
By Thiravudh Khoman

In the Beginning

As a fan of NetWare v3.12, I had always hoped to see some manifestation of the NetWare NOS running under Linux. Back in the "old" days, Caldera actually offered a version of NetWare v4.11 based on official Novell source code that ran on their OpenLinux v1.3 and on Red Hat's Linux v5.1, but notably, NOT on either company's subsequent releases. Unfortunately, it didn't survive for very long. In 1999, Caldera terminated the project while it was still in its infancy, but at least they continued to bundle a NetWare "client" with their subsequent OpenLinux distributions.

Given that Caldera was recently taken over by SCO, I'm no longer sure whether the NetWare client still exists in SCO's Linux products. But for what it's worth, web links can still be found for both the client and the server (e.g. https://www.caldera.com/support/docs/NetWare/). It should be emphasized, though, that the server works ONLY under OpenLinux v1.3 and Red Hat Linux v5.1, and probably nothing else! (And of course, there's the matter of the bugs.) Also, as far as I know/have seen, the server only came out in a 2-user trial version. (At that time, the pricing for anything useable in a production environment was fairly ridiculous, ESPECIALLY for a Linux product.)

At least one other NetWare-like server product has existed for Linux; i.e. MARS_NWE (an acronym for "Martin Stovers' NetWare Emulator"). As the name suggests, this was a NetWare "emulator" only and was nowhere near a complete implementation. While you could create NetWare-like volumes with it, MARS_NWE provided NONE of the NetWare support utilities since these belonged to Novell. If you're able to read German, additional information can be found at https://www.systemhaus.gkdmedien.de/mars_nwe/. But I believe the project is also in limbo.

As fate/luck would have it, I had the chance to try both of these products many years back, and even got them to run. I must admit though, that my NetWare under Linux pipe dream was dashed long ago, but at least a NetWare client for Linux is still within the realm of possibility.

In Search of a NetWare Client

Although Caldera's OpenLinux supported a NetWare client, the company's disappearance from the Linux scene and the ascendancy of Red Hat Linux and its variants means that the best solution would be to search for a generic NetWare client that could run under various vendor distributions, especially the newest ones. A search on the Internet came up with a few possibilities, but most of them lead to dead-ends - or more precisely, abandoned projects. One project, however, was still up and running and I was successful in installing it under Red Hat Linux v8.0 and using it to connect to a NetWare v3.12 server running IPX.

The NetWare client in question is the so-called "Novel (sic) Client for Linux", details of which can be found at Sourceforge.net (https://www.novelclient.sourceforge.net and https://www.sourceforge.net/projects/novelclient). The latest v.0.81 release came out at the end of 2002 and can be downloaded from this site.

The Novel client does not run entirely on its own but depends on the installation of two other packages: ipxutils and ncpfs. ipxutils is used for configuring IPX interfaces and networks, while ncpfs (written by Petr Vandrovec) allows you to mount NetWare volumes under Linux. I got the Red Hat Linux v8.0 versions for both of these programs from www.rpmfind.net.


The actual files I obtained were:

    ipxutils: ipxutils-
    ncpfs: ncpfs-
    Novel client: novelclient-0.8.1.bz2.sh

Because there are some dependencies involved, you should perform the installation in the following order (login as root first and open a terminal window):

  • ipxutils
    Type: rpm -Uvh ipxutils-
  • ncpfs
    Type: rpm -Uvh ncpfs-
  • Novel client
    Type: sh ./novelclient-0.8.1.bz2.sh

(If you're lazy like me and don't have any similarly named files lying around, you can also type: rpm -Uvh ixputils*.rpm and rpm -Uvh ncpfs*.rpm ).

Unlike the RPM installations, the Novel client installation will ask you a few questions, such as:

  • Whether the license was fun to read? (Yes, as if I had a choice)
  • What Linux distribution you are using? (Red Hat Linux v8.0, in my case)
  • Whether to install IP, IPX or both? (IPX only, in my case)
  • Whether non-root users are allowed to mount NetWare volumes? (Oh, why not)
  • Which Ethernet interface to use? (eth0, in my case)
  • Which Ethernet frame type to use? (Ethernet 802.2, in my case)
  • Whether to permanently bind IPX to the network card? (Yeah, go ahead)

Running the Novel Client

Upon completion of the Novel client installation, you will be informed that the program has been installed "somewhere" in the GUI's pop-up menu system. With Red Hat Linux v8.0, it can be found under Extras > Internet for both KDE and Gnome.

Another way to execute the Novel client is to just type: novelclient from a terminal window. The downside of running it this way, though, is that your terminal session will be unavailable until the Novel client (an X app) quits. A "cleaner" way to do this is to run the program in the background (type: novelclient&).

Once you've executed the Novel client, you should see a login screen that's reminiscent of Novell's current Windows clients for Netware (figure 1). Before you attempt to login though, you'll need to configure a few things first. Since I only have access to a NetWare v3.12 server, I'm only going to run through a "bindery" type setup. A NetWare v4.x "NDS" setup shouldn't be too different though.

  • Click the Advanced button
  • As a default, the screen comes up in NDS configuration mode (figure 2)
  • Ignore this and go to the Settings tab first (figure 3)
  • In my case, I'm choosing IPX as the "Protocol" and Bindery as the "Authenticator"
  • Notice that the first NDS tab now displays itself as Bindery
  • Click the Bindery tab (figure 4)
  • Don't enter a Username or Password yet (or enter them if you must but DON'T click OK yet)
  • Click the drop arrow in the Server field to choose a server
  • You should see a list of detected NetWare servers that you can choose from (I've chosen CIT124FP, that's available on my network)
  • Notice that the value in the Mountpoint field has been changed to match the server name (i.e. /root/NETWARE/CIT124FP/)
  • Go back up and enter a Username and Password
  • Click OK and if all goes well, you should see a window pop up saying that the mount directory has been created (figure 5)
  • Congratulations, at this point, you are officially logged into the NetWare server of your choice
  • If you have a terminal window open, type: cd /root/NETWARE/CIT124FP/sys)
  • Follow that with: ls -l and you should see all the files/directories in the root of the NetWare server's SYS: volume that the logged-in user is authorized to see
  • You should also be able to browse to the abovementioned directory with a graphical file manager (e.g. Konqueror, Nautilus); or even a non-graphical one (e.g. Midnight Commander)
  • Note: If you were to cancel out of the Novel client now, you would still be logged into the NetWare server
  • To log out of the NetWare server, re-load the Novel client, click the Connections tab and then click the Disconnect button (figure 6).
  • Notice that the mountpoint will be deleted, which signifies that you're no longer logged into the NetWare server
  • Exit the Novel client (your settings will be "remembered", thankfully)


A few lines back, I mentioned that you could browse to the server's directories from the mount point with either graphical or non-graphical file managers. However, if you were to navigate from a terminal, there's an oddity that's worth pointing out:

  • Go to the mount point: cd /root/NETWARE/CIT124FP
  • Now do an ls -l
  • You'd expect to see a directory called sys, but instead you'll get a cryptic message saying "Stale file handle" and nothing else
  • Ignore the message and go one level further by doing a cd sys and you will be in the NetWare server's SYS: volume and everything will work as expected again

Doing Without the Novel Client

I didn't mention this before, but what the Novel Client does for you is to submit a login name and a password to the NetWare server and then mounts the server's volumes onto one of your Linux directories. It of course does so via a sexy X application. In truth, though, you don't need to use the Novel Client at all, and can do the same by using the ncpmount utility that gets installed with ncpfs.

ncpmount is most commonly used as follows:

    ncpmount -S server -U user -P password /mountpoint

The text after -S is the server name, the text after -U is the username, and the text after -P is the password. The last parameter is the mount point on your Linux file system. In my real world example above, the command would be issued as follows:

    ncpmount -S CIT124FP -U student /root/NETWARE/CIT124FP

(Note that I didn't include the -P option above. This was because the user "student" has no password. I will still be prompted for a password though, in which case I will just press Enter. An alternative is to use the -n option which tells ncpmount that there is no password and NOT to prompt for one.)

ncpumount is ncpmount's counterpart. It is used to unmount a NetWare file system and is used as follows:

    ncpumount /mountpoint

or in our case:

    ncpumount /mnt/NETWARE/CIT124FP

Copyright © 2003, Thiravudh Khoman