November 01, 2006

Remote VPN Access from Mac OS X to Windows Network

Maybe it's just me, but when I have managed to figure out a new technology feat that I'd butted heads with for days, months or even years, it's an exciting victory - even if by the time I've solved the problem I no longer crucially need it. Yesterday, I had an epiphany of sorts, when I remotely accessed our corporate Windows network wirelessly on my Mac OS X-based PowerBook from home, gaining the ability to edit, copy, save and delete from the couch. A small victory? Probably - but one that eluded me in my myriad of attempts before.

At the office, connecting to the Windows network from my Mac has never been hard. With the Mac's built-in CIFS/Samba support, from the Finder, I would choose the "Go" menu, and hit "Connect to Server". When the "Connect to Server" window opened, I would enter smb://, followed by the network I was to connect to, and then the shared machine. (For example: smb://network;machine/) If I were aiming to connect to a subfolder on that machine, a list of available shares would present itself, and I would then login using my network credentials (user name and password).

From home, even after having connected to the VPN, this simply doesn't work. I would always receive an error saying "The Finder cannot complete the operation because some data in "smb://network;machine/" could not be read or written. (Error code - 36)" Not exactly helpful, and trust me... very annoying. Not even when I would substitute the known IP address for "network;machine" could I get anywhere - until last night.

Invention stems from curiosity, so I began monkeying with the way I listed the server name after the initial smb:// prompt. After a few incorrect server mounts, a solution was found! Instead of the "network;machine" method used while local at the office, I found that a full URL-like address was required to make everything hum. So instead, I entered: smb:// and we were all set! Instead of an error (-36), I was able to select the shared folder and get working. Now I have even more ways to get work done from home when I should be relaxing! Is that good?

This eliminates yet another reason I should keep the Dell laptop around. I can upload, download and edit just as if the server were local. While some might take this for granted, we're pretty stoked that we figured it out. After all, it took long enough...

Listening to ''A Message'', by Coldplay (Play Count: 13)