I have a heterogeneous local Windows network which mostly works most of the time. I've experimentally installed Debian 7.0 (should already be automatically updated to 7.1) on an IBM ThinkPad T60. One of the first things I tried was pointing Nautilus at Browse Network, and, surprisingly, all the Windows machines were visible. Well, that promptly broke! The only significant thing I did between working and breaking was to install the firmware package to support wireless. After that it didn't matter if I booted into Ethernet only or wireless only or both – it was just broken. No idea if this is related.
I began blindly Googling around and trying out various fixes, and here is what I came up with so far: installed Samba; in /etc/samba/smb.conf ensured that “workgroup = WORKGROUP” (exact name of common Windows workgroup); in /etc/nsswitch.conf added “wins” to line beginning “hosts: files”; installed “winbind” package. Also tried alternate file managers Dolphin and Thunar.
Current state of affairs: Windows machines reliably see the Debian machine as part of the network, but I cannot reach any Windows machine by browsing on Nautilus, Dolphin or Thunar: what I do see is “Windows Network”, which opens to show an object called “workgroup” (capitalization in the browsers is inconsistent for unknown reasons) - but “workgroup” cannot be opened, and eventually returns an error message about a server not responding. I can however ping the Windows boxes from Debian by name (not just ip address), and after a longish pause, they begin responding. And in Dolphin at least (couldn't figure out how to do this in Nautilus), I was also able to map a shared folder on a Windows 7 box by name. Aside from occasionally asking me to reenter a username and password this arrangement seems stable.
Besides enabling wireless, one of the first things I did after installation was to install a network printer on the Debian machine, and this function never broke. My old Belkin router seems to have some quirks, though. It consistently assigns the same IP addresses to local machines – even after one or the other is rebooted – but the DHCP list in the web management page only shows 1 or 2 items – even when 5 machines are on-line. I tried rebooting one Windows 7 box, and sure enough this did renew a spot for it on the DHCP list, but this did not seem to help Debian any – the Windows box remained invisible to (all) Debian file managers.
Any ideas how to make the local network visible?
[I chose "debian-user" since none of the more specific possibilities looked correct]