One of the facts about modern computing which many people take for granted, is a LAN which can be browsed. Without such an ability, a Local Area Network only consists of IP addresses, and unless we have made special preparations otherwise, those IP addresses can also be reassigned by our router. Yet, this view of the LAN has prevailed under Linux for some time, where specific services need to be configured with text-files, and where users have made entries in the file ‘/etc/hosts’, such that specific host-names are associated with specific IP addresses, that are defined manually.
There exists a Linux solution to this problem, which can be installed with the package ‘avahi-daemon’. In short, this daemon provides in a Linux-friendly way, what the old ‘NetBIOS’ used to provide under Windows. It associated packages, ‘avahi-utils’, ‘avahi-ui-utils’, and ‘avahi-discover’ , provide a GUI that allows the local computer to browse graphically. Additionally, the package ‘libnss-mdns’ allows for the host-names on the LAN to receive the suffix ‘.local’, so that regular Linux programs can refer to those host-names and connect to their IP addresses transparently, without requiring manual configuration.
dirk@Phoenix:~$ ping Mithral.local PING Mithral.local (192.168.2.10): 56 data bytes 64 bytes from 192.168.2.10: icmp_seq=0 ttl=128 time=0.183 ms 64 bytes from 192.168.2.10: icmp_seq=1 ttl=128 time=0.266 ms 64 bytes from 192.168.2.10: icmp_seq=2 ttl=128 time=0.275 ms 64 bytes from 192.168.2.10: icmp_seq=3 ttl=128 time=0.374 ms 64 bytes from 192.168.2.10: icmp_seq=4 ttl=128 time=0.281 ms 64 bytes from 192.168.2.10: icmp_seq=5 ttl=128 time=0.302 ms 64 bytes from 192.168.2.10: icmp_seq=6 ttl=128 time=0.465 ms 64 bytes from 192.168.2.10: icmp_seq=7 ttl=128 time=0.280 ms ^C--- Mithral.local ping statistics --- 8 packets transmitted, 8 packets received, 0% packet loss round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 0.183/0.303/0.465/0.078 ms dirk@Phoenix:~$
Some people have noted problems getting this latter feature to work, but on my LAN, it just seems to work out-of-the-box.
It should be noted though, that if we install this to a computer which is not used to it, there can be some stability issues, and ‘avahi-daemon’ may not be compatible with arrangements some users have already made, to resolve their host-names. There was a specific problem I ran in to myself, after installing this on a laptop, according to which a list of available printers had become unstable, as viewed from one application.