I was wondering if it is possible to see all the local windows shares on linux. Under windows I used to be able to see the public files of everyone "near me", is there anyway to replicate this under ubuntu?
Yes, you have to use Samba though.
Her'es a tutorial on how to connect to windows shares. http://www.cyberciti.biz/faq/access-windows-shares-from-linux/ from command line.
Here's the Samba documentation which shows how to view shares near you in Ubuntu depending on your windowing system. https://help.ubuntu.com/community/SettingUpSamba