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Re: Multi-distro home directories

On Sat, 2003-06-07 at 15:32, mike808@users.sourceforge.net wrote:
> Anyone shared home directories across distros on a multi-boot system?

We've played a little at work with shared NFS home directories on
multiple machines with different distros (and different versions of the
same distro), which is close to the same thing.

> How well did/does it work?

Not too bad.  Command-line tools generally don't have any problems; you
just have to pick the particular behavior you like best.

> Do different desktop versions interfere with each other?
> I'm thinking GNOME and KDE and different distros using different versions
> of each - is there any impact to all the stuff in the .kde and .gnome directories?

I can't speak for KDE, but GNOME doesn't have much of a problem.  GNOME
1 and GNOME 2 set up separate directories, and gconf2 can use gconf1
information and provide configuration to GNOME 1 systems.  Within each
major revision, the GNOME people have done a pretty good job of
preserving compatibility.

My experience, however, has mostly been with GNOME 1.4 on Debian woody
and GNOME 2.2 on Debian sid, so I could be missing something.  I would
imagine the biggest problem right now would be running GNOME 2.0 and 2.2
off the same .gnome2 directories.

> Do the desktops have too much coupling with their underlying base distro?
> i.e. references to icons and applications that are missing or are in different
> locations from one distro to the next?

Again, can't speak for KDE.

GNOME seems to not have a problem with missing icons; they just don't
show up in the menu.  Toolbar launchers typically just don't work, and
sometimes have the GNOME "missing" icon in place of the app icon, but it
doesn't seem to cause a problem, and the launcher comes back when the
app is installed.

In particular, the application menu is built from the local system's
applications, so the menu should just change.

Themes might be a problem; for example, if you're set up on RH's
Bluecurve theme, you might have a problem on a system without
Bluecurve.  But I typically just pick themes that are available on all
the systems I use.

> Does it make sense to create "users" for each of the distros and force
> symbolic links for application data (like mailboxes and such) that cannot
> be relocated out from under .kde, .gnome and friends. i.e. log into mike808-rh
> when booting into RH, and mike808-g2, mike808-mdk, mike808-suse, 
> mike808-xandros, etc. 

That's one possible way to handle it.  What I'd worry about is that
you'd have stuff strewn all over your multiple user directories.  Bind
mounts might be a way to prevent that problem.

In GNOME, you can set up multiple sessions with their own settings.  If
you standardized on the names ("rh9", "deb-woody", "mdk9", etc.), you
could modify the session startup scripts on each system to start the
right session for the distro.

> How are desktop applets like media players and such
> affected? Were they? I'm guessing that since each one has different names for
> some devices (/dev/cdrom, /dev/sg1, /dev/cdrecorder, /dev/dvd, /dev/sda, etc.)
> this would get problematic.

My experience is that apps store global configuration in a system-global
way, or have appropriate auto-discover systems for finding hardware, so
unless you hard-code configuration settings, you shouldn't have
trouble.  One exception might be OSS vs. ALSA sound, but if you use the
OSS emulation on your ALSA-based systems, even that should be workable.

Also, it seems that most distros standardize their device paths. 
/dev/cdrom generally works on Debian, Red Hat, and others, for example.

> I'm hoping there's a magic consolidation trick to make such a plan work.
> Thoughts?

Nope, just trial and error, and a little imagination.

> Logistically, it's a PITA to share a common mailbox across the distros.
> Same for various application preferences and settings - e.g. OpenOffice,
> kmail filters, desktop shortcuts, SSH and PGP keys, etc.

If you have a separate server, you could get around the mailbox problem
by using IMAP.  Another way might be to configure all your distros to
use maildir in your home directory.

> I know there's no way around keeping each up to date - that will always
> have to be done separately for each distro.

It might be a good idea, too, to try and keep the distros running
something close to the same software as much as possible.  So, for
example, don't upgrade to any KDE 3.1 distros until all of them support
it.  That might be hard if Debian is in the mix (Keith Packard
supposedly describes the Debian versions as "stale", "testy", and
"usable" :-), although there are backports of KDE and GNOME to woody
which might help.

> Maybe some folks using "roaming profiles" heavily could speak up?

Not me.

> Also, anyone know of any project or folks working on cross-distro cryptoFS
> stuff? At last check, SuSE uses blowfish, MDK uses AES128, RH has XOR, and
> none of them can mount each other's CFS. Go figure.

That's weird.  Are they just missing the right crypto modules, or are
they really different systems?  I can't imagine any distro not including
all of the popular algorithms, even if their setup tool prefers one of

As I understand it, the 2.6/3.0 kernel will include a CFS, which should
Jeff Licquia <jeff@licquia.org>

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