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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

 

How do you upgrade your distro? A tale of two workarounds

Every classic Linuxer would know why it's very handy to dedicate a separate partition for the /home folder of your tree: you could in theory share it between multiple OSs that you installed in your box (which you choose to run when you start your computer).

Now, I'm guessing that many people reading and nodding to the above, will also know that sharing /home/ is one thing, sharing $HOME (/home/yourUserName) is a completely different beast.

For example: you have a stable distro installed in your box; you decide to install a new version of that distro along the old one, in the same box. You run the new distro with a new account tied to the old /home/yourUserName folder: KABOOM!!! Weird things start happening. Among these:

To workaround these problems, I have a strategy: I use a different /home/ sub-directory for each distro installed in my system. For example, for distro X version A.B I use /home/knocteXAB/, for distro Y version C.D I use /home/knocteYCD/. The advantage about this is that you can migrate your settings manually and at your own pace. But then, you may be asking, how to really take advantage of sharing the /home folder when using this technique?

Easy: I keep non-settings data (mainly the non-dotfiles) in a different /home/ folder with no associated account in any of the distros. For example: /home/knocte/ (no version suffix). Then, from each of the suffixed /home/ subfolders, I setup symlinks to this other folder, setting the appropriate permissions. For instance:

You may think that it's an interesting strategy and that I'm done with the blog post, however, when using this strategy you may start finding buggy applications that don't deal very well with symlinked paths. The one I found which annoyed the most was my favourite Gnome IDE, because it meant I couldn't develop software without problems. I mean, they were not just cosmetic problems, really:

So I had to use a workaround for my workaround: clone all my projects in $HOME instead of /home/knocte/Documents/Code/OpenSource/ (yah, I'm this organized ;) ).

I've been trying to fix these problems for a while, without much time on my hands.

But the last weeks a magical thing happened: I decided to finally sit down and try to fix the last two remaining, and my patches were all accepted and merged last week! (at least all the ones fixing symlink-related problems), woo!!!

So the lessons to learn here are:

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