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I'm a software developer and I have a new laptop with Ubuntu.

I plan to set up this laptop as a development workstation where I'll do my professional work (for my company) and also I'll develop some personal/home software.

I want to have my professional stuff (applications, software libraries, configurations, etc.) separate (as much as possible, in terms of tydiness, for example, unity launchers, application settings, apps at startup, broswer settings, etc. If I switch from one user to another it has to look like different environments) from my personal stuff.

So I think having separate users for separate contexts: one user for professional work and another user for personal work (and a guest user too). But I'll have two users for only one person (only I use this laptop).

It's not a big problem, but, is it a good practice to have different users for different contexts? Is there a better way to solve this issue?

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can you define what "separate (as much as possible)" means to you a little more? Ubuntu quite often a sudo somehting is tossed around which by granting root access will always infridge separations easily. Separate (in terms of tidyness) users are ok. in terms of safety it might not be so easy I fear. What do you mean by separate? – humanityANDpeace Jan 15 '13 at 10:47
@humanityANDpeace In terms of tidyness – ilaz Jan 15 '13 at 10:53
You might want to explain by what you mean by tidyness. – N.N. Jan 15 '13 at 10:58
@N.N. simply, for example, unity launchers, application settings, apps at startup, broswer settings, etc. If I switch from one user to another it has to look like different environments. – ilaz Jan 15 '13 at 11:27
For clarity you might want to include that in your question. – N.N. Jan 15 '13 at 11:43
up vote 3 down vote accepted


From a security perspective separation is a Good Thing (tm) - as your professional and personal usage may have very different risk profiles.

At work you may deal with code for clients, personal data for thousands of individuals, configuration of network devices etc., and that usage may be regulated (depending on your industry, employer, or clients)

At home you may be a bit more relaxed, watching videos, downloading games etc.

Without separation, you run risks which include:

  • Allowing a compromised executable that you pick up at home compromising your work environment.

  • Accidentally doing something in your professional environment while you think you are in your personal environment - this happens a lot, and one of the workarounds where separation of accounts isn't possible is to have environments well labelled (eg by a different prompt, or coloured background)

In reality it also makes a lot of sense to have separation of accounts used for development and production environments, so we do see this in major enterprises.

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My take on this is:

Install Virtual Box and have your own personal environment on it. Yes it takes more resources, but you will not risk interfering with your professional things.

this is what works for me, of course.

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