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To avoid conflicts I have always installed multiple Linux and Unix distributions each with it's own home partion or directory, and in the era of 3TB hard drives this is often very practical; I also do make heavy use of virtualization on some of my machines. I even use version control with Git to synchronize certain important documents and programming projects across multiple machines, however this is still not the most efficient way to do things, moreover I am still occasionally hunting for data across machines and distributions that I know I saved on one of them.

How do I set up multiple Linux (and occasionally more traditional Unix such as BSD or Solaris) distributions with a single home partion or if problematic with a single "data" partition? I do realize that various distributions often plant config files and "dot" files in your home directory, and occasionally other directories and there occasionally will be conflicts between them. Is it possible to create links to my data on a separate partition. Presumably these would be symbolic links since I don't believe I can create hard links across partitions. What about directory hard links which I know some filesystems support but I know very little about them? If I do save my data in a single "data" partition, which I presumably will be regularly backing up, how do I make sure that the links in the various distributions are regularly updated to reflect the new material saved?

Any suggestions or schemes that people find practical and workable are welcome.

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If you really need multiple distributions, why not virtualize the less-often used ones? Same for Unices like BSD or Solaris. What data do you want to share between systems? Config files? Media, something else? – schaiba Feb 17 '13 at 13:46
If you can live with your user-created stuff living in ~/data (or whatever), your problem goes away since you can make that a symlink to your shared-partition directory. Then all your distributions will have separate user dotfiles, Desktop/ directories etc., so there will be no collisions there. (But no sharing of configurations either.) – Ulrich Schwarz Feb 17 '13 at 15:10
I'd imagine it wouldn't be trivial to find a file-system that Linux, BSD and Solaris happily support as if it were native (and no, I don't think of FAT/NTFS as a viable solution =o)). Have you considered standing up a low-spec machine with an NFS share on it? – tink Feb 17 '13 at 20:35
Be careful that SELinux or other policies keep out of their respective hairs in the share... – vonbrand Feb 17 '13 at 23:22
Also remember to tweak access rights/ownership of the files shared across the systems. I.e. keep the same uid for corresponding users in all of the systems. – peterph Feb 19 '13 at 10:13

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