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At our university we have a workstation-like system. It's windows XP (or Win-7 on some machines) and you can sit to any computer and log in with your credentials. It seems to be pulling some of your personal data via network: desktop-icons, documents you store, etc. All I know is this: there's a server and your data is stored there.

My questions are:

1st: How do they call such systems?

I can not even start exploring my options without knowing the name.

2nd: Can I create something similar across Debians (Xubuntu, Ubuntu clients)?

I'd like to share application data across clients:
-Downloads
-Documents
-Browser history

I have the idea of mounting /home/ from a network drive, and when you log on ie. /home/adam/ will point to the server's folder of my personal data.

Is this feasible at all? Or what's the convenient way to solve this?

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    I believe with Windows it's called a profile. On linux mounting the user's home directory remotely would offer the same functionality. Search for autofs / automount / nis – wurtel Oct 28 '14 at 12:24
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i believe that your expectations can be viewed as two things .

the first is to let many machines check their users against one central server , so we don't have to create a duplicate account and a credential on each client machine before logging in if we have already have this on the central server . a term describing such systems is single-sign-on . though a wikipedia artical of this title covers broader matters including openid and other web based services . ( i keep seeing sayings that authentication and authorisation are two different issues but personally don't quite understand . )

the second is to access many networked data as if the data are on the local machine , but are synchorised when we are walking from one client machine to another . we may call this behavior "roaming home directory" or "roaming profile" .

so for the single-sign-on problem windows deploys domains . there are implementations on unix systems to interoperate with windows domains . one implementation is samba . with samba installed a unix system can join a windows domain or set up and become controller of a windows domain . there are other single-sign-on solution for unix . i am not familiar with those technologies , but i believe this serverfault answer have good explanations , and also discusses about roaming home directories .

for roaming directories , the windows roaming profiles solution is in detail described in this article from samba , the article also have instructions configuring unix machines to visit or host windows roaming profiles . there is an abundance of other unix solutions for roaming directories . basically we can just adopt any networked filesystem like the nfs , the windows cifs , the 9p of plan9 , or the amazon s3 , then write some small automation to make a mount(2)(8) happen on login . maybe some locking is favourable for avoiding writes on a same file from multiple places . we may further come up with some local cache .


in my own experience i have a small handful of machines and don't usually access them across an internet so i just make a same account name and passphrase locally on each machine . and i use sshfs(1) to push and pull directories and files across machines .

  • Thank you for the answer (and the time you spent on it). It's really useful as it's not mentioning any concrete solutions; only terms and articles which I can read where to start. Exactly the kind of answer I was expecting. – Adam Horvath Jan 26 '15 at 10:46

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