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My cousin and I are talking Ubuntu Servers. What I do is I have a main VM that I used a Ubuntu mini install cd which downloads only the files you want, I tell it to download just what is needed for ubuntu server CLI (no GUI), Apache, and one or two other things I know I will use, and do a generic set up (make user names and passwords for self and root, set up SSH and make sure it's working, install things like wajig and bleachbit, set up something that when I first log into my account it shows memory, disk, and CPU stats), and then shut it down and snapshot it. Then when I want to use my minecraft server or mediawiki or something else that is just a branch from the snapshot. Each branch uses the same base and if I need to blow it away because I broke it or something the base is still there to use.

My cousin would like a physical machine to do this with. I imagine a USB drive with the base OS set up as he would like, but a second USB drive or hard drive with all the user files, so to say. Something like a hard link of to the WWW and USR directories on the hard drive or second USB disk, as well as VM and other partitions. Then if he wants he can blow away the user drive, leaving the system drive in place. Also allow him to take the server base on the road and run it inside a VM with it's own user drive. The system drive would be read only unless he wished to update the OS or certain files.

How possible would this be possible? Is it as easy as hard linking folders such as USR, WWW, and others? Is it possible to have a folder that is hard linked to another disk but contain files on the local disk?

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  • Why not just run everything from the USB drive, making regular backups of Stuff That Counts (system wide config files, user data)? FWIW my students run LinuxMint (like it w/ MATE better as a DE) entirely from a USB drive - bootloader and all. If they avoid installing proprietary video drivers for nvidia, etc. then the system can pretty much boot on anything that will boot from USB. Or heck spend $5/mo on a linode.com vps.
    – ivanivan
    Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 0:03

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You cant hardlink between FS you would need symbolic links.

Something like a hard link of to the WWW and USR directories on the hard drive or second USB disk, as well as VM and other partitions.

Anyways you could try partitioning a usb correctly with grub and making it active and primary and dd or something like that ur working install volumes onto the usb's other partition. the linking part you would have to make sure the devices are always recognized the same and editing the fstab file so the "usr" "www" directories point to to other usb drives with volumes on them with the data. The jist is a mobile os is already possible but the subdividing you speak of maybe tricky

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