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I have a server which hosts everyone's home directories. The server /home is mounted using NFS as /home on each workstation. I use the same UID/GID for users on the server and on each workstation.

I'd like to be able to log in to a graphical session as myself on more than one workstation at a time, but the session manager and some applications keep session data, configuration, cache, and other data in my home directory (usually but not always under .config). This creates issues when you have active sessions on different machines using the same directory. It's even worse if there are different versions.

I've toyed with various symlink approaches, but I haven't found an elegant solution. How do other people solve this?

A full list of applications would be unwieldy, but I've had trouble in the past with XFCE itself, Chrome, Eclipse, and others so I've been reluctant to try again.

The core issue is that application configuration (plugins, user preferences, etc.) needs to be shared between machines, but data related to an individual session can't be shared. My past experience was that many applications appeared to keep both in the same .config directory.

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  • This can hardly be answered without more details: What session settings are supposed to be saved when there are multiple parallel sessions? Why not only mount a shared data partition with each client and keep home locally? Or switch to a full thin-client type of setup (e.g. via LTSP). This question needs more details on what you expect to be happening and how your needs are.
    – FelixJN
    Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 12:19
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    In the distant past, I've used shared home directories in environments where multiple logins on the same account worked fine. I would consider anything that has a problem with this to be buggy. However, this use case is probably less common now, so it wouldn't be surprising if it was poorly tested. Version conflict issues are a bigger problem and I would not consider that a bug.
    – user10489
    Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 14:23
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    Have you considered (ab)using $XDG_CONFIG_HOME set to a named subdirectory per host? Honestly , I’ve handled this before on AFS network homedirs by using its @sys magic symlink. Too bad NFS doesn’t have that too.
    – jsbillings
    Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 16:24
  • This answer may help.unix.stackexchange.com/q/683065/31760
    – X Tian
    Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 15:48

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Many of the session tools put a session number in the name of the directory they use to store their data, so it shouldn't be an issue. Without a list of applications causing problems, this can't be answered really.

It is actually possible to have multiple graphical logins from the same user on a single machine in linux, so this should be well supported, and anything that breaks is buggy.

However, using the same config files on different versions of software can cause problems; the best solution for that is to either synchronize your versions or use separate home directories, maybe with symlinks to shared data over NFS. Having said that, I have a laptop with multiple versions of ubuntu on it with a /home partition shared between the versions and not had a problem.

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  • I'm currently using a 'local home' directory with symlinks to all of the usual user directories: ln -s /home/user/Documents /local/user/Documents for example. I'll try linking .config in the same way and see what happens.
    – pbft
    Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 15:49

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