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Use your iPod to travel with your Users folder System
You are thinking about a useful argument to buy an iPod? Well, see it as some kind of notebook. Thanks to the power of OS X, you can carry your complete workspace from home in your hand.

Just copy your complete Users folder to the iPod. Now go to another computer running OS X and create a new user on this machine. Let's name it ipod_user. When you have created the user, open NetInfo Manager, click the lock and enter your admin password, and scroll to the "Users" entry.

Here you'll find the newly created user "ipod_user". Edit the category "Home" by changing the actual homepath from /Users/ipod_user/ to /Volumes/ipod/Users/home_user. Replace "home_user" with your home user's short name, then save and log out. In the login panel you'll see the new user "ipod_user". Login and now this user will use all prefs etc. from your iPod. Everything from home now works on the hostmachine, including dock settings, mailaccounts, your iphoto library, everything. And it's way smoother than booting from OS X on the ipod.

That's personal computing at it's best! thank you OS X!

[Editor's note: You'll have to do a bit more work if you want to sychronize the other direction when you return home, but this is a nice tip in general for external drives. I've done something similar with my external FireWire drive.]
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Use your iPod to travel with your Users folder | 15 comments | Create New Account
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What extra needs to happen to sync at home
Authored by: greggomer on Jan 18, '02 02:38:35PM

Rob commented that you need to do a little extra work to sync things up once you return home. That is a good point. Any one have anythoughts on how to best synch up any changes, say to a Doc you were working on it you Documents folder.

Very cool tip, I am excited, I will use this all the time!!!!!!!!



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How to avoid the extra step.
Authored by: serversurfer on Jan 18, '02 07:27:05PM
If you really intend to use this "all the time", you should just make your iPod your primary user folder. Follow the main tip for changing the location of your user folder in NetInfo Manager, just do it on your home box as well. This will mean that all your "user activity" (saving prefs, documents, etc.) will be done directly on your iPod regardless of what box it is connected to. (You can actually use this method to log in to as many different boxen as you like. Just create dummy users on each of the additional machines.)
Keep in mind that this means you will no longer be using the original user folder on your HD. You could even delete it if you like, but I recommend that you don't. Even though the data in your original user folder will get stale over time, it will still be extremely useful if you should happen to lose/break your iPod as you will be able to use it to log in. (First log in as root and redirect NetInfo back to the user folder on your HD.)
You can freshen your old user folder from time to time by dropping your active user folder in your Users folder, replacing your user folder. Note the difference between Users folder (where all the user folders are) and user folder (your individual user folder, named after you). If you are wealthy, you could buy iPods for everyone in your family and put all their user folders on them. Which reminds me...

Bonus Tip

I can't test this myself as I have no iPod, but I don't see why you would need to copy the whole Users folder, just your individual user folder. I would be more than happy to test this if someone would be good enough to send me an iPod. ;)

BTW - This topic should illustrate why you should save everything in your user folder, unless it is to be used by all users, in which case it should go in to /Users/Shared. This also makes backups a breeze. Just copy the entire Users folder. Then, if you have to build your system back up from scratch, you just reinstall the OS and applications, create your users again, (make sure you create them in the same order so they keep their uid's, which is a number used to claim a file. uid's are generally mapped to usernames for you when you ls -l or something, but the file is actually owned by 501 and not frank. If you mess this part up, you can edit uid's by hand in NetInfo Manager) and then restore your backup of your Users folder over the new Users folder, overwriting and preserving ownership/permissions.

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How to avoid the extra step.
Authored by: hellmachine on Jan 22, '02 04:24:43AM

u are damn right! after understanding the osx structure there are many comfortable ways to work with your data. i partitioned my hard drive in two parts: system and hellmachine. after installing osx on system copy your Users Folder on the second partition. do the netinfo thing (changing the userpath to the second partition) and now a clean install is a breeze. just format the system partition and change the userpath after this to the second partition. after logout/login everything should be as always but with a fresh install.
be aware that some lazy installers put their files in the main library. just create a quicktime-, contextual menu items- or whatever folder in your user library and copy these files there. they should work. keep your system install virgin. as told, backups are way easy now...
only thing u will loose sometimes are kext files or stuff which have to be in the main lib-/system folder. but that's rare. just keep the installer at hand...



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What extra needs to happen to sync at home
Authored by: hellmachine on Jan 22, '02 04:34:28AM

should work with every sync utility. just let compare the two userfolders...
or use ditto via terminal. this was posted here some time ago...
search for ditto. u can make doubleclickable shellscripts to sync or backup via ditto and the resource fork add on...



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Make a symlink??
Authored by: foniksonik on Jan 18, '02 03:29:04PM

Can't you just make a symlink from the iPod Volume to the new users 'User' folder??

ie: ln -s /System/Volumes/[ipod volume/folder] /Users/[new user]

you'll probably have to delete or move the new user folder first.



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Make a symlink??
Authored by: hellmachine on Jan 22, '02 04:37:54AM

maybe works but the netinfo way is more maclike ;-)
and guaranteed to be supported by the system. with a symlink the toolbar alias of the finderwindows may not work with the userfolder...



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burn out.
Authored by: charlietuna on Jan 18, '02 06:53:21PM

i read on macslash that the ipod's hard drive can't stand up to this sort of abuse for very long. there the suggestion was to use the ipod as a boot disk, but certainly for some operations, just keeping your home directory on it could strain it.



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burn out.
Authored by: serversurfer on Jan 18, '02 07:51:44PM
This should not be an issue. You will only be accessing the drive occasionally (for preferences, data files, etc.) This is considerably less activity than your system disk will see. Besides, I think the HD in the iPod is rated for the same number of hours as a "regular" HD and playing MP3s reads continuously from the disk for hours (Apples touts 10 hours of continuous playback on the battery.)

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burn out.
Authored by: srcleaves on Jan 18, '02 08:38:59PM

Actually when playing music the drive isn't active all that much, it spins up to feed the buffer then spins down again until it is necessary to read more music data. The iPod gets it long battery life from the fact that the drive isn't in use very much. I would still hope that the drive has a reasonable ability to run without burning out, but I would also guess that when used in this fashion it could spin down when not in use? Does mounting it on the desktop prevent that? Doesn't seem like it should.



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burn out.
Authored by: hellmachine on Jan 22, '02 04:30:31AM

like serversurfer said it should be no issue because in your userfolder are mostly small files which loads into host-ram while login or prefs changing. nothing bigger than an 32 mb mp3 file. the real stuff runs on the host system/library where the ipod is plugged in.



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SciFi
Authored by: knotme on Jan 23, '02 08:12:47PM

I've been using one of the first iPods as an OSX boot since its release. It has burned over night on many occasions w/o any problems. This hint, on the other hand, presents several puzzles; the NetInfo Manager needed a one after the /iPod (/iPod 1/Users...) and I can't get the modem indicator back on my menu bar. Little things, like these, make me suspect the OS isn't happy supporting this hack.



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SciFi do not works
Authored by: paolo on Nov 27, '02 07:45:47PM

I have tried to use my ipod as home folder but that not works. I have tried also with ipod 1, but do not works. Do you know if this tip works also with Jaguar?

Anybody can help me?


thanks

p



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SciFi do not works
Authored by: hellmachine on Jan 27, '04 08:54:59AM

this should work in any os x system. and its not a hack, its a regular feature. i do this with a partitioned drive on my desktop mac. one partition for the system, one for the userfolder. after this you can raid the system partition anytime, reinstall, change the path of the userfolder to the second patition via netinfo and you are ready...
if it dont work, check for the right typed path again...



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iPod 1
Authored by: abriening on Feb 26, '04 10:43:32PM

My guess is that if you login without the iPod attached the system will create a /volumes/iPod folder. Then the next time you attach the iPod it shows up as /volumes/iPod 1. So you should change netinfo back to /volumes/iPod/... and delete the iPod 1 folder. Otherwise if you login again it will create a /volumes/iPod 2 folder, and it won't work anymore.



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Use your iPod to travel with your Users folder
Authored by: hellmachine on Jun 16, '06 12:14:33PM
hi, i just don't understand these problems with syncronisation.
i use a solution for years without ever having to sync.
i just mount my powerbook on the desktop in firewire target mode.
on the desktop machine set the location of the homefolder via netinfo manager
to the homefolder on your powerbook.
after this you use always the same homefolder. may it the powerbook or the desktop machine. details are here, it's the same principle:
http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20020118085624228&query=ipod%2Buser%2Bfolder

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