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Roaming profiles without a server System
While setting up a Mac in the lounge room for internet surfing, I discovered a way to have roaming profiles without the need for an OS X server.

I started by creating an account on the new box. This account has an automatic mount to my main Mac. With this done, I then created symbolic links between the new account and some major folders within my account folder on the main machine:
  • ~/Library/Mail
  • ~/Library/Safari
  • ~/Documents
  • ~/Library/Calendars
I am now able to sit at this Mac in the lounge room and have my documents, mail, calendar, and Safari information at hand without worrying about version control.

[robg adds:This is all the information that was supplied with the hint, so here's a bit more info on symbolic links. The format of the symbolic link command is ln -s target link_name. So in this case, I believe the command on the lounge room Mac would have looked like this:
  ln -s /Volumes/main_mac/Users/user_name/Documents ~/Documents
Repeat for each different item to be linked, and if the folder exists already, you would probably want to delete it first. Of course, I may be wrong, and I haven't tested this one...]
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Roaming profiles without a server | 13 comments | Create New Account
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OSX upgrade on Pizmo G3 500mhz
Authored by: davidac on Aug 07, '03 10:00:52AM

I'm currently using OS9.2.2 on my powerbook and it's time to upgrade. I'm putting in extra RAM so I'll have 640M with 7 gigs hard-drive space available. Does anyone know of any complications re loading on OSX - should I wipe the hard drive and do a clean install??
Thanks, davidac

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this is a forums question
Authored by: mclbruce on Aug 07, '03 10:44:18AM

Try asking your question here:

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Roaming profiles without a server
Authored by: notmatt on Aug 07, '03 10:24:01AM

I'd be careful trying this if you aren't always going to be connected to the main server.

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Roaming profiles without a server
Authored by: babertocci on Aug 07, '03 04:27:41PM

I was thinking about the same problem, as I would like to have my TiBook do this while on the same LAN as my Cube, but then I would have problems when I took it mobile. Writing a script to store some backup mobile prefs and switch between them would be trivial, but the only hangup I had was how to create a hook so the script would run everytime I go mobile/come home. My LAN is an Airport network, so I figured that based off the status of the network connection I could determine which settings to use. Does anyone know how to do this, either via Applescript or a shell script?

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Panther solutions to roaming
Authored by: ssevenup on Aug 08, '03 02:30:16AM

Panther will have much improved abilities in this regard. The idea of caching stuff (including the authentication stuff) for when you go mobile has been a MAJOR sticking point to getting a managed desktop useable. As I have heard it described in Panther you could in theory set up your Mac with a "roaming profile" and never rely on the presence of the server again. The credentials and etc. are cached indefinitely. But, on the other hand if the server is present when the user is connected, the stuff will automatically synchronize. So admittedly this is a server based comment to a serverless "hint", but it illustrates how essential the presence of a server box is becoming in OSX. Fortunately Apple is not milking it's customers as badly for it's server products as Microsloth. In fact it's practically free with the purchase of an XServe.

Mark Moorcroft
Sys. Admin.

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Roaming profiles without a server
Authored by: stetner on Aug 07, '03 06:42:40PM

As well, watch that if you end up using both systems at the same time you could corrupt your data files when two processes fight over updating them...

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Roaming profiles without a server
Authored by: Brock Lee on Aug 07, '03 02:24:04PM
I started by creating an account on the new box. This account has an automatic mount to my main Mac.

How is this automatic mount done? Does it occur upon logging in? Upon booting? Via "System Preferences" or though some other mechanism?

Thanks in advance,


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Roaming profiles without a server
Authored by: renny on Aug 07, '03 07:30:55PM

The best way is via an applescript that contains your name and password, as well as the path to the share.

However, a seamless mount is not really needed. Making the mount point a login item that prompts for a password is enough. The important thing is that you don't try and use this system until the mount has been loaded and the links work.

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But his main Mac IS a server...
Authored by: jendahl on Aug 07, '03 03:10:20PM

Isn't this procedure just using his main Mac as a server; there's certainly a server component in this hint. Wouldn't the title be more correct as "Roaming Profiles without OSX Server software." Or maybe I'm just missing something...

--> John

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doing something similar with iPod
Authored by: bartd on Aug 07, '03 04:47:19PM

I'm trying to do something similar with my iPod. I work in two places (home and office) and want to use my iPod as my document universe that follows me around whereever I go.

So I mount my iPod on the desktop on both machines. Then I sync my Documents folder using IMSafe - that works great. Presumably i can using iSync to synchronize iCal and Address Books across my two computers.

For Safari, Firebird, Thunderbird and Fire, I did this:
- at home: move the data files for each of these applications (mostly in ~/Library somewhere) to my Documents folder and use ln -s to create a symbolic link from their original home to their new localtion.
- when leaving home: run IMSafe to sync my Documents folder onto the iPod
- at work: mount the iPod on the desktop, then have a symbolic link from the original location to poin to the location on my iPod

This works for iCal but not for Fire, Safari, Firebird or Thunderbird. I'm using the ln -s approach, not the Make Alias method.

I wonder if this is some permission problem. Any suggestions?

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Roaming profiles without a server
Authored by: r2242 on Aug 07, '03 07:32:17PM

I have something similar setup with one addition. It is not a totally foolproof setup, but works well and any errors (my screw ups) are easily corrected.

I do much the same. Store files, etc. on a remote volume on my "basement server". When at my desktop or on my TiBook at home, everything is up to date since all is on the same remote volume.

The additional thing I have set up is a Disk Image with the same name as the volume on my server (I append the host computer's name during sync operations). When on the road I mount the disk image, which provides the correct path names. While away and using the disk image, all works the same, but it is a local volume instead of a remote one.

If I screw up and launch while neither the remote or disk image is mounted, OS X simply creates a folder by the name of the missing volume in the invisible folder /Volumes/ (which I keep an alias to in my Home folder). Just quit the app, delete the bogus folder in /Volumes/, and all is well.


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Roaming profiles without a server
Authored by: alvaromuir on Aug 08, '03 10:21:49AM

For that why dont you just make a sym link to your whole home directory?

ln -s /Volumes/main_mac/Users/userName /Users/userName

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Roaming profiles without a server
Authored by: mriannnnnn on Aug 13, '03 04:49:44PM

the one reason that I would not is the Library folder. Different apps on different machine etc. etc.


Ian Sheridan | |

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