[lug] The issues of separate /home partitions, or maybe just freedesktop/SuSE problems?

Scott Rohling scott.rohling at gmail.com
Thu Mar 19 19:27:17 MDT 2009

I've always seen it as a given that your /home directory is going to contain
things that might muck up a new installation..   So I tend to use a
different userid for different installs - and migrate things from my 'old'
userid as I feel I need them..

It's still a good idea to keep a separate /home partition (IMHO).. keep the
data separate from the OS when you can...


On Thu, Mar 19, 2009 at 3:28 PM, Chris Riddoch <riddochc at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hi, everyone.  First, sorry for the length - I'm including details I
> believe may be relevant to diagnosing this issue.
> I once heard the advice of using separate partitions for /home in
> order to ease upgrades - the / partition can be wiped and reinstalled
> from scratch, and the personal data on /home is unaffected by a fresh
> install.  It seemed like a great idea.  I'm wondering, though, if this
> might be responsible for some really broken behavior.
> First, the setup:  Two separate systems, both running OpenSuSE 11.1,
> both with separate /home partitions.  One system was reinstalled
> (except /home, naturally) from 11.0, the other from 10.1.  The 10.1
> system's original hardware was retired, disk moved to newer hardware,
> and the reinstall conducted on new hardware - also leaving the /home
> partition untouched.  The first system, an IBM T40 thinkpad, has ATI
> video.  The other, nvidia.  (This could matter, later.)  Both have
> been running XFCE as the primary desktop environment, but various
> gnome and KDE programs are used to get stuff done.
> The potential disadvantage of using a separate /home partition this
> way is that the newer software installed is expected to appropriately
> handle the presence of older configuration files, either by upgrading
> them automatically or erroring out noisily when there's a problem.
> It'd be ideal if the software, on detecting unusably old config files,
> would at least suggest that certain files/directories be removed so
> that a fresh, default configuration can be created, as it would be on
> a new install when the program is run for the first time.  Alas, it's
> evidently too much to expect from our desktop environments.
> It seems that some freedesktop.org stuff doesn't handle this
> gracefully.  The main application hierarchy menus have been behaving
> very unpredictably - the system upgraded from 11.0 decided not to show
> the 'games' menu at all following the installation of a game.  The
> other, previously 10.1-based, lost most menu items altogether.  Many
> applications still aren't being presented in the menus on either
> system.  Other menu items are multiplying at random.
> Relatedly, the file-type associations for opening things from file
> managers, be it nautilus, konqueror, or dolphin, are frequently
> broken, and unfixable with the 'use this program for this file type'
> option, as many programs we'd want to use aren't in the menus, or are
> with incorrect paths.  For example: /usr/X11R6/bin/OOo-writer doesn't
> exist on modern SuSE.  It's /usr/bin/owriter now, but you wouldn't
> know it from the menus.  Everything relating to menus in /etc was
> deleted and recreated by the installs.
> Separate /home partitions may also be related to another issue: both
> systems are having is problems shutting down properly.  First, when
> the shutdown splash screen is about to be displayed, the video is
> corrupted - usually displaying something that had previously been on
> the screen, in wild distortions, on both systems, with completely
> different video hardware.  This made it hard to tell that filesystems
> weren't being unmounted properly, and that the system would hang while
> attempting to unmount.  On the T40, this happens every *other* boot,
> curiously.  It's difficult to diagnose, because without a serial port,
> it's rather hard to have a serial console to send things to instead of
> the screen that's having its own, probably unrelated, issues.
> With some googling, I found references to other people with similar
> shutdown problems, who *also* have separated /home partitions from /,
> and the problems have been attributed to jexec[1] and JRE, or
> beagle[2], (both of which we don't have installed) or pulseaudio[3],
> or even something having to do with xsession[4].  It sure *looks*
> rather scattershot, and separate /home partitions seem common between
> many of these cases.
> So: what should I blow away from our home directories, with the
> expectation that the desktop environment will start up thinking it's
> new, and just work?  There's so many of them that I don't even know
> what half of these dotfiles/dotdirectories *are*, anymore.   Mere
> deleting might not be sufficient, either - in not too-distant memory,
> gconfd would recreate files from its memory cache to defeat tinkering
> users like myself from trying to solve these kinds of problems.
> [1]
> http://forums.opensuse.org/applications/402963-strange-issues-suse-11-1-gnome.html
> [2]
> http://forums.opensuse.org/install-boot-login/406790-shutdown-problems-solution.html
> [3]
> http://www.broadbandreports.com/forum/r21601264-openSUSE-111-is-out~start=20<http://www.broadbandreports.com/forum/r21601264-openSUSE-111-is-out%7Estart=20>
> [4] http://groups.google.com/group/alt.os.linux.suse/msg/21e537985b3b6a0d
> --
> Chris Riddoch
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