External Home Directory in Leopard

Of all the new features in Leopard, the one I read about today may just be the most exciting. At least for people that regularly use more than one Mac, yet like to have all their files available all the time. In the past that meant some painful synchronization. I am using ChronoSync to accomplish this, but there are many other options. See here for an interesting discussion on this topic. Read on to find what might just be a much more convenient solution…

Here’s a quote from a Macworld Article on the new Leopard preference panel:

Perhaps the most welcome power-user feature is the ability to change the short username of your account and the path and name of your home directory.

And then some more information in the discussion of that article:

“Wow. I would love to get my home directory off of my tiny internal drive. While it is probably wise of you not to go into detail about this feature in such a general write up, I would certainly be interested to read more about it. I guess I will just have to wait a few more hours and try it for myself.”

Yeah, I’ll be writing this up separately. The good news is that it works really well — at least with an external hard drive. (I couldn’t get it to work with a network drive such as an AirPort Disk, although the results would likely be better with a true NetBoot server.)

In other words, put your whole home directory, including massive iTunes and iPhoto libraries on an external harddisk, plug it in on your home iMac or PowerBook (in my case) when away from home, e.g., at work, and no more worries about synchronization of documents or settings since everything is stored in one and the same place. A dream come true.

Of course it means carrying an extra hard disk with you all the time, which is not necessarily convenient. But here’s another key advantage: Unless you have a MacBook with an easily upgradeable internal HD it allows you to easily upgrade your storage space. My PowerBook, despite its 100 gig HD is always at the brink of being too small, and upgrading the HD is not an easy task as an easy Goggle talk will confirm. The same, I think, is true for MacBook Pros.

The only question now is this: Should I upgrade to Leopard right away, or rather, as I had planned, wait a couple of months for the first few point releases until the bugs are worked out? I just don’t know how safe it is to install a .0 operating system, or to which degree my applications are Leopard compatible. Do I need to upgrade them all or will they just work?

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