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I am setting up a single workstation (kiosk) in my local library for a team of genealogy researchers (approx 12-14). I plan to use Ubuntu 12.04 LTS as the OS.

  1. Each user must have a unique user ID and password
  2. Ideally, I would like each user to enter their user ID manually. By default LightDM allows the user to select their name from a scrolling list. (this is not a showstopper though)
  3. All users must to access a single desktop environment and the same home directory for document collaboration (single document repository for all users). I also want to avoid configuring the desktop UI look and feel as many times as the number of users.** I have planned a branded desktop background, launcher layout and other things consistent with a Training manual I am putting together.
  4. I need to audit log in logout date/time stamps for each user to capture time spent. The answer to this question helps me with this point. (I will need to understand if the answer is still valid as it was written in 2010.)

I am asking a very specify question; Is what I have described above holistaically achievable and if so how? I will accept a "No" or "Probably not" answer. If that is the case please help me understand with a brief "why" and I will go back to the drawing board. The reason for asking the question is that I suspect its not achievable but want to be 100% sure.

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up vote 0 down vote accepted


You may be able to get away with using symlinks. If you created the users and then removed their home folder and then replaced it with a symlink, pointing to the "shared" home folder, theoretically any changes that were made would happen to the shared home folder.


ln -s /home/shared_home /home/new_users_home

You would really be hacking it together at that point.

I'm not sure that doing it that way will work at all, or if it works up front, continue to work in the long term. There are so many items stored in a users home, including browser cache, etc.... You can look forward to some strange happenings I'm sure.

If you want a central repository for documents. You might just create that directory and then place a link on the desktop for each user... This won't make each users desktop environment identical, but would take care of the document repository issue.

You could create the base account (and configure it exactly how you wanted it, link to document repository on desktop and all). Then create the next user, remove their home dir, and copy the base accounts home dir to the new user. Effectively replacing the new users home dir with your specific config. Rinse and repeat.

Hope this helps

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Dont know if this is what you are looking for but if you had a separate ext4 partition that was auto-mounted for every user you could use this as a global home folder ?

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I'm sure I'm missing a crucial bit, but if you want to avoid configuring the desktop many times as the number of users, can't you just do it once and copy the appropriate files to each user's home directory?

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or better yet, just copy the whole home directory and rename it. – Mateo Jul 26 '12 at 9:22

Edit the home folder for each user in /etc/passwd and point it all to the same home directory. This will mean that they share all settings as well as documents.

If you only wanted to share documents saved in the Documents folder, but allow each user to configure any settings separately you could replace each Documents folder with a link to a shared one.

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