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Storing "real" user data: was: Re: Update: Re: Password Manager opinions and recommendations

On Friday, March 30, 2018 07:54:03 AM Tomaž Šolc wrote:
> Hi
> On 27. 03. 2018 03:02, rhkramer@gmail.com wrote:
> > I have what might be called a "religious" aversion to storing what I
> > consider "real" user data in /home.
> I'm curious. Why do you have this aversion and where do you store "real"
> user data?
> This is the first time I've heard about not storing user data in /home.
> I thought that's the whole point of /home.

Well, it's my religion, and afaik, I have no (or maybe few?) disciples)--or 
maybe I should not call them disciples but--what would the word be--
independent "prophets").

Also, it's been a while since I developed that "religion" (I shouldn't call it 
a religion, I mean no disrespect to real religions).

Now I'm trying to "remember out loud" (which is sort of like thinking out 
loud, only trying to remember rather than think ;-)

One of the first disappointing encounters I had with ~ was when I did something 
like intentionally delete it--this could have been back around 2000 or 2001.  
I completely forgot (or maybe I hadn't yet learned that there is a lot of stuff 
stored in ~ as hidden files.  

It (the stuff stored as hidden files) is what I now call "user configuration 
data" as opposed to what I call "real user data", which I define as files I've 
created or intentionally captured / stored--things like text documents, 
letters, spreadsheets, code I may have written, music files, videos, photos, 
...--in short, things I [probably | may ] want to keep "forever" (for example, 
stuff I want to carry along when I upgrade to a new computer or OS).

When I upgrade to a new computer or OS, I don't necessarily want to carry my 
"user configuration data" along--it may be irrelevant or even counter 
productive in the new OS.  (To be sure, sometimes the case is just the 
opposite--I figured out some configuration that I prefer and I want to carry 
that along to the new OS (assuming it will work in the new OS).

In fact, I may be misremembering my first disappointing counter with ~: I may 
have done just the opposite of what I described like copy ~ (with my "real 
user data" to a new OS and got all of the "user configuration data" along with 
the "real user data" which caused some problems with the new OS.

Some asides:

   * that was back in the day when I was first considering my move to LInux--
what I did in those days (with a spare computer) was attempt to install a 
LInux distro--if it installed, I then tried it out for anywhere from a few 
houirs to maybe a few days or weeks--when I found something I didn't like I'd 
try the next distro.  (In those days I found lots of Linux distros, some from 
a LUG I belonged to.)

   * in those early days, I may have made both mistakes--that is: carrying 
along the "user configuration data" with my "real user data" when I really 
didn't want to, and accidentally wiping out my "real user data" when I really 
just wanted to wipe out the "user configuration data".

Anyway, to me it was a problem (and I considered it a design mistake) to 
combine the two types of data in one directory, and even more so, having one 
of the types of data as hidden files / directories so it was too easy (for me) 
to forget about it.

So, anyway, after various fits and starts (which included corresponding with 
various mailing lists about the problem or ways to get around it), I 
considered two solutions each involving moving one of the types of data out of 

It became easier to move my "real user data" out of ~. so I created a new (and 
eventually more than one) top level directory which I named /<user> (e.g., 
/bill) to store my real user data.

Some of the related problems that I had to overcome included:

   * many applications that I was aware of at the time defaulted to storing 
their "real user data" files in ~.  (I.e., if I created a text file with some 
useful content, many applications stored that in ~ by default, and some didn't 
even have a reasonable way of specifying a different directory (iirc--or, at 
least, I couldn't find that reasonable way).  So I had to find different 
applications that allowed me to specify where to store the files, and, in some 
cases, contacted the authors / maintainers of such software asking them to 
provide such a reasonable way.  

   IIRC, lots of these things became easier when I started using a GUI vs. the 
command line, but maybe the early GUIs had the same problem (of defaulting to 
store "real user data" in ~.

   * some of the people I corresponded with seemed to have no concept of what 
I meant by real user data, and it took me a while to find ways to make it clear 
to them.  (Some of them seemed to just consider what I call "user configuration 
data" as the only user data--the only thing that concerned them.)

   * the people and specifications that "controlled" *nix seemed to think it 
was perfectly fine to combine both types of data in one directory, with one 
type hidden.  I spent considerable time "lobbying" if you will some of those 
people and specs to get them changed.  (I think I was helpful in eventually 
getting some changes made to the FHS to make it clear that storing real user 
data in a place other than ~ acceptable.  (On the other hand, there were other 
people working in the same direction, so maybe I just eventually rode the 
groundswell ;-)

Anyway, these days, I store all my "real user data" in directories other than 
~, these include directories like /<user>01, /<user>02, (e.g., /bob01, /bob02, 
/back01, back02), and I have no fear / reluctance to create other such top 
level directories when I feel a need to.  (On the other hand, most of my real 
user data is under directories like (e.g.,) /bob01, e.g., /bob01/photos, 
/bob01/documents, ...

The one thing I still don't like is that the "user configuration data" is 
stored as hidden files in ~.  I configure any file manager or similar software 
that I use to show hidden files.

Thanks for allowing / prompting(?) me to reminisce!  Sorry for bending your 
ear^H^H^Heyes ;-)

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