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There's No Place Like Home & You Get To Decide Where That Is... Or Do You?

by Mike Levin

Thursday, June 16, 2022

This video amounts to:

We are turning ~/ from /home/healus to /mnt/c/Users/mikle

The rest is foundational background knowledge.

For the years that I’ve been using WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux), I’ve been functionally using my Windows home folder C:\Users\[usernmae], cd’ing to it with my .bash_profile script that runs every time a Linux Terminal is opened. When I deleted my Unbuntu 20.04 to downgrade to 18.04 for some technical reasons, it turned out having all my important “home” files on the Windows side saved my butt. It gave me the freedom to delete the Linux container without fear because the home directory lived outside of it.

In the video I made on the topic, I made a big deal of being able to pull down all your work again from Github, but honestly I knew that I had a safety net by having had used this other approach which I felt I was ready to abandon. Now having gone through the process and realized there are files here and there I didn’t have in Github and am glad I had Windows-side. The straw that broke the camels back is my vim spellcheck library. I’m going to improve my approach. I’m going to do it here live at 5:00 AM as the sun rises.

I’ve given myself a good half-hour cushion between announcing (scheduling) the stream and now. So get your ducks in a row. Know the issues.

It looks like there’s plenty of information on this one askubuntu.com link:

https://askubuntu.com/questions/465493/how-can-i-symlink-my-home-folder-from-another-drive

Looks like a Stack Exchange site. Explain to the nice folks the difference between Stack Exchange (the Q&A rating reputation CMS-system) and instances of sites created with it like StackOverflow.

Anyhoo, the magic words are:

ln -s /extra-home/username /home/username

…which for me means:

ln -s /mnt/c/Users/mikle /home/healus

And that should do it!

However, as healus you can’t very well go changing such a major thing about yourself while you are you, so for a short while it’s good to be somebody else. That somebody is superuser:

sudo su

It pains me to be doing such foundational stuff OS-wise still into my 50s. But this symlink stuff is lifetime foundational. Under *nix operating systems, it’s akin to piping and everything being a read/write file. It teaches you about the Unix way and will serve you for your entire life. I should have used symlinks more through my life, but it’s never too late.

Bring up docs on the ln command. Explain the -s switch.

Oh! Show the nice people manual pages and how it eliminates the need to pipe –help to ls! I should have shown that long ago. Maybe a separate video?

Okay, but did it work? It’s going to take a shutdown and restart to be sure. From a Powershell or COM:

wsl --shutdown

And afterwards, it’s still going to look like ~/ in the prompt, so print the working directory:

pwd

Hopefully, that’s the successful video.

Maybe go into setting up your virtualenv as a bonus. Oh, that’s going to make my new startup script create errors because there are locations that aren’t there. Whoops. Disable your old .bash_profile so those errors don’t occur. Just rename it. Hmmm, no. That’s one of the few files that’s gone. I have it in the helpers repo so it’s preserved but won’t cause the error. This is good.

I am ready for the video.

Learnings:

Symbolic links are easy to make.

They are made using the source’s “folder name”

The source’s folder name is created in the target location.

You cannot so easily remap your ~/ Linux/Unix home location to the WSL /mnt/c/Users/[username] location even though it’s soooooo tempting.

Instead, create symbolic links from your favorite Windows-side folders (github) to /home/[username] locations Linux-side.

This is a compromise, but satisfies my 80/20-rule needs. If you forget to commit to git repos and delete your WSL Linux container, your work is still there.

But beware losing .config files from ~/home (needs baking up)

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