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Using AFS Home Directories

If usernames and UIDs are in sync with AFS, and integrated logins have been enabled via PAM, you may choose to use your AFS home directory as your home directory on the local Linux system.

  • To do this, edit your entry in /etc/passwd and change the last (":"-delimited) field to the full path of your AFS home.

e.g. If your local home is:

/home/joeuser

you might change that to:

/afs/northstar.dartmouth.edu/ugrad/joeuser 

The login procedure will obtain the necessary token for you to be able to access your home directory and read .login, .bashrc, etc.

Benefits

  • You have the same home directory as on the central Research Computing systems.
  • Your home directory is automatically backed up daily.
  • You can use data files with local programs on your workstation without needing to duplicate files.
  • Securely sharing files with other AFS users via ACLs is simple.

Caveats

When using AFS for home directories, there are some potential complications relative to using a local home.

  • If your tokens expire, you will no longer be able to read files. This includes configuration files such as .login and .Xauthority. Sometimes this can make it difficult to open new windows, or even log out of certain X session managers. Having a terminal window open in which to run klog usually solves these problems
  • Some local programs may assume that a root-owned process has read access to your home directory. For example, automated mail processing systems. This is not true with AFS -- a local root process outside of your login environment has no credentials for working in your AFS space
  • Your home directory may potentially be used by several different operating systems, so any configuration files which are used in common (e.g. .login, .cshrc must be crafted so as to be correct for all the situations in which they will be used. The files used by Research Computing are carefully tested in all the environments we support.

Last Updated: 12/8/09