Safe way to rsync a homedir on login?

Sean Hammond sean.hammond at
Fri Nov 10 10:43:11 UTC 2006

So I'm managing a couple of Ubuntu machines in a cafe. There is a
'public user' account which logs in automatically when the machines
start up. It has the 'Desktop User' profile.

One problem we have is that users will change all the settings, make
the address bar disappear in Epiphany, add toolbar bookmarks to their
personal sites or favourites, and generally mess the whole thing up,
and then just leave it that way until someone comes along to figure
out what they did and undo it. This happens all the time.

Using a combination of Sabayon [1] and Pessulus [2] I've managed to
prevent users from making most changes (unless they know how to Alt-F2
"pessulus" in which case they can change whatever they please) and yet
somehow they still manage to find ways of making changes that make the
computer unusable for the next person that comes along.

To prevent users from downloading hundreds of files and leaving them
on the desktop, which also happens, I wrote an rsync script that is
run by GNOME on login, and that syncs from a folder outside of the
user's home containing the default files I want in the homedir to the
users home folder, so that on login the Desktop shortcuts etc. are
replaced and any downloaded files are removed. The script doesn't
touch the user's hidden files as I didn't want to mess that up.

But now I'm thinking I should just get rid of Sabayon and Pessulus and
have this rsync script replace the user's hidden files as well,
syncing the entire homedir on login with an eternal default homedir.

My question is, will running an rsync script like this on login cause
any problems? I'm particularly thinking of any gnome programs that run
on login, they might start before the rsync script is run, and so read
their config files before they get synced. Any advice?

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