Battles With Boredom

October 30, 2007

Dual Boot Your Firefox and Thunderbird on Ubuntu 7.10 Guty Gibbon

Filed under: Techspeak — Peter Nikolaidis @ 7:27 am

I recently mentioned on the Fresh Ubuntu podcast how I liked the write support for NTFS partitions that comes pre-installed and how the first thing I did with it was to use it to maintain a common set of profiles for Firefox and Thunderbird between my Windows XP and Gutsy installations. Basically, what this means is that I now have to configure new email accounts, extensions/add-ons, etc., one time. When I boot into the other OS, I get the same exact configuration.

For example, I currently have 9 tabs open in Firefox. If I were to boot into Windows right now, without syncing profiles, I would not see the same setup. I would have to email email myself the links, or share them to some other location (a network drive, USB flash drive, or shared FAT32 *shudder* partition). However, now that Ubuntu can read and write NTFS, that’s a thing of the past.

Previously, I blogged about how I copied my Firefox and Thunderbird profiles from a Windows machine to a Mac. The same procedure works in Linux. However, this takes it to the next level by keeping the same profile in sync between the two. The previous post only made a copy, which would then change on each computer when you used them.

Here’s what I did.

  1. Locate the Firefox profile on the Windows partition. On my installation, my Windows XP partition is first. Unless you do something weird and move your profiles, they are usually located in C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\[profileid] , where username is your username (e.g. peter) and profileid is the randomly-generated profile identifier from Firefox (e.g. f39ojr4y.default). On my Ubuntu installation, this same directory is available at
    /media/sda1/Documents and Settings/peter/Application \
    Data/Mozilla/Firefox/Profiles/f39ojr4y.default
  2. Locate the Thunderbird profile. Mine is at C:\Documents and Settings\peter\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\wajy8lnr.default. Again, substitute in your own username and profile id here. In Ubuntu, I see this directory as/media/sda1/Documents and Settings/peter/Application \
    Data/Thunderbird/Profiles/wajy8lnr.default/
  3. Fire up Firefox and Thunderbird in Ubuntu, then close them down. You must have used Firefox and Thunderbird at least once in Ubuntu before doing this next step, or you won’t have locations for your default profiles.
  4. Locate your Firefox and Thunderbird profiles in Ubuntu. These are in /home/peter/.mozilla and /home/peter/.mozilla-thunderbird (again, substituting peter for your username on Ubuntu). Under each of these directories you will see two other unique profile ids (e.g. vkuuxfit.default and 05zsr2ut.default). Note that there is no correlation between the profile names on Windows or Linux.
  5. Back up your current profiles, just in case.cd ~/.mozilla/firefox ; mv vkuuxfit.default vkuuxfit.default.orig
    cd ~/.mozilla-thunderbird ; mv
    05zsr2ut.default 05zsr2ut.default.orig

    Note that you must replace my profile names show above with the profile you see listed there. If you try copying and pasting exactly what I have above, it almost certainly will fail.

  6. Symbolically link a new Firefox and Thunderbird profile to your existing Windows profiles:ln -s /media/sda1/Documents and Settings/peter/Application\
    Data/Mozilla/Firefox/Profiles/f39ojr4y.default \
    ~/.mozilla/firefox/vkuuxfit.default

    ln -s /media/sda1/Documents and Settings/peter/Application \
    Data/Thunderbird/Profiles/wajy8lnr.default \
    ~/.mozilla-thunderbird/05zsr2ut.default

    Note that you must again substitute your Windows and Linux profile names where I use mine or it will not work. I colored the Windows profiles in blue and the Ubuntu profiles in brown so you can identify the target and the source more easily.

  7. Now, fire up Firefox and Thunderbird, and you should see exactly the same configurations as you have on Windows.

Notes:

  • This procedure overwrites your Linux Firefox and Thunderbird profiles with what's in your Windows profiles. It is possible to go the other way and preserve these, but I am assuming most of my readers are migrating from Windows to Ubuntu, not the other way around.
  • You must shut down Firefox and Thunderbird before booting into the other OS and launching these apps. If you hibernate your system, leaving them running, you will receive errors when you boot into the other OS and try to launch the apps.
  • Note that on Ubuntu your Firefox profile lives under ~/.mozilla/firefox and your Thunderbird profile is under ~/.mozilla-thunderbird.
  • If you plan on mounting your existing Windows partition as a VMWare or other virtual machine image, don't do this. It will cause simultaneous writes to happen by the virtual machine and Firefox and Thunderbird. Not good.

6 Comments

  1. There is a somewhat easier way to do this. First pick which OS is going to host the profile information, then from the other Operating System run the Mozilla App (firefox or thunderbird) with the option “–ProfileManager” delete the default profile and create a new one. On the screen where you name your new profile there should be an option to set the directory to use, just put in the profile directory thats located on the other operating systems partition.

    Comment by capheind — April 4, 2008 @ 12:25 am

  2. Ah yes. I confess I have never used profile manager, even though I’ve known about it since the Netscape days. Good advice!

    Comment by peter — April 4, 2008 @ 6:28 am

  3. Question though – I primarily boot to Ubuntu but there are still (rare) times I have to go into vista (so I would be going the other way with this solution). When I tried capheind’s “-ProfileManager” way – windows would not let me see the linux drives. I didn’t think they would be visible, but I wanted to give it a shot. What is the workaround here to link the window’s version of TBird to my Linux profile from the Window’s TBird profile manager? Thanks in advance.

    Comment by jsast21 — April 8, 2008 @ 10:21 am

  4. Unless your home directory is on a FAT32 or NTFS partition, or you load an EXT3 driver for Windows, you won’t be able to access your Linux partition from Windows.

    Another option would be to use something like FEBE (Firefox Environment Backup Extension) to backup your Firefox profile, but I don’t know if there’s an equivalent for Thunderbird.

    Comment by peter — April 8, 2008 @ 12:27 pm

  5. Thanks very much. I do not know much about loading EXT3 drivers for windows, but I’m going to google it right now and hopefully will figure this out. I am also going to try saving my profile to my usb stick each time (I have portableapps Tbird on the stick) and maybe that will work. Thanks very much for the tip.

    cheers.

    Comment by jsast21 — April 8, 2008 @ 8:23 pm

  6. Hi.

    Thx for this fine tutorial! It is working great :)

    Poldi

    Comment by Poldi — June 14, 2008 @ 10:31 am

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