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Preferences persistence surprise

So, I play freecol. A while back, it started behaving badly -- popup windows would lose focus, and I'd have to lower and raise the window to get it back. It was an annoying ritual, but I stuck with it.

Today at work, I'd stopped working, but had some time to kill before my next event, so installed freecol on the VM. To my surprise, it behaved the way you'd expect.

Fresh install, so maybe I had broken configuration at home? Went home, nuked all the directories, tried again. Nope.

Well, the other difference is that I've been using twm at home -- it's primitive but lightweight and familiar -- but xfce on the work VM, out of necessity to get things like resizing display. So I installed xfce4 at home, and tried that... yep, freecol played nicely.

Maybe I had something wonk in my .xinitrc? Nuked it down to just running twm... nope, still bad.

So I guess something in a freecol update stopped playing well with a 1980s window manager. Oh well. Maybe I'll just switch to xfce at home (though it'll be confusing when I'm running Arch/xfce on both the VM and the host...) But I'll need to configure it, to get some key mappings, and move-to-focus.

Nope, I don't need to; they're there already. HOW? That's really spooky.

I hunt down the config -- .config/xfce4/ -- and look at the modification times. Some are tonight, but some are 1 Nov 2012. "Wait a minute."

See, sometime after putting Ubuntu on my laptop, I played around with a whole lot of graphical environments and window managers, then upgraded, and broke Ubuntu for good. But that's another story; the point is that it's suddenly plausible I installed xfce back then -- on another OS -- configured it to taste, and moved on, leaving the preferences buried in my home directory.

Well, I keep a detailed journal for a reason. I check... and yeah, while I don't mention xfce specifically, 1 Nov 2012 was a day of messing around with such things.

"Wow! So I somehow copied my home directory in toto, between laptops, picking up weird directories like .config. I'm impressed."

"...no, I'm a dumbass; it's the *same laptop*."

OTOH it *is* a whole different version of Linux. Did I install Arch on top of Ubuntu and keep my home dir, or copy out my home dir to an external hard drive, to copy back after installing Arch? I honestly don't remember, but either seems plausible, and would get the job done.

Actually there's an /old directory on the hard drive, basically an old root directory, which I think is evidence that I managed to drop Arch right onto Ubuntu after I made a copy. There's even /old/etc/os-release, saying "14.04 Trusty Tahr". (It was not trusty; it refused to boot and I switched to Arch. Though now I'm not sure how I made the copy. Maybe I did go through a hard drive?

Anyway, one way or another, five year old configuration I'd completely forgotten about stayed with me, and worked smoothly. I guess the real surprise is that xfce didn't change its configuration system in five years, not enough to break things!

Edit: on playing again, it was broken again! Waaaa. After more investigation, it seems broken with twm no matter what, even with an empty xinitrc, but with xfce, it breaks when scim is running. That's my Japanese input interface, I'm not giving that up. :(

I guess I could play in the VM. Or I could play less, that'd be good...

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Damien Sullivan

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