Every time there’s a new Ubuntu version coming up it’s interesting to test it using the Desktop edition live CD. This however requires burning a CD, rebooting from it, but doesn’t include the « full » test experience – your personal files and customization are not there.
Putting a full working Ubuntu install on a USB key and linking to an existing home directory may be the closest to an actual full-upgrade: it doesn’t touch your hard disk (so no need to reverse any changes). Well, mostly. For example if you use Firefox, a new version will upgrade extensions, etc.
One of my colleagues, Shang Wu, has put together a little script to automate this setup, and a basic document on how to install Ubuntu on a stick to test Karmic as I described, see: Testing Ubuntu Beta Releases off a USB stick. Please do read the code before executing it in one of your systems 🙂
If anyone has comments or suggestions for this script or if you have better recipes to let existing Ubuntu users test/try future releases, I’d like to hear about it.