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TimeVault simplifies data backup for Ubuntu users

By Kurt Edelbrock on November 03, 2008 (4:00:00 PM)

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Backing up data can be difficult, especially when you only want to copy files that changed since the last backup. It can be even more troublesome when you have to remember to start the process manually,or you have to delete old backups to make room for new ones. Because of these difficulties, some people decide not to back up data at all, and feel the pain when they accidentally delete the wrong file or their system crashes. TimeVault is a backup utility for Ubuntu that addresses these problems.

TimeVault makes saving and recovering data easy through an automatic process. You define directories to include or exclude from the process, and TimeVault takes care of the rest by creating snapshots of your data. A snapshot is a clone of a directory at a point in time. Files are copied if they've changed since the last snapshot. If a file hasn't changed, it is simply referenced to an older snapshot and no space is used for backing it up. Snapshots are read-only, so they are protected from accidental deletion or modification. If you are the root user, you can delete intermediate snapshots without harming the rest of them. Because of that, you can still restore to a point before or after the deleted snapshot. When you pick what files to exclude, you can specify either a path or a pattern to identify files, which is especially handy if you want to exclude large media files or music directories.

TimeVault can make backups even easier by automating them. It can be set to take a daily snapshot of included directories without you having to do anything, and will let you know when the automatic snapshot is finished with a notification in the system tray. Automatic snapshots are optional, and can be enabled in the preferences dialog by checking the "Enable automated snapshots" option on the General tab.

Snapshots expire when certain conditions are met, such as after a defined number of days, when enough snapshots have been taken for a single file, or when too much space is used for a file. You can edit and adjust these settings in the Expire tab of the preferences dialog.

It's simple to restore data with the Snapshot browser. It displays a timeline of all the snapshots taken, the data included, and the size and the number of files in any given snapshot. You can also search the snapshots to find one with a specific file, which is useful if you want to restore a deleted document. You can also delete backups from the Snapshot browser without having to go through the filesystem manually. Also, TimeVault can revert all of the monitored directories back to a certain snapshot. You just select the snapshot and click the Revert button in the bottom right corner.

TimeVault's restoration features are integrated into Nautilus, the GNOME filesystem browser. By right-clicking on a file and selecting the Properties option in the context menu, and selecting the Previous Versions tab (indicated by the TimeVault icon), you can see how many previous versions of the file are stored in snapshots, as well as other basic information. At the bottom of the dialog there are buttons to launch the Snapshot Browser to restore previous versions of files.

Installing TimeVault

TimeVault is not yet part of the Ubuntu repositories. Because of that, you have to download and install a .deb package from the Launchpad project site.

After the .deb package is installed, you can start TimeVault Notifier manually from Applications -> System Tools -> TimeVault in the GNOME menu panel. The Notifier consists of the system tray icon and notifications for completed snapshots, and has convenient access to preferences and the Snapshot Browser. The TimeVault back end will run all the time. For most people, it is easier if the TimeVault Notifier begins at startup. To do this, open the Session configuration panel from System -> Preferences -> Sessions in the GNOME panel. Click on the Add button, type "TimeVault Notifier" in the name box, and "/usr/bin/timevault-notifier" in the path box. Click OK when finished. Next, you should specify a directory to store TimeVault snapshots with a command like sudo mkdir /home/timevault/ . If you skip this, the snapshots will go into the root directory, and that can make things messy.

Tell TimeVault to use that directory by selecting it in the Snapshots Root Directory option under the General tab of the preferences dialog. Lastly, be sure to visit the Include and the Exclude tabs of the preferences dialog to tell TimeVault which files to put in the snapshot. As soon as you finish that, the application will make its first backup.

Kurt Edelbrock is a technology journalist, blogger, and university student. He writes for a variety of open source publications, and serves as a technical consultant for a large public university.

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on TimeVault simplifies data backup for Ubuntu users

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TimeVault simplifies data backup for Ubuntu users

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 85.127.199.184] on November 03, 2008 05:30 PM
i thought this project is dead... would be nice to see it resurrect though...

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TimeVault simplifies data backup for Ubuntu users

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.74.194.137] on November 03, 2008 07:55 PM
Yeah, unfortunately it more or less is. The original author dissapeared, another person came by and helped for a while though.

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TimeVault simplifies data backup for Ubuntu users

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 75.37.18.62] on November 04, 2008 08:59 AM
Rsnapshot can do incremental snapshots, keep multiple copies around (daily, weekly, monthly), AND can be used from cron. What more do you need?

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TimeVault simplifies data backup for Ubuntu users

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 78.32.220.209] on November 04, 2008 09:18 AM
I see what you say about it being dead, but that doesn't mean it wont work for you still.

As to the issue for Rsnapshot - Simplicity for the average user, familiarity (rightly or wrongly) of a GUI

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scm code is opensource

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 59.183.33.3] on November 04, 2008 04:34 PM
Source code of popular scm software like cvs, svn, git, bazaar is free and open.
Does that say something?

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TimeVault simplifies data backup for Ubuntu users

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 65.171.234.176] on November 04, 2008 07:23 PM
Personally, I use rsync --link-dest=DIR (check out the manpage) to make a new snapshot, then run a script to run sha1 checksums on any file in the new snapshot with one link to it, and store the file in a pool under the name of the checksum, similar to how BackupPC stores its backups. If I was smart enough to use librsync for that one, I would; however, this seems to work acceptably well and doesn't take a great deal more time.

I've got that setup at work, with the snapshots available to a network of Macs via Netatalk running on a Debian Etch machine. So far, this setup has meant I can save several days' snapshots, are readable from Finder, and only unique files are stored more than once. I've even started to store workstation backups using the same mechanism (after building Darwin rsync on Etch, of course.)

I've tried TimeVault, but heck, to me it seemed like a less featureful version of BackupPC, with a GUI. No, thanks.

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TimeVault simplifies data backup for Ubuntu users

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.72.90.205] on November 04, 2008 11:54 PM
I've made one for myself. It's called EasyBackup (see here http://nawa.pn-np.net/blog/easybackup/). It's easy to use. You can make files/folders as included or excluded to the backup using Gnome Emblems (just mark them as included or exclude) and use Nautilus script (just right-click) to recover or revert the file. The only problem is that is not very user friendly to install. If you are interested, just take a look.

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TimeVault simplifies data backup for Ubuntu users

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 89.100.242.227] on November 18, 2008 01:35 PM
Moved from Red Het to Ubuntu recently. Was advised to do so some time ago and delayed because of a kb and resource build up of errataover many years. I have many remote data apps for Red Hat. Should I expect any compat issues with Ubuntu?
http://www.backupanytime.com/blog

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