Category Archives: Backup

Mozilla Weave

This is a short blog post to say that I’ve found an excellent must-have for Firefox users. It’s called Mozilla Weave. It keeps history, bookmarks, passwords, Firefox settings, and soon add-ons in sync. My experience of any kind of automated syncing software has been poor, but this one seems to be flawless. Minus connectivity issues when I’m offline, it’s never reported an error or bugged me about some conflict or other. It just sits there and uploads data to Weave servers (or your own if you so choose) so other computers may stay in sync. Even if you don’t have multiple computers, this is great for just backing up, especially considering the Firefox data folder is a pain to back up.

Privacy concerns are non-existent here, because everything is encrypted with a pass-phrase, on top of your Weave account username and password.

The only bummer about Weave is it’s limited to just Firefox, and Firefox’s competitors have no equivalent yet. It looks like I won’t be switching to Chrome any time soon.


Backing up with Duplicity, Effortlessly

Duplicity has a wonderful design feature: it’s really really simple.

Duplicity has an annoying design flaw: it’s really really simple.

In case you didn’t notice, Duplicity‘s simplicity is both helpful and inefficient. It’s extremely easy to start using Duplicity because its usage is so very simple. Want to back something up? Just write “duplicity /some/directory” for FTP backup, or “duplicity /some/directory file://some/other/directory” for local backup, or any other protocol out of the 11+ protocols it supports. All it does is write files to the location of your choosing, and then it can recover and list files (either latest or at a date of your choosing) from the backup directory you give it.

This simplicity is really great for the simple use-cases, like backing up a home directory. It’s when you get into databases, exclusion and inclusion rules, and other such fine print that you have to plan a little.

I’ve got three different “things” I have to back up: my web development stage, my remote shell (mainly for irssi), and my home directory. Each one presents its own challenges, which I break down below. Continue reading

I Have Synced Into the Internet

It’s taken time for it to fully dawn on me, but I think I can officially say everything I do is online now. In fact, I can’t do anything on the computer anymore without requiring Internet access. (Gaming doesn’t count – I use a dedicated gaming console, the Wii, for that.) Whenever I am forced to work offline, I always use something that simulates my being online, whether it be Google Gears, or simply a local copy I can later put back online. Continue reading

The Secret to Backing up Home Folders

Here are the things I do to keep my home folder backups to 2 GB or less:

  • Clear Firefox’s cache. This is a big space hog, and cache is worthless.
  • I filter out “.azureus/torrents/”, a folder of mine, so that any BitTorrent downloads aren’t included in my backups. They usually are demos of games I want to try before I buy, so I never keep them anyway.
  • Any software or data I could care less about or can easily reconfigure I usually filter out as well. This includes:
    • ePSXe: barely used, never keep the games or save data
    • Vendetta: demo, why keep it?
    • Wine: because everything I do with Wine is easily deletable or easily redone
    • Videos I re-encoded for my Palm: would rather re-encode again than back up 1GB+
    • All ISO’s: can redownload
    • VirtualBox: can reinstall the virtual images much easier than backing up and restoring 8+ GB.

Duplicity’s command line for the operation, in all it’s glory, is this:

duplicity $1 -v9
–exclude “/home/jacob/.azureus/torrents/**”
–exclude “/home/jacob/.epsxe”
–exclude “/home/jacob/.vendetta”
–exclude “/home/jacob/.wine”
–exclude “/home/jacob/.feeded/vids”
–exclude “/home/jacob/Documents/Personal/Music”
–exclude “**.iso”
–exclude “/home/jacob/.VirtualBox”
/home/jacob ftp://USER@HOST.EXT/folder/folder

With these settings, my backups take less than 15 minutes a day. If this hasn’t convinced you to start a regular backup, I don’t know what will. (And if you’ve already tried, but find it hard to get into a habit, and don’t like cron because you don’t know of a good time when your computer is on and you’re not using it, try doing your backups before you log in in the morning.)

Backup Test: Reinstalling Gentoo

A good administrator always checks his backups by running through a make-believe full-scale recovery. I’m doing that right now.

So far I’ve discovered some flaws in my backup process that thankfully I’ve discovered now. Things like when it recovers symlinked directories, which my backup software faithfully preserves, they don’t always point to an existent spot anymore. The software fails to recover any data inside that symlinked directory because it can’t write to the destination.

I also realized I had forgotten to backup /lib/firmware. If you have a bcm43xx card like I do, this directory holds the precious firmware extractions needed by the b43 driver. Without that, I’d first need ‘net access to get the fwcutter utilities and the firmware “blobs” before my card would go online. Catch-22 just waitin’ to happen.

If you are maintaining backups yourself, but you haven’t actually tested your methods yet, now’s the time. Trust me, it’ll be worth it when you reinstall your OS or when your hard-drive crashes.

Duplicity Backs Up Beautifully (And Anywhere)

After struggling with what good backup system would work for me, I’ve finally settled on duplicity. It doesn’t have a user interface, and it doesn’t even use cron (though you can manually punch it in). It does, however, do exactly what I want: It can tell me what my system looked like at a particular date, because it tracks deleted files as well. Not only that, but it compresses and encrypts everything into what appears to be a custom tar format.

And, unlike most other backup systems, it can back up onto FTP, or just about any other storage medium for that matter, because it doesn’t use fancy links or any other junk. It uses plain ‘n simple manifest files.

Duplicity is something you can have working within minutes if you can use a terminal. Granted, you have to manually back everything up, but that’s good for me, since I don’t really have a standard schedule of when I’m on and off the computer.

Give it a try some time.

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