Exploring Linux - Part 21
by Alan German
use Linux most of the time, when it comes to full-system
backups, I have resorted to dual-booting into Windows and
using the free edition of Macrium Reflect (http://opcug.ca/public/Reviews/
MacriumReflectFree.htm). Under Linux, I have so far
restricted my backups to either file and folder
synchronization using FreeFileSync (http://opcug.ca/public/Reviews/linux_part18.htm), or real-time backup of my data
partition using inosync (http://opcug.ca/public/Reviews/linux_part16.htm). Now, it's time to move on and
find a more comprehensive Linux solution for file,
folder, and disk partition backups.
One program that I have tried in the distant past is
partimage (http://www.partimage.org/Main_Page). A brief return to this software
reminded me that it sports a quasi-graphical interface
(much like old DOS programs), needs to be run as root,
and requires partitions to be unmounted for processing.
The simplest way around all of these issues is to run the
program using a bash script file.
My solution was to incorporate commands to unmount my
data partition (sudo umount /dev/sda2), run partimage,
and then remount the data drive (sudo mount
/media/DataDisk/) to make this once again available for
use. The command to run partimage to make the backup on
my external USB drive (/media/MYBOOK1) takes the form:
sudo partimage -z1 -o -d -b -B=alan save
The switches used for partimage are mostly
straightforward: -z1=use Gzip compression, -o=overwrite
any existing image file, -d=no description, and -b=run in
batch mode (GUI doesn't wait for input). The -B switch is
a little strange. There has to be a -B=value, but
partimage doesn't seem to care what value is
used. I opted to use -B=alan which worked just fine.
The other potential problems with partimage are that it
has no support for the ext4 file system and there is no
64-bit version of the software. A possible workaround for
both these issues is a relatively new program named
fsarchiver (http://www.fsarchiver.org) for file system
archiver. However, a possible downside to fsarchiver is
that, while it also supports NTFS, it has no support for
FAT disk volumes.
This program is a bit similar to partimage (although it
currently only sports a command line and no GUI) and at
least one web posting suggests that the two pieces of
software may come from the same programmer. Fsarchiver
uses a slightly different command line format than
partimage. It's still best to work with unmounted
volumes, but I was easily able to get my bash script file
to work by modifying the main command to:
sudo fsarchiver -o -v savefs
The -o switch is to overwrite any existing backup file,
while the -v switch provides verbose output and displays
the progress for individual files while the backup
process is running.
Fsarchiver provides support for multiple file system
backups in a single file system archive (.fsa) file.
While perhaps an interesting idea for some, for me this
has the disadvantage that it is even more difficult to
retrieve individual files or folders from the backup. So,
onto yet another possible backup solution...
The current release of Ubuntu Linux (Oneiric Ocelot) has
the Déjà Dup (https://launchpad.net/deja-dup) backup utility built into the
distro. If you are a fan of minimal graphical user
interfaces, then you have arrived at the right place!
Launching Déjà Dup produces a small window with two
large buttons Backup and Restore so, it's
not too difficult to figure out how the program works.
Setting the program's preferences
to indicate the backup location, and the files and
folders to be included in the backup process, is a
straightforward process. The dialogue box has a number of
other options, such as the ability to add a list of
exceptions for files or folders that are not to be
included in the backup, file encryption, backup on a
regular schedule (e.g. daily), and setting the time
period for which backups should be retained (which
Déjà Dup is actually a graphical front end to a program
named duplicity, and it's the latter utility that creates
the backup, essentially as a series of Gzip files.
Initially, duplicity makes a complete backup of the
source files. Subsequent backups are made as a series of
incremental backups such that only the changes in the
source files are copied to the target directory.
The backup series is stored chronologically in a
bewildering series of volumes, manifests, and signature
files in the target directory. Fortunately, these are
effectively transparent to the user. Pressing the Restore
button returns a Restore from When? dialogue
box, with the individual backups in the series being
displayed in a simple list.
Running the program to create or restore an entire backup
is as simple as pressing a button. The only real downside
is that recovering a single file from the backup set is
not a straightforward exercise. There is no option for
this built into the program, and finding a given file
among the many Gzip files is probably more trouble than
Several backup packages available for Linux are based on
the rsync file synchronization utility. This program
creates backups by simply copying files, which makes
restoring a single file or folder very easy. Some time
ago, I played around with rsync (http://opcug.ca/public/Reviews/
but found the use of the command line tedious. While one
can use a bash script file to make the backup process
more efficient, it's even simpler to use a purpose-built
backup program that essentially adds a graphical front
end to the package. Next time, we will review some
packages that use this technique.
Originally published: March, 2012
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The opinions expressed in these reviews
do not necessarily represent the views of the
Ottawa PC Users' Group or its members.