Day 6 – 10 Days of Ubuntu 10.10 Feature Requests

Today is day 6 of my “10 Days of Ubuntu 10.10 Feature Requests” series.  See the series introduction here.

Day 6 – Simple, Reliable, Integrated Backup Tool

Today’s article is a bit more to-the-point, largely because it has been detailed in great length (95 pages) elsewhere.  Linux offers many potential options for backing up your data, but no GUI-based options are included in a default Ubuntu install.  Windows’ System Restore has been around since Windows Me (2000), and Windows Backup – though flawed in many ways – has existed since XP launched in 2001.  Apple users got Time Machine as part of Leopard (October 2007).  Ubuntu still doesn’t ship with an out-of-the-box backup solution, and a new user is going to be completely overwhelmed by all the options presented in the official help documentation for “back up your system.”

I would like to see three backup options emerge by the time Ubuntu 10.10 rolls around:

  1. Automatic silent backups, as in a more comprehensive  “System Restore” or “Time Machine” equivalent
  2. Improved on-demand and automated cloud backup tools (think Ubuntu One, Dropbox)
  3. On-demand total backup tool (primarily for use with removable/network drives)

Note that in a perfect world, these would all be components of one master backup tool.

“System Restore” or “Time Machine” Equivalent

Unfortunately, most people don’t realize they need backups until it’s too late.  If Ubuntu has real aspirations of becoming a mainstream OS, it needs to provide some sort of automated system snapshot tool with an easy interface for rolling back lost or corrupted data.

Unlike Windows’ “System Restore”, it would be nice if you could customize what Ubuntu’s System Restore backs up.  I’d also love to have the option of backing up data to a dedicated partition, a tarball, external drive(s), network locations, FTP, or even an Ubuntu One or Dropbox account.

Online/”Cloud” Backups (Ubuntu One, Dropbox, etc.)

Despite the controversy surrounding its inception, I think Ubuntu One is a great idea.  Unfortunately, the 2gb it offers freely (and 10gb if you pay) isn’t nearly enough for a comprehensive backup solution.  I imagine larger solutions will emerge in the future, but the fact of the matter is that “cloud”-based backups are probably not a great option for the average user.  The time required for an initial backup of a 500gb-1tb drive over DSL (or dial-up, god forbid) is simply not practical.

However, businesses, universities, and individuals with great internet connections may like to see “cloud” options more tightly integrated into a full backup solution.

Personally, I don’t consider this to be a huge priority – but if it happened it would be cool.

On-Demand Backups

On-demand backups are the simplest kind to implement.  The first time they’re performed, a full backup should be done.  Every backup after that point should be instead considered a sync.

A number of GUI-based and CL-based tools exist, so this type of backup software is the most likely to end up in a default Ubuntu 10.10 install.  However, Ubuntu One is clearly a focus for Canonical, so maybe we’ll see some updates on that front over the next year.

The “System Restore” or “Time Machine” equivalent seems least likely to happen, but given that Microsoft and Apple have implemented this, Ubuntu can’t afford to wait 2-3 years before offering something similar.

(Note: if you would like a backup solution before Ubuntu 10.10 arrives, my current recommendation is Back in Time.)

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5 thoughts on “Day 6 – 10 Days of Ubuntu 10.10 Feature Requests”

  1. Good stuff. The AppCenter, Software Center… I believe is what Ubuntu needs to triage first. A comprehensive, tagged, rated, AppStore :) could really give Ubuntu a nice touch. For music players, Linux is kinda of screwed right now. The last decent one (again IMHO) was Amarok 1.4. Amarok 2 is a bloody mess, Rhythmbox is very basic, Banshee is ok. Not a big fan of windows media player either, we need FooBar for Linux, I guess.

    Nice article(s). Keep it up.

  2. Did you see the Duplicty front-end Deja-vu, yet ? Diplicity is for backup to any place, might not even be a trusted place. Because it’s encrypted, compressed, just transfers what is needed.

  3. Personally I’d be happy with something as simple as:
    * GUI
    * easily scheduled backups – don’t care if it uses cron jobs, just so long as it does it all for me and is GUI controlled
    * imcremental changes, only backs up changes ( even if it’s the whole file and not it’s binary changes)
    * BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY compressable – tars cool – but with the incramental filenames so the backup tar file doesn’t just balloon with each backup.

    If that existed I’d be happy.

  4. If you’d like an automated silent backup in linux it is as simple as partitioning the relevant portion with a log-structured filesystem (e.g. LogFS) or versioned file system. These file systems have the advantage of revision control systems partition-wide.

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