Sunday, 27 February 2011

It's the Simple Things

Advanced users won't be particularly impressed with the contents of this post, but it's always nice to see how far one's experience has developed.

I'm still undecided about a backup strategy. Using Simple Backup's default settings on my desktop resulted in a full backup file (compressed using gzip) of 25GB. Subsequent incremental backups are still over 1.2GB apiece. Whilst space is not necessarily the strategy determinant, I do have four computers to consider: potentially, that's 120GB of data per week to worry about.

This morning I was thinking about what is important data to me. I'm a home user so my important data are my documents and my configuration files. I know where to find my documents, but my configuration files tend to be dispersed more widely around my file system. Configuration files are important, among other things, they hold variables that tell programs how to behave (for instance, see the smb.conf file for the variables used by Samba).

Finding these files is no problem using a terminal: I opened a terminal and typed:

locate *.conf > /home/jogga/Documents/conf_files.txt

locate is simply a command that tells the system to search: this is a much faster method than using the search option in Nautilus.

* is a wildcard character, used with the .conf file extension, this tells the system to return a list of all files with that extension.

The next command (the > character) is an input/output redirection: it tells the system to send the output of the command somewhere other than the terminal screen. In this case, I've specified a text file (called conf_files.txt) in the /home/usr/Documents directory. Obviously, your user name is unlikely to be jogga!

If the output files specified doesn't exist, it will be created by the system. If it does, this command will overwrite the contents! To append data to an existing file, use >> (see William Shotts' book, The Linux Command Line for more information).

When the search and redirection are complete, the command line returns to a standard CLI prompt, something like:


If you want to make sure that the file has been created, use the list command (ls).

jogga@jogga-laptop:~$ cd ~/Documents

You can also open the file from the command line using your favourite text editor. Gedit is loaded by default in Ubunutu.

gedit /home/jogga/Documents/conf_files.txt

However, I like Scite, which can be installed from the Ubuntu Software Centre.

scite /home/jogga/Documents/conf_files.txt

Redirecting the output of the locate command to a text file means that you can review it at your leisure rather than scrolling through the terminal window. This is particularly useful if the output of a command is likely to be substantial. Overall, using the terminal for this sort of work is far more efficient than using Nautilus.

As for my backup strategy, I now have a list of files that will help me to determine what information must be saved and what can be left to the vagaries of an OS re-install if disaster strikes!

No comments:

Post a Comment