Destroying "only" your home directory (was Re: Newbie question on permissions)

Michael T. Richter ttmrichter at
Mon Apr 3 12:35:51 UTC 2006

On Mon, 2006-03-04 at 15:48 +0700, Chanchao wrote:

> MTR> Where does that leave file versioning?  Incremental (or differential)
> MTR> backups?  Selective backups?

> Nowhere.  Storage is cheap. :)  Tape is dead, and regular users don't
> have it anyway. Just copy the lot over once a day, once a week,
> whatever.  Then keep a monthly copy for a couple of months.  It's not
> that hard?  It's not the ultimate backup solution, but it's good enough for
> most people I think?

Let me explain (again) the world according to the end-user.  This time
let me use my parents as the model.

My mother lost every photo she ever took (except, thankfully, the ones
she had burned to CD from her trip to visit me in China) because of a
typical end-user brain fart.  She had no current backups because the
backup procedure was too much effort for her.  That would be the one I
designed for her written in Python.  Why was it too much for her?  A
whole variety of reasons, but the main problem was that she had to think
about it and do it.

Now she backs up religiously.  Why?  Because it's pretty much automated.
She bought a USB hard disk (250GB, I think) with a snazzy big red button
on it.  She plugged it in.  She pressed the button.  Up popped some
installation stuff.  She then went through a wizard that very patiently
explained everything to her -- what a complete backup was, what a
differential backup was, what an incremental backup was and asked some
intelligent questions about her use.  Fifteen minutes after plugging the
device in it was configured.  (Needless to say this is not a Linux
solution given how end-user-hostile the Linux development community
tends to be.)  

She now has system backups once a month and differential backups once
per day.  (Why differential?  I don't know.  It was the one she chose
based on the software's recommendations.)  It happens without her having
to remember it.  And if she feels insecure -- lets say she just sent up
a batch of valuable photos -- she presses the big red button and it asks
her what she wants to do: complete, differential or incremental.  She
picks one (usually incremental -- the one the software recommends) and
it does its job.  And if she wants to recover something?  She has this
browser that looks an awful lot like the regular file browser (as in
it's basically a shell extension, as far as I can tell -- I'm not on the
scene to evaluate it) that permits her to recover files by a wide
variety of means -- yet all with simplicity that even she can

THAT is what the end-user wants to see.  Something that simple and, yet,
flexible.  Not tar files where she has to go hunting for which
particular version on what particular date.  Not complex command-line
utilities that use the patented UNIX Mystic Incantations<tm>.  Not
half-assed "burn yourself a DVD every week"-style solutions.  A
full-featured backup system that is simultaneously easy to use.

It can be done.  It has been done.  Just not under UNIX.

Michael T. Richter
Email: ttmrichter at, mtr1966 at
MSN: ttmrichter at, mtr1966 at; YIM:
michael_richter_1966; AIM: YanJiahua1966; ICQ: 241960658; Jabber:
mtr1966 at

"I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the
institution of slavery in the States where it exists." --Abraham Lincoln
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