Linux is a great operating system but to go from great to amazing takes custom configurations. Unfortunately, customizing something as complex as an operating system can be risky. Aggressive customization delivers mind-blowing results and is even more risky. So how can get a fine-tuned Linux install that performs our daily tasks with blasting speeds? Simple. Optimizing and installing patches and fixes is easy if you have a reliable backup.
Linux now comes with a reliable backup
OS X users who chose to enable the TimeMachine feature know that live on the iMac or Mac is simple. If something goes wrong, once can simply go back in time and reload the code. Windows also has a feature where it sets restore points and those have probably the same effect as the TimeMachine on the Macs. Since it’s not longer cool to use a Mac or Windows machine, let’s move on to the new kid on the block. Linux. Unlike a Mac or Windows box, Linux comes with tons of configuration options that make it possible to achieve peak performance and pure joy. So how does that work?
In one work, the answer is “Timeshift“. Timeshift is for Linux what TimeMachine and restore points are for the other operating systems. Anyone who wants perfect needs a way to go back in case something breaks. Linux comes in many flavors and the one I picked is called Manjaro. Manjaro is built on Arch Linux which is a cutting edge distribution and FFAASSTT. So fast that it is almost boring to see new updates or results shoot onto the terminal window in 0.002 seconds. If you blink, you miss it completely. I love a snappy Linux box and deleted the included Windows 10 Home operating system the day I got the new computer.
Linux used to be hard to install and once it was installed, one had to be very careful to not brake anything. For the curious among us, this was a temptation which most of us found unbearable. And so we started tweaking and liked the improvements and instead of appreciating the newly made gains, we kept on going until something stopped working. when that happened, we did the same we did last time. Start to search and read forum posts. Maybe we were members on some forums and posted specific questions which received tons of answers all of which didn’t solve our problem. So it was back to square one and reinstall. Well, no more. Now we have Timeshift which is the ultimate backup tool for Linux.
How to use Timeshift
Timeshift is a rather simple app. Considering how much it does, the UI is modest and pictured on top of this post. After some simple setup choices, the software goes to sleep. Mine happens to wake up at a given point every evening to take a snapshot. If you look at the image once more, you’ll see the time stamps followed by the Linux distribution name and the tags. The tags column is the most important one because it labels each backup according to three types.
- M – Monthly backup
- W – Weekly backup
- D – Daily backup
This is fully configurable and it is up to you, the user which kind and how many you want to store. I have chosen to keep one monthly backup so that I can go back a full month in case something went really wrong. I also prefer to have two full weeks of backups so that I don’t need to go back a whole month.
Last are the daily backups. I selected three days. Anything else and I might as well go back a week or two if need be.
Backup hard drive the Timeshit
Here is the best part. A few weeks ago, I decided to speed up my laptop and replace the internal 7200 Rpm 2.5″ hard drive with an SSD. The speed increase is very noticeable and worth the cost. After the upgrade, I had a perfectly good hard drive left but no use for it. Luckily, my local computer store sold a cheap external USB 3 hard drive case that was perfect for the little laptop hard drive. Again, look at the picture above this blog post and focus on the right lower corner. There, you will see the available disc space which is still almost 700 Gigs. Because I just installed Timeshift about a month ago, I use the comments field to enter the left-over size of the drive. This way, I can see how much is taken by each incremental backup and never run out of space. I know that by only keeping five backups, I will never fill up that big disk but since I have no other use for it, it might as well serve that purpose for ever.
How to restore a Timeshift backup
I admit that I was nervous when I pressed restore for the first time. I’ve spend dozens of hours to optimize many settings and if something went wrong, I would have had to start over. Timeshift is a mature app and trusted by many many users. I watched a few YouTube videos to gain the confidence needed and then started the backup. I don’t remember the full details as this happened a month ago but seem to recall that it only took a few minutes. Once done, the system returned to the exact same state it was in just before the first initial backup was created. Needless to say, Timeshift has been running ever since.
Setting up a Linux system from scratch is fast and easy but customizing a workstation can be tedious. I do a lot of web development and for every remote web server that I need to access, I need to have an SSH key properly set up and configured. If you are new to this, then think of an SSH key as the ultimate password which unlocks the mightiest servers on the net. Back when I was using Windows, I needed SFTP programs such as Cyberduck which worked great. Mac users might use Forklift or Cyberduck or another app store solution,. Ether way, Linux does not need all those extra programs. Instead of opening Cyberduck, one can simply mount a remote web directory locally and perform all the edits and uploads as if they were on a second hard drive. This is extremely convenient and once you are used to that, you will not want to go back to the old ways. I hope that this example illustrates the importance of Timeshift. No matter what happens, all of the tweaking and configuring will no longer have to be re-applied and instead, come back in just minutes. Even if you delete the SSH key from your system and mess up the boot loader which was kaos in the olden day, Timeshift is the answer.
Linux will gain market share. This is especially true for younger users who love to experiment and enjoy a well-tuned computer that just doesn’t quit. Before Timeshift, the learning curve was steep and a bit scary because sooner or later, one had to start over. Even worse was then when a new install became necessary, it came often at the worst time. But all of that is now a thing of the past. Simply use one of your old hard drives or large capacity USB 3 flash drive and let Timeshift do its thing. Have a cup of coffee and then continue from where you left off. Worst case scenario, you lose a days work but only if you don’t save a copy of your work.
I wish that I had heard of Timeshift sooner than just recently but once I tested it for a month and saw how reliable it is, I decided to write this article to help someone else.
How to get Timeshift
As with all Linux software, we first look in the repositories. If it is not there, then Timeshift is on git hub. The easiest way of installing Timeshift is to use Manjaro Linux. Manjaro comes with 1000’s of additional software programs which can be added to a base install with a click of a button and entering a password. Easy as can be.