Recently, there have been a number of posts about Linux
which is an attempt to wrap a gui around rsnapshot/rsync to
make a Linux version of Apple's Time Machine.
Slashdot discussions cover the range of emotions
concerning this, which run from "Time Machine is just rsnapshot"
to "the interface is everything".
Well, Time Machine is not "just" rsnapshot. First, on
the tech side, it uses hard links for directories and metadata
that identifies a files lineage (see Time Machine Details). It's also
much faster than plain old rsnapshot because it gets notified of
file change events and therefore doesn't have to go searching
to see what needs to be backed up. But as
some have noted (and as some still don't get), it's the interface
and design that make Time Machine so incredibly cool.
I don't mean the fancy graphics that accompany moving
through backups. That is important because it's part of
the overall experience, but it isn't the whole thing. It's
that all of this has been neatly put together to make
a user experience that makes sense, that is intuitively easy
to understand and use - that is what makes Time Machine cooler
than cool and hotter than hot.
And it's more than that. Other applications can use Time Machine
to improve their value. Apple's Mail app does that now: click
on Time Machine in the dock while using Mail, and you can
browse back and restore individual messages from a previous
date. Note - I don't mean restore your mailbox as it was
then - I mean click on an individual message and restore just
that. Not all Apple apps have that tight integration yet, but
we are certain to see more of it.
Can Linux do all this? Of course it can, but not yet. As the
Flyback site itself says, "Linux has almost all of the required technology already built in to recreate it.". Note "almost". Flyback
isn't all that close right now. Wrapping a GUI around Rsnapshot
is a start, but as noted above, it's more than just the backup
mechanism: other apps need to start using it. And that, of course
is a place where Apple has a big advantage: all Apple apps
can be rewritten to be Time Machine capable because Apple
controls those apps. Flyback can only hope that it is seen as
useful enough that other developers want to take advantage of its
If Flyback hopes to be the Linux equivalent of Time Machine,
it needs much more than a cute GUI. That's a start, but there's
much more to it.
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© 2009-11-07 Anthony Lawrence