Monday, June 28, 2010

Ubuntu 10.04 progress update, and a bit about Crashplan

Well it has been a couple of months now, using Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx. Overall, I have been pretty happy with it. Boot times are very quick, especially with it installed on the Intel X25-V solid state drive. The interface is quite polished and looks good. MythTV is working nicely as well. I did have a spell a little while back where it would hang during boot or shutdown, requiring a restart. Either that, or there would be a quite long delay in the boot process. I tried to work out what was causing the holdup by installing bootchart (available in the repositories) and looking at the results.

Wouldn't you know it, but after I installed it and rebooted, the system worked fine. Everything has been back to normal. Don't know what was wrong or what fixed it. Oh well, I'll take it.

I have a sneaking suspicion that it might be due to doing an upgrade install rather than doing a fresh install - I'll wait and see if it keeps behaving itself.

Backing up the various systems around the house has been something that has been looked into lately, too. I have purchased a new external hard drive to replace the old one, that is now getting a bit old. Following on from discussions on the Overclockers Australia forums, I have been trialling Crashplan, a backup service that allows you to back up to local folders or attached drives, other computers on a network, other people's PCs, or their own online backup service. It is more concerned with backing up data, rather than complete system images, so that's what I use it for.

It has enabled me to get around some of Windows 7 Home Premium's limitations about backing up to a network. The setup I have now for my wife's Windows 7 PC is that the standard windows backup runs, sending its data to a small external drive attached to it. Supplementing that is Crashplan, that backs up documents, photos, music and the like to the new external drive attached to my PC, giving a bit of redundancy.

My own PC has a regular backup scheduled via backintime to get most of the system data, and Crashplan to back up the music, photos, documents and the like.

On all machines, these are scheduled to run daily with the exception of the windows system backup that is set for weekly running.

I haven't yet decided whether to take the plunge and purchase the Pro version of Crashplan, or to enable the online backup component. I'm just waiting to see how the software behaves itself - I have overcome one particularly nasty teething problem.

Sometimes when my Linux machine boots, if the external drive hasn't mounted in time, Crashplan would decide to re-create the backup directory on the system partition and try to back up ~140GB of data to it. I've fortunately managed to catch it in the act and stop it before anything nasty happened, but it made me hesitant to make the purchase. I am not the only one who has had the problem, as this support forum thread describes.

I tried a couple of fixes - one was to change the program setting to only allow it to run between certain times, so the machine would be on, and the drive mounted in time, before it starts. This worked well until a few days later when I came home late from work and booted the PC. Backup to system partition happened again. I tried editing the startup scripts, adding a "sleep 20" command, to delay the program from starting until the drive was mounted. I thought this was the solution, until I one day turned the PC on and walked away to do something else. I came back, logged in, and realised the drive wasn't mounting until after I did that. Crashplan started as soon as the 20 second delay ran out, which turned out to be before my login.

The final solution, and I think this has nailed it, was to add an entry for the external hard drive in the /etc/fstab file. This now mounts the drive straight after it mounts the other, internal drives, and well before the Crashplan engine starts. Since the external drive is a semi-permanene attachment to the PC, it works for me.

I may yet start using the online backup - the only issue now is the matter of uploading nearly 200GB total over a 512 kilobit upload link, with uploads counted towards my data allowance. This would have to be spread out over a couple of months of uploading at a throttled speed.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with Crashplan so far. It supports Windows, OSX and Linux, which is rare. The clients all find and connect to each other with a minimum of hassle as well. It would be good having some peace of mind that all our photos and documents would survive if the house burnt down or something.

(Originally posted June 26, 2010 on my other blog)

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