I am new to linux, and have been installing ubuntu again and again because I mess up something while trying different set-ups. I would like to have an incremental snapshot of my system so that I can revert to what I had when I made the backup.

Can I achieve what I want using either Deja-dup or Back in Time? and if so, what directories do I need to back up?

I have seen posts that say that backing up the /home directory is enough, but it has failed me once, and I don't see how that works. Does it store all my settings & apps, things like shellscripts I add to the /bin directory(am I even supposed to do that?), or changes i make when i edit stuff like /etc/sysctl.conf?

Sorry for my poor English, what I basically want is this How to make a disk image and restore from it later? except I don't use Wubi. I am wondering if hard links or lvm's can save my disk space & time. I do a lot of swiching languages back and forth, and it almost never goes back to what I originally had, especially input method.

As both a new linux user and a non-english speaker, any suggestions for terms I can use to google would also help me alot. Thank you.

(I tried lvm snapshots following instructions on askubuntu, and failed. I would like to learn what I did wrong in the future, but it seems that it is not intended for keeping multiple snapshots, so this is probably not a choice for me at the moment right?)

  • I tried Back in Time, backing up /etc, /home, /var, and /srv, but I can't get back what I lose when something goes wrong with my language/input method settings(which happens constantly, usually depriving me of my space key and EVERY command line that needs a space in them). – haruno Apr 19 '14 at 21:01
  • I installed ubuntu again and tried using deja-dup using "sudo deja-dup-preferences" to back up /etc,/home,/var,/srv. That also failed to recover my constant failing input method. This time, I got an error message that says "(deja-dup-preferences:2172)IBUS-WARNING **: The owner of /home/(myname)/.config/ibus/bus is not root!" (iBus is 98% of the reason I need a backup in the first place!!) I guess I had to use gksudo instead of sudo. I tried to chown it to root, but for some reason, I lost the restore button on Deja-dup. – haruno Apr 19 '14 at 23:36
  • I never had issues when I tried 12.04 and some earlier versions. Why did canonical decide to mess with the input method on 13.10? It feels like its still in alpha-testing, a complete nightmare. Well, I at least know now that something important to me is in ~/.config/ibus/bus. I wonder if that's all I need. – haruno Apr 19 '14 at 23:36
  • I tried to apt-get purge ibus, and installing just the apt-anthy that I need. Wrong choice! it took away the system setup shortcut from my dock and keyboard input from my dash, and probably other things that I do not notice, I guess I'll give it my 15th fresh install. – haruno Apr 19 '14 at 23:52
  • I've decided to forget about fiddling with the input method and limit my use of the ubuntu laptop to simple storage and tasks than can be done with the mouse. – haruno Apr 20 '14 at 10:33

Installing applications should never do harm to your system when dependencies can be solved. If that was not the case then we should consider this a bug of the respective application.

This may not be so clear if we wanted to play with unstable pre-release versions, or if we need to remove an application and it's dependency again, as we may not be able to foresee unwanted side-effects. In addition in case we are not very organized we may forget about an application we had installed but never used. This usually is not an issue as applications only need little space on our system.

More serious are issues from changing values of system-wide configuration files, as these may not be reset so easily.

To avoid having my main productive system cluttered with many applications I don't really need, or ending up with an unstable system on installing alpha or beta versions of applications I do all this testing in a virtual machine:

By this we can easily revert back to an earlier snapshot, or to our vanilla backup installation. We can isolate a single new application installed in a vanilla installation, and we can also test various release or flavours of Ubuntu from a virtual machine.

The only drawback of a VM is the somewhat slower performance, some hard-drive usage, and rare bugs of the virtualization software we can not tell apart from real bugs of an application.

  • Depending on how slow your machine is you may still be able to run Virtual Box, it is not too picky on resources (dual core ~2 GHz 2 GB host should do for testing - not for performance of course) – Takkat Apr 19 '14 at 16:10
  • Thank you for response. I will definitely consider VM when testing system settings. I have encountered problems upon installing new drivers(for my broadcom wi-fi both proprietary & open-source), and when an installation of an application caused my shutdown and reboot to freeze. I probably can't spot those problems on a VM right? – haruno Apr 19 '14 at 16:22
  • For drivers of devices (with rare exception of somer USB devices) we can not use a VM because these are usually provided from the host. – Takkat Apr 19 '14 at 17:14
  • Thank you. I've set up a VM on my desktop PC. I will try to learn my way around ubuntu on a VM before I do stuff with on my actual laptop machine. – haruno Apr 19 '14 at 17:46
  • hmm, I can't get the same results from a VM and a real machine. I would have to go look for a backup/snapshot solution. – haruno Apr 19 '14 at 20:52

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