Ubuntu Linux Vs. Windows Vista: The Battle For Your Desktop
Is Linux finally ready to take on Windows as a desktop OS? We tried out both Vista and Ubuntu on individual PCs to see which works better. Here's who won.
Backup / Restore
It doesn't make sense to trust your data to any operating system unless you can back it up and restore it safely. Ubuntu and Vista have markedly different ways of handling backup. Vista has a native file-and-whole-system backup tool which has been the subject of a good deal of well-directed criticism. Ubuntu has a number of different backup tools in its software library, of varying degrees of polish and requiring different degrees of expertise.
The most straightforward of the user-friendly (as opposed to something invoked from a command line) Ubuntu backup tools listed in the catalog is probably Konserve, which sits in the system tray and backs up any directory to any other directory (including a remote network repository or FTP site) in the form of an industry-standard .tar.gz archive. You can set up any number of backup profiles and have them run on schedules or on-demand, and you'll be notified if a backup attempt fails (for instance, if the external drive you've been using for backups is offline).
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Ubuntu's Konserve program is a simple directory-to-directory backup that works across a variety of media, including FTP.
One problem is that it doesn't seem possible to filter files to be backed up; it's everything in the source directory or nothing. Also, each backup set is complete; the program doesn't have an explicit option to perform incremental backups. (I also looked at the Keep Backup system, which had a similar set of options but also many of the same limitations.)
Vista's backup tool has a few things I hate and a few things I love. The biggest problem is the way it defines backup sets -- what you're backing up -- which is not very flexible. When I wanted to back up everything on my main drive except for a certain kind of file, I found I couldn't do it. But what does work, works well -- I've kept rolling backups of my main drive for several months now, and it's saved my bacon more than a few times.
Also, Vista's backup function now has a feature people have demanded for a long time: a full-system backup and restore utility. I've used it and it does indeed "just work"-- all you need to do to restore the backup is boot the Vista CD and plug in whatever media you backed up to.
One other function in Vista which I've grown fond of is shadow copies -- the ability to revert to an earlier point in time for a particular file on a given drive without having to dig out a backup. Shadow copies do take up space on a drive, but Vista reserves space for shadow copies based on the total amount of available free space, and you can always erase old shadow copies if you don't feel you need them anymore. I don't believe Ubuntu has anything similar to it.
[Addendum: After this article went to press, I learned about the ext3cow file system which allows Linux to store versions of files in a point-in-time fashion, much like the Previous Versions/Shadow Copy feature in Windows. It's distributed as a kernel patch (which means recompiling the kernel) and works in kernel versions 2.6 and higher.]
I should point out, however, that restoring shadow copies and the full-system backup and restore are only available in high-end editions of Vista. In Home Basic, for instance, you don't even have the ability to schedule automatic backups.
A tie, but only because both platforms fall short in some ways. Vista's roster of backup features aren't available in every SKU of the product; Ubuntu doesn't have anything like Vista's shadow copy system (at least not as an out-of-the-box feature) and its user-friendly backup tools are pretty rudimentary.