Updated: May 29, 2009
TimeVault is a powerful backup system that will create automated snapshot for every file change on your system. This means you will be able to retain all and any changes of your critical system files, configurations and personal documents, without worrying about manually copying them. The backup and the revision change are all done in the background, as often as 1 minute apart, giving you total control over your system.
Don't like the changes you made to a file in the last 7 minutes 43 seconds? Just revert to a snapshot eight minutes earlier. It's that simple.
TimeVault is meant for Gnome desktop and is currently not included in the repositories. You will have to manually download the .deb package and install it. The package installer will take care of the missing dependencies. Once you install it, fire it up.
The first time you run TimeVault, you won't see anything significant, except the icon in the system area.
Clicking on it will open the list of all pending snapshots, which thereof won't be any for now.
Right-clicking on the icon will allow you to open the Snapshot Browser, either as a regular user or root, and see the changes made for each directory in the filesystem over time. But for now, we need the Preferences.
Under Preferences, we can configure TimeVault. Under Activation, you will most likely want to enable Automated snapshots. Storage tells you where to place the snapshots. You can also click on Advanced for more options.
The other tabs, Include, Exclude and Expire tell you which files and directories you want to backup and for how long the snapshots should be kept before rotating. Once you're done, click Save and start enjoying TimeVault.
In this regard, it is quite similar to the Snapshot feature introduced in the ZFS filesystem on OpenSolaris, which allows you to create incremental backups of your data.
TimeVault in action
Give it a minute or two. Meanwhile, make a few changes to some of the files you decided to include in the snapshots. The next time TimeVault runs, it will back these files up.
You can take a detailed look of all changes for all scheduled runs by TimeVault using the Snapshot Browser. This browser will show you a time scale of backup checkpoints, with a list of changes made at each one (if any). The blue arrows allow you to move up and down in history and examine old archives. The yellow arrow allows you to change the time window from the default 5 minutes to hours, days, weeks or even months. Clicking back on any of the snapshots will restore the resolution. Here's what the Snapshot Browser shows before any changes are made:
After a few minutes, depending on the time increments you set, TimeVault will run and create snapshots of any of the changed files and directories.
You can open the Snapshot Browser again and see the changes for yourself:
TimeVault is a useful tool, especially if you're making lots of changes to numerous, small files and must retain multiple versions thereof. Given the sufficient hard disk space, this allows you very high granularity when it comes to revision control and helps you keep your older archives intact. There's no reason to worry about unwanted changes or accidental deletion of records. TimeVault provides a perfect database for keeping all the changes neatly stacked down the time trouser.
To make TimeVault run at all times, you will have to start it up at the beginning of the session. If your data means a lot to you, then TimeVault is another simple, highly useful way of making sure it's safe, even from yourself.