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Well, there's certainly been an exchange of views on this thread since I logged off yesterday. For my purposes, having an "up-to-the-minute" correct backup is less important (I'll only back up once a week maximum), and if my system goes down and I am forced to use the backup, the fact that I would not have lost everything is more important than having lost a few files that I could easily retrieve from the internet again (work files I back up straight away on removable storage anyway).
I would consider this to be the most common situation with /home anyway.
I backup /home daily using rsync in a script that first copies the entire previous day's backup using links. Thus, I only actually copy anything that is new since the previous backup. And, should I miss it today due to some email arriving or something, I'll get it tomorrow in the backup.
That said, I no longer use vfat for anything. The filesystem is long past its "sell by" date, and given that Linux can now read/write NTFS and Windows can read/write EXT2, there is just no reason at all to use it.
I would definitely not use vfat for your home directory or any backup devices. For one thing it doesn't store any ownership or permission information, so it will not work properly with any software which requires specific permissions for files (e.g. the .gnupg directory).
As you mentioned, vfat does not store all the same possible file names as ext3 - you will almost certainly lose information because of this. The most obvious example which springs to mind is "dot" files, which will include all your settings for your window manager and all programs which store settings files in dot files/directories in your HOME directory.
Perhaps if you describe what problems you were having we can help sorting them out. Using vfat will simply not work. I recommend you immediately reformat your backup device to ext3 or some other fully featured *nix filesystem.
Okay, I have reformatted my backup drive as ext3 and re-backed up my /home directory using rsync with -axv options. No problems so far. Had to do it using Knoppix Live DVD though. I have never had success with Tredegar's <CTRL><ALT><F1>, login as root method - possibly because I'm using Ubuntu. It is one of those distros where you don't have a root account, you just use Sudo in your own account. So it is impossible to "log on" as root. Also, how do you get out of a <CTRL><ALT><F1> terminal when you go into one? I tried pressing F6 (which apparently sometimes does it), typing EXIT, QUIT etc. No joy. Had to do a hardware reset instead.
Okay, I have reformatted my backup drive as ext3 and re-backed up my /home directory using rsync with -axv options. No problems so far. Had to do it using Knoppix Live DVD though. I have never had success with Tredegar's <CTRL><ALT><F1>, login as root method - possibly because I'm using Ubuntu. It is one of those distros where you don't have a root account, you just use Sudo in your own account. So it is impossible to "log on" as root.
As long as you are not logged in to a gnome or KDE session, and do control-alt-f1 from the graphical login screen, you can happily do the backup from a console login with your regular user using sudo. A console login is just a simple shell, and this will not have any problems with race conditions and the like, as discussed above.
I think you can "enable" a regular root login in Ubuntu by setting the root password:
sudo passwd root
Having said that, it's not necessary - sudo will allow you to do any admin activities you might want to.
Originally Posted by Steve W
Also, how do you get out of a <CTRL><ALT><F1> terminal when you go into one? I tried pressing F6 (which apparently sometimes does it), typing EXIT, QUIT etc. No joy. Had to do a hardware reset instead.
You can switch between console virtual terminals with alt-f1, alt-f2 etc. There are usually a few of them, and then one which switches you back to X, which on Ubuntu is alt-f7 by default. This might vary on other distros or with customised configurations where there might be a different number of virtual terminals, but in this case just pres alt-f1, alt-f2 ... all in turn until you get to the X session :-)
Ah, thanks for that info - I have saved a copy of it so I know what to do when I need a console session. Well, it seems the backup situation has been solved so thanks everyone on this thread for your (as usual) invaluable assistance.