Imagine how awesome it would be if this announcement read: “Time Drive has been completely rewritten from scratch (yet again) to take better advantage of the paradigms of modern computing! Version 0.3 has hundreds of updates and new features which will make your life easier and more fulfilled!”
There’s just one little problem … such an announcement wouldn’t necessarily be true. (Marketing hyperbole, I never knew thee!)
The truth is this: Time Drive is a simple backup program that does a good job of backing up your data. It offers a nice list of potential backup options ranging from an attached hard drive to a computer over the network or across the internet. It makes it easy to search for and restore a lost file.
In short, Time Drive seeks to change the world by making an act of computer maintenance more convenient. I’d like to think that it Just Works.
But the real test of a program isn’t how well it works, but how easy it is to fix when broken. A good program does what you want, but a better program helps you get back on track when things go wrong. Back when I was looking at other backup programs available for Linux, this was my number one frustration. Most of the applications would work (for the most part), but I could never troubleshoot or repair problems when they happened. There just wasn’t enough information available.
For an example, let’s take SBackup. It’s a lovely little program, with one horrible flaw. You have absolutely no way of knowing if it is working. It doesn’t keep log files, it doesn’t notify you if a backup job failed. It doesn’t let you know if it is running. Its simplicity is actually symptomatic of a flaw: it’s incomplete.
These were problems that I desperately wanted to avoid with Time Drive. And now that I’m announcing version 0.3 of the program, I’d like to think that I have. So, instead of marketing hyperbole and false promises, here’s the real announcement:
Time Drive 0.3 includes a number of refinements that make it easy to both backup your data and to figure out why a backup might have failed. It’s better, easier and more refined. In the rest of this post, I’ll explain why.
There’s a reason why Time Drive works with the Ubuntu notifications system and has progress bar notifications for nearly everything. From the very first, I wanted the program to notify the user of what it was doing. But in versions 0.1 and 0.2, there was an essential part missing: some kind of program log. It was a big omission, and several people complained rather vocally about it.
Logs and Notifications
And it’s the first thing that was added to version 0.3. Time Drive now logs its activities and will notify you of errors that happen behind the scenes. If a backup job fails silently, you can put on your detective hat and go find out why. If your internet connection cuts out while using cron to automatically backup your computer, you’ll get a warning the next time that you run the program. Backup statistics, problems, errors, even love notes; they’re all there. To open the log, just click on the blue information button on the main user interface.
Progress Indicators for Absolutely Everything
In addition to the log, we fixed a second oversight. Versions 0.1 and 0.2 lacked an indicator that told you how far a backup job had progressed. In 0.3, that problem’s been solved.
Great. Time Drive does a better job of letting you know about problems, but what about fixing them? For example, what will version 0.3 do when a backup job fails, or your internet connection cuts out at the wrong time? When these things happen, Duplicity leaves unneeded files on the backup drive. (Files, by the way, which are a pain to remove.) How does Time Drive make repair jobs easier?
Well … I’m glad that you asked. Time Drive now has a cleanup function. If it detects a mess or unneeded files, the program will automatically go about restoring things to right. And if you happen to be one of those obsessively tidy people, you can manually run the same tool by going to the advanced settings pane for the corresponding folder.
So much for better notifications and easier management of messes. But what about the promised refinements? Where can you look to find those?
For starters, take a look at the settings for remote connections. All of the input boxes have been reworked for cleaner input. While Time Drive and Duplicity have always supported non-standard port numbers, it wasn’t necessarily clear how how to configure them. Now, it is.
More importantly, though, the user interface adapts to your choices. If you choose to make a backup to an attached drive, you aren’t going to be asked for a server and port. If you choose FTP, however, those options will be there. Best of all, you no longer have to keep track of which types of connections require two slashes in the connection url and which one uses just one. Time Drive will do the configuration and accounting for you!
Looking Toward the Future
And those are only the changes that you will see. There’s a lot more that has happened behind the scenes to make version 0.3 the best release of Time Drive ever. You might call these “future enhancements.” They include:
- International Support. If you don’t speak English, Time Drive now has you covered. Dutch, French and Spanish translations are in the works. Want to see Time Drive translated to Chinese? Come help out!
- Documented API. You know that a software program has grown up and reached maturity when you have a documented API.
- Automated Installation and Upgrades for Linux Users. One of the best things about using Linux is apt-get. It keeps your entire system up to date with the most recent software, and the Time Drive project at Launchpad now has it’s own PPA.
As you can see, Time Drive is managing to evolve and add new features at a pretty good clip. But as we do so, it’s also time to face a pretty harsh reality. An easy to install and compatible Windows version simply isn’t going to happen.
Producing a version of Time Drive for Windows has always been extraordinarily hard, there are just too many *nix dependencies. To use it requires Cygwin, a compatible version of PyQt and a great deal of black magic and prayer. Changes that are compatible with Mac OS X and Linux break the Windows version, and vice versa. After months of wrestling with it, I’ve decided that It’s just not worth the headache. So, from version 0.3 onward, we will not be targeting Windows as a development platform.
For those of you waiting with baited breath for a Windows release, my apologies. But I should point out that Time Drive isn’t really needed on Windows. There are a number of fantastic backup programs available. The built-in backup is actually quite good in, and if that doesn’t suit your fancy there are some really fantastic commercial alternatives.
In summary, version 0.3 is a nice, incremental release of Time Drive. It patches some important holes and does a much better job of notifying users of what’s going on. It’s easier to manage your backups and clean up disasters. Lastly, it’s more refined with a bunch of spectacular back end improvements. So while version 0.3 may be an incremental improvement, we’ve got a foundation that will let us release even better versions in the future. This announcement might not be filled with marketing speak and exaggerated claims, but you can bet that future announcements will do a used car salesman proud.