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Gentoo rsync backup -- a simple differential backup script for Gentoo Linux

Project description


This is a simple backup script for use exclusively under Gentoo Linux. It uses the repository of system-installed files to automatically exclude them from backup because those files can (and should) be reinstalled easily with the portage package manager.


Grbackup uses a configuration file (~/.local/etc/grbackup if not overridden on the command line) for its required information in order to be run with a simple command for daily use. The configuration file is in the YAML format. The format is simple enough to be described by an example:

    - /
    - /tmp
    - /proc
    - /sys
    - /dev
    - /mnt
    - /var/tmp
    - /var/run
    - /var/cache
    - /run
    - /lost+found
    user: backup
    host: backuphost
    port: 22
    directory: /backup/{HOSTNAME}/rsync-backup
    generations: 7

There are three sections (root, prune and destination). In the root section, a list of directories to be included in the backup are stated. Each list element is on a separate line and begins with “- ” (the space after the dash is required).

The prune section contains a list of directories to be excluded from the backup. If it is missing, the following directories are excluded: /tmp, /proc, /sys, /dev, /mnt, /var/tmp, /var/run, /var/cache, /run, /lost+found.

In the destination section, a couple of parameters specify where the backup has to be written to. Since rsync is capable of writing to remote hosts through the use of ssh, three parameters, user, host and port specify the necessary information for reaching a remote host. As of version 0.9, the host parameter is required, meaning only remote backups are possible. This will change in later versions, allowing local backups. The parameter directory specifies the base destination directory on the remote host. Parameter port has a default of 22. As you can see in the example, there can be variable substitution expressions in the form of {VARIABLE}. The expression will be replaced by the respective environment variable. The parameter generations specifies how many generations of old backups are to be retained before they are removed. The default is 30. If a private key is required to log in to the remote host, it can be specified with a key: key-file entry in the destination section.

Backup organisation

To enable differential backups, the backup is stored under a subdirectory of the destination directory specified in the destination section of the configuration. This subdirectory has a name resembling a time stamp with date and time, like 2014-02-12-03:12:26 where the first three numbers are the date in ISO-format and the last three numbers are the time in 24-hour-format.

The new backup is stored in reference to the last backup. All changed files are stored normally. Files which have not changed since the last backup are simply hard-linked to the corresponding file in the old backup. This way they don’t take any addition space on the backup medium (apart from the directory entry). This is done by rsync by the use of the --link-dest option.


The program is intended to be run by the simple command:


There are some options for testing and one-time use:

-h, --help

shows a help message and exits

--config file, -c file

to specify the path to an alternative configuration file (default: ~/.grbackup)

--version, -V

displays the program version

--log-level level, -L level

to set the log level. Level is one of DEBUG, INFO, WARNING, ERROR, or CRITICAL. DEBUG shows the most detail while CRITICAL shows almost nothing. (default: INFO)

--log-file file, -l file

to set log file (default: /var/log/grbackup)

Per-directory exclusion

To exclude a directory from backup, simply create a file named .no-backup in it.


The software can be installed easily from the Python software repository, either on the command line or by downloading the package and installing it explicitly.

Installation using pip

On the command line, type:

pip install --user jw.grbackup

Explicit Installation from a downloaded package

Download the package from Unpack it, cd into the unpacked directory and type the command:

python install --user

Installation problems

If you have never installed a Python package before, chances are your version of setuptools is outdated. Normally, packages and their dependencies are updated automatically, but not in the case of setuptools, because this is the very package doing the installation and it can’t update itself while it is running, so this needs to be done manually. If something like the following is displayed when the installation is running:

The required version of setuptools (>=*something*) is not available,
and can't be installed while this script is running. Please
install a more recent version first, using
'easy_install -U setuptools'.

then just type the command (don’t miss to include the --user flag, it’s not mentioned in the error text):

easy_install --user -U setuptools

This will install a current version of setuptools into your user environment. After that, retry your installation.

Bug reports

Please report bugs and enhancement requests to

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