Must-have tools for the Linux laptop

TrueCrypt

The TrueCrypt encryption suite [5] can help you to protect your sensitive data with minimum fuss. TrueCrypt can encrypt a hard disk partition or an entire disk, or you can use it to create an encrypted file-based volume. The latter looks like a regular file, but it can be mounted as a conventional directory.

TrueCrypt sports a graphical interface, which provides easy access to all of its features. Thanks to the Volume Creation Wizard, you can set up an encrypted volume in a matter of minutes by simply selecting the desired options. After you choose volume size, encryption algorithm, and password, the wizard takes care of the rest.

TrueCrypt also allows you to create encrypted volumes on an external device, such as a USB stick. Better yet, you can install a portable version of TrueCrypt for Windows (so-called Traveler Mode) on the same USB stick, so you can access the encrypted volume on any Windows machine.

Once the encrypted volume has been created, you can mount it using TrueCrypt's interface, and you can work with the mounted directory as with any folder on your system.

To speed up the mounting process, you can "bookmark" the currently mounted volumes by choosing Favorites | Add Selected Volume. This saves the location of the encrypted volume and its mount point, so entering the correct password is all you have to do to mount the bookmarked volume.

Rsync and Grsync

Losing all the work you've done while waiting for your plane, would be a disaster, which is why you shouldn't leave home without a simple and reliable backup solution on your laptop. Fortunately, every decent Linux distribution comes with rsync [6], a versatile, incremental file transfer utility. Using a wide range of options, you can create a backup command or script that takes care of your files and documents. The following rsync command, for example, backs up all files and folders in the laptop_documents directory to a mounted USB stick:

rsync --verbose --progress --recursive --times --perms --compress --delete /home/dmpop/ laptop_documents /media/usbstick/backup/

If using the command line is not your cup of tea, you might want to try Grsync [7], a graphical front end to rsync.

With Grsync, you can create a backup profile by specifying the source and target directories and ticking the right checkboxes.

What makes Grsync even more useful is its ability to manage multiple backup profiles called sessions. For example, you can set up one profile to back up files on your laptop to a USB stick and another to back up the files to a remote server.

To create a new profile, press the program's Add button, give the profile a name, and press OK. Then you can enter the paths to the source and destination directories and specify the desired options by ticking checkboxes. If you are not sure what each checkbox does, hover the mouse over it to see a pop-up window with a brief explanation.

The Author

Dmitri Popov holds a degree in Russian language and computer linguistics. He has been working as a technical translator and freelancer contributor for several years. He has published over 500 articles in Danish, British, US, and Russian magazines and websites.

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