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In the university, I really liked it that each directory had a sub-directory named .snapshot that I could use to restore previous versions of my files. The .snapshot directory had subdirectories named hourly.1, hourly.2, daily.1, daily.2, weekly.1, etc - they would contain the directory and the files as they were an hour ago, 2 hours ago, a day ago, 2 days ago, and a week ago.

Very nice, very cool.

I was wondering if there's anything like that available for Linux of Windows, since I'd like to have that sort of thing at home. How hard is it to set up?

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Sun's ZFS system has similar capabilities. You can try switching from Linux to OpenSolaris and use ZFS snapshots.

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Hmm... That seems drastic. I'll have to think about that. – scraimer Aug 11 '09 at 14:42
I've heard it's supported by FUSE (which is available on Linux), but I don't know if it works good. I'm mostly a Solaris guy nowadays. – Tadeusz A. Kadłubowski Aug 11 '09 at 16:56

for Linux: the incoming brtfs will be capable of this.

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You already have part of this functionality in Windows Vista(business/ent/ultimate)/7(don't know which version).

The shadow copy service/feature will create snapshots of your documents allowing you to go back in time to retrieve older copies of them.

Right click on a folder and select Restore previous versions, you will be presented with a dialog where you can chose which version to restore.

This is not as fine grained as you mention though

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In case you would like to have such functionality for important documents like your PhD papers you could also use a regular version control system like Subversion. You can setup an SVN server on your machine, create a repo for your important documents and commit all changes to this repository. This way you can control the frequency and content of the snapshots yourself.

This also doesn't fall under 'easy to setup' but with TortoiseSVN (for Windows) it becomes quite a doable task! The whole topic needs some reading for the start and then becomes a no-brainer after a while for the routine tasks.

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If i understand correctly, the Mac's TimeMachine backup operates in a similar manner and Linux has a backup software option called TimeVault that provides similar functionality. Windows... none that I know of.

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I suppose you could use a combination of bash/batch, source control programs and crontab/task scheduler

(this would definitely fall under the difficult section of setting up, but on the plus side, it's free)

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