Time Machine like Backups on OpenBSD

$Id: timemachine.md,v 1.1 2022/05/28 11:00:00 cvs Exp $

Time Machine is a backup software by Apple, part of macOS allowing easy and foolproof backups. In a nutshell, it creates incremental backups on a storage medium of your choice and you can access the data either with a graphical client or directly via file system tools. I especially like that you only have to plug in an external USB drive which is immediately recognized, the backup starts and the drive is unmounted as soon as the backup is done. Since Time Machine is Apple only and I use OpenBSD on all my personal machines, I decided to write my own Time Machine like solution.

Goals of my Solution

Turns out, I can solve the goals easily with mostly base software and one program from ports.

Prepare the external Storage

At first, we need to manually format the disk and create an encrypted file system on top. Plug in the disk and find the correct device name by looking at the dmesg output:

umass0 at uhub0 port 2 configuration 1 interface 0 "Kingston DataTraveler 2.0" rev 2.00/1.00 addr 2
umass0: using SCSI over Bulk-Only
scsibus4 at umass0: 2 targets, initiator 0
sd2 at scsibus4 targ 1 lun 0: <Kingston, DataTraveler 2.0, PMAP> removable serial.09511607BA7195A60256
sd2: 7640MB, 512 bytes/sector, 15646720 sectors

In this example it’s sd2. Now we need to format the disk and create an encrypted file system on top of it.

# fdisk -iy sd2
Writing MBR at offset 0.

# disklabel -E sd2
Label editor (enter '?' for help at any prompt)
sd2> a a
offset: [64] 
size: [15631181] 
FS type: [4.2BSD] RAID
sd2*> w
sd2> q

Upon completion you should see a correct disklabel on the disk.

# disklabel sd2
# /dev/rsd2c:
type: SCSI
disk: SCSI disk
label: DataTraveler 2.0
duid: f5a87db156d32c6f
bytes/sector: 512
sectors/track: 63
tracks/cylinder: 255
sectors/cylinder: 16065
cylinders: 973
total sectors: 15646720
boundstart: 64
boundend: 15631245
drivedata: 0 

16 partitions:
#                size           offset  fstype [fsize bsize   cpg]
  a:         15631181               64    RAID
  c:         15646720                0  unused

Since the disk is later controlled by a script we cannot use a passphrase here, we need to store the decryption password in a file. Use the tool of your choice to generate a strong password and store it in a file. To match the passphrase and the disk, name the file after the disks duid (can been seen in disklabel’s output above). As last step, set the file’s permission to 600 so that only the owner can access it. Otherwise, bioctl complains about wrong permissions.

Make sure that you save the file in a secure location on your machine. In my case it’s stored in /root and owned by the root user. Further, write the generated password somewhere down in case you need to access your backup disk without (!) having access to your machine! You could print it on a piece of paper and store it somewhere safe.

# pwgen 60 | head -1 > f5a87db156d32c6f.pw

# cat f5a87db156d32c6f.pw

# chmod 600 f5a87db156d32c6f.pw

Now we need to create an encrypted diskabel within the previous one using the file’s content as passphrase:

# bioctl -c C -r auto -p f5a87db156d32c6f.pw -l /dev/sd2a softraid0 
softraid0: CRYPTO volume attached as sd3

# disklabel -E sd3
Label editor (enter '?' for help at any prompt)
sd3> a i
offset: [0]
size: [15630653]
FS type: [4.2BSD]
sd3*> w
sd3> q
No label changes.

# disklabel sd3
# /dev/rsd3c:
type: SCSI
disk: SCSI disk
label: SR CRYPTO
duid: 4be3be137f4ba195
bytes/sector: 512
sectors/track: 63
tracks/cylinder: 255
sectors/cylinder: 16065
cylinders: 972
total sectors: 15630653
boundstart: 0
boundend: 15630653
drivedata: 0

16 partitions:
#                size           offset  fstype [fsize bsize   cpg]
  c:         15630653                0  unused
  i:         15630624                0  4.2BSD   2048 16384 12960

To double test that everything works as designed, detach and re-attach the disk:

# bioctl -d sd3
# bioctl -c C -p f5a87db156d32c6f.pw -l /dev/sd2a softraid0
softraid0: CRYPTO volume attached as sd3

Now we create a file system where the backups will be stored. Using the -O 2 option we can force newfs to create a FFS2 file system.

# newfs -O 2 /dev/rsd3i
/dev/rsd3i: 7632.1MB in 15630624 sectors of 512 bytes
38 cylinder groups of 202.50MB, 12960 blocks, 25920 inodes each
super-block backups (for fsck -b #) at:
 160, 414880, 829600, [...]
# mount /dev/sd3i /mnt/
# ls -l /mnt/

The external disk is now ready to be used.

Recognize the disk upon Connection

Now, we make sure that the disk is recognized by the system as soon as it’s connected. This can be easily done with hotplugd. To identify the disk we look at the disklabel of each attached disk and run a script as soon as it’s connected.

# cat /etc/hotplug/attach


case $DEVCLASS in
    # disk devices
    duid=`/sbin/disklabel $DEVNAME 2>&1 | sed -n '/^duid: /s/^duid: //p'`
    case $duid in
        # Example USB stick
        logger -i "Example USB stick attached"
        sh /root/openbsd-timemachine-backup.sh f5a87db156d32c6f 4be3be137f4ba195 /root/f5a87db156d32c6f.pw

So what does the script above? It is called by hotplugd every time a device is attached. It checks if a disk is attached (DEVCLASS is 2) and then get the disk’s duid from disklabel. If the duid matches the on from the backup disk (f5a87db156d32c6f in our case), it starts a script called /root/openbsd-timemachine-backup.sh. The script gets three parameters:

It also logs some information to syslog to make you aware that a backup disk is connected.

Install and configure rsnapshot

rsnapshot is used for backing up the data. According to the website “rsnapshot is a file system snapshot utility based on rsync. rsnapshot makes it easy to make periodic snapshots of local machines, and remote machines over ssh. The code makes extensive use of hard links whenever possible, to greatly reduce the disk space required.” So, exactly what we’re looking after.

Install it from ports:

# pkg_add rsnapshot

The simplest way to configure it, is to copy the example config from /usr/local/share/examples/rsnapshot/rsnapshot.conf.default to /etc/rsnapshot.conf and adapt it as needed. The things you need to configure to make it work with the script below are as follows:

# All snapshots will be stored under this root directory.
-snapshot_root  /.snapshots/
+snapshot_root  /backup/

-#backup    /home/  localhost/
+backup     /       localhost/

Keep the Greek letter names (alpha, beta, …) for the backup levels. Depending on your available backup disk size you might want to tune the number of snapshots to be retained. To make sure that rsnapshot works as expected mount your backup drive to /backup and run it once. Check for errors and resolve them, if needed.

# rsnapshot -c /etc/rsnapshot.conf alpha

If rsnapshot works as expected we can now configure the script that runs it automatically.

The backup script

The script is quite simple and just decrypts the disk, mounts it and runs rsnapshot to create an incremental backup. You should not need to change something, however, double check the following points:

Upon the first call, a counter is written to the backup disk. Every 8th run, a rsnapshot gamma backup is done, every 4th run a beta backup, and an alpha backup on all other runs.

# cat /root/openbsd-timemachine-backup.sh


# DUID of the softraid container
# DUID of the disk within the decrypted container
# Location to the file containing the passphrase
# Location to counter file

# Wrong number of arguments
if [[ -z $OUTER_DUID || -z $INNER_DUID ]]; then
    logger -i -t error "$(basename $0): DUIDs missing. Abort"
    exit 1

if [[ -z $PASSFILE ]]; then
    logger -i -t error "$(basename $0): No path to PASSFILE given. Abort"
    exit 1
    if [[ ! -f $PASSFILE ]]; then
        logger -i -t error "$(basename $0): Cannot open $PASSFILE. Abort"
        exit 1

if [[ -n $(mount | grep ${MNTPOIN}) ]]; then
    logger -i -t error "$(basename $0): Mount point $MNTPOIN is not empty. Abort"
    exit 1

bioctl -c C -p $PASSFILE -l ${OUTER_DUID}.a softraid0 > /dev/null || exit 1
logger "$(basename $0): Backup disk successfully bio-attached"


mount -o softdep,noatime ${INNER_DUID}.i $MNTPOIN || exit 1
logger "$(basename $0): Backup disk mounted successfully to $MNTPOIN"

# First backup of its kind
if [[ ! -f ${CNTF} ]]; then
    echo "1" > $CNTF

i=$(cat $CNTF)
if [ $((i%8)) -eq 0 ]; then
    logger "$(basename $0): Iteration ${i}, doing a gamma backup"
    rsnapshot -q -c /etc/rsnapshot.conf gamma
elif [ $((i%4)) -eq 0 ]; then
    logger "$(basename $0): Iteration ${i}, doing a beta backup"
    rsnapshot -q -c /etc/rsnapshot.conf beta
    logger "$(basename $0): Iteration ${i}, doing an alpha backup"
    rsnapshot -q -c /etc/rsnapshot.conf alpha
echo $((i+=1)) > $CNTF


umount $MNTPOIN || exit 1

logger "$(basename $0): $MNTPOIN successfully unmounted"

bioctl -d $INNER_DUID || exit 1

logger "$(basename $0): disk successfully bio-detached"

Once you connect the disk you should see a backup job running and similar output to the following in /var/log/messages (timestamps cut):

sd2 at scsibus4 targ 1 lun 0: <WD, Elements 25A1, 1018> serial.105825a214463442
sd2: 2861556MB, 512 bytes/sector, 5860466688 sectors
root[28211]: 2TB Backup USB disk attached
openbsd-timemachine-backup.sh: Backup disk successfully bio-attached
sd3 at scsibus3 targ 2 lun 0: <OPENBSD, SR CRYPTO, 006>
sd3: 2097095MB, 512 bytes/sector, 4294852016 sectors
root: openbsd-timemachine-backup.sh: Backup disk mounted successfully to /backup
root: openbsd-timemachine-backup.sh: Iteration 54, doing an alpha backup
rsnapshot[6708]: WARNING: /usr/local/bin/rsnapshot -q -c /etc/rsnapshot.conf alpha: completed, but with some warnings
root: openbsd-timemachine-backup.sh: /backup successfully unmounted
sd3 detached
root: openbsd-timemachine-backup.sh: disk successfully bio-detached