Gmail Backup, a recipe for happiness

Before I get to this week's main topic I must give a big thumbs-up to a book that all of you who like to cook will thoroughly enjoy: "Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food" by Jeff Potter (pub. O'Reilly).

"Cooking for Geeks"

Click to see: "Cooking for Geeks"

"Cooking for Geeks" lives up to its title combining, as it does, lots of science with excellent explanations of how and why ingredients and cooking techniques work and why they don't. Oh, and it has lots of well-written recipes. I have quite a few books about cooking that get technical about food and cooking and Potter's book is one of the best.

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While there's lots of traditional foodie stuff in this book, if you like the sound of Caramelized White Chocolate (something I had never thought of) or Fruit Juice Foam made with lecithin or Powdered Brown Butter, or using methylcellulose and maltodextrin to make foods that melt in weird ways, this book is definitely for you (and gets a rating of 5 out of 5).

Potter also has a website for the book, as well as a real "foodie" blog. The book, its site and Potter's blog are all highly recommended.

So, onto another recipe ... a recipe for protecting yourself from a "Googlesplosion," and by Googlesplosion I mean Google losing its Borg-like mind and obliterating all of your email. This has happened, admittedly rarely, to some Google users over the last few years and I, for one, do not want to become a digital fatality should such a fate befall my Gmail account.

But here's the problem: The tools I've tried for backing up IMAP servers, such as Google's Gmail, are mostly buggy or simply don't work, so I thought I'd struck gold the other day when a friend mentioned a tool called Imapsize.

Imapsize

Click to see: Imapsize

Imapsize is Windows freeware that does an impressive number of useful IMAP-ish things, including displaying all of the mailboxes under an account and flagging the mailboxes that use the most storage, showing storage quota use, providing content search on single or multiple mailboxes, deleting single or multiple attachments without downloading, saving attachments locally from multiple messages, mailbox and message management, copying messages from one IMAP account to another and -- the one I was interested in -- performing incremental backups of both entire IMAP accounts or multiple folders in IMAP accounts.

I found that Imapsize worked ... mostly. It was randomly and annoyingly buggy under Windows Vista Ultimate (for example, Imapsize performed only a partial backup of my Gmail account then failed) which is probably a result of the program not being updated since 2009. It is only noted to work on Windows 98, Windows Me (just writing "Windows Me" makes me feel unclean), Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

Despite its issues, Imapsize might be worth keeping around installed, say, in a virtual machine running Windows XP for diagnostic and maintenance purposes for IMAP accounts. The software is, as far as I know, unique in its set of features. Imapsize gets a rating of 2 out of 5.

So, having given up on Imapsize for backup purposes, I did a little more research and discovered a program called, rather unsurprisingly, Gmail Backup.

Gmail Backup

Click to see: Gmail Backup

Created by Jan Švec and Filip Jurčíček, Gmail Backup is free and, unlike Imapsize, seems to be bug free.

To execute Gmail Backup you only have to enter your Gmail account details and off it goes ... downloading all of your messages onto your local file system in Windows Mail E-Mail Message (.eml) format.

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The download is into files named "YYYYMMDD-hhmmss-nn.eml" -- only the "nn" part needs explaining; contrary to the online documentation, this is a string formed by appending the beginning of the subject line to the sender's email address followed by a sequence number to eliminate naming collisions.

These files are saved into a subdirectory hierarchy of year/month/day under whichever target subdirectory you select.

In my testing on an asymmetric DSL connection (3Mbps down, 500Kbps up) I saw an average download rate of roughly 55KB per second which equates to about five hours per gigabyte.

You can select a date range to download and optionally restrict downloads to "Newest emails only" which performs incremental backups of your Gmail account (Gmail Backup simply saves a timestamp of the last backup in a control file in the backup subdirectory).

Gmail Backup also supports command line arguments such as:

gmail-backup.exe backup_dir user@gmail.com password 20070621 20080101

... and appending "-stamp" will perform an incremental backup.

Gmail Backup (which gets a rating of 5 out of 5) has solved my worries about a "Googlesplosion" so that I can now concentrate on my Christmas cooking plans and it is proof that a good recipe can solve any problem.

Gibbs turns on the heat in Ventura, Calif. Your ingredient list to gearhead@gibbs.com.

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