[K12OSN] Cloning drives, no network or compression

"Terrell Prudé Jr." microman at cmosnetworks.com
Sat Nov 29 06:41:26 UTC 2008

I've used dd to clone Debian boxes before, but in my case, it was to 
identical hardware.  You're right in that dd does overwrite the entire 
disk, MBR and all, provided that you use correct syntax, of course.  :-)

You have a true cluster-flock of a network.  IBM type 2?  I haven't seen 
that in well over a decade.  Nope, there's no way I would even *think* 
of trying a multicast over such a network.  That thing needs a total 
overhaul, new cable plant and all.  And unless you're putting MS-DOG on 
each of the boxes, the network has nothing to do with that need for an 

Yes, your scared-MCSE network admin will most definitely be a problem.  
One way to fend off this thorn in your side (and handle your Linux-leery 
managerial PHB's) is to point the following out.  First off, to which MS 
Windows would you convert?  You can't get XP anymore, and there's no way 
Vista will run on those ancient boxes, so who's gonna pay for all the 
new PC's that are "Vista ready"?  Second, even if you *could* get XP, 
again, who's gonna pay for it?

Here's what I'd do.

1.)  Upgrade each of those boxes to *AT LEAST* 512MB DRAM.  Sure, you 
can run Debian or Ubuntu in 256MB.  But for a user experience that's 
actually halfway decent, you're not running OpenOffice.org; stick with 
KDE 3 and KOffice for optimum use of shared libraries.

2.)  Take a look at "preseeding" with Debian/Ubuntu.  This is 
functionally equivalent to Red Hat's "kickstart" automated-install 
system.  My understanding is that you cannot use existing partitions, 
but since you're cloning disks anyway, that doesn't matter.  This way, 
you're pretty much guaranteed to get a working GRUB installation.

For EIDE disks (I'm guessing that's what type you have in these boxes), 
yep, I always tell the BIOS to use LBA.  But if you do that, then make 
sure that the box on which you made the original image also had its BIOS 
set to use LBA.  Things can get a bit dicey at times if you don't make 
'em the same if one's using traditional CHS and the other's using LBA.

What is the specific GRUB error that you're seeing?  The GRUB 
documentation lists 34 possible error codes.

Do you GNU <http://www.gnu.org>?
Microsoft Free since 2003 <http://www.cmosnetworks.com>--the ultimate 
antivirus protection!

Scott S. wrote:
> The recent Acer cloning discussion is reminding me of a problem I am 
> having cloning disks. I am making this a new thread because I do not 
> want to restore over a network or use compression. This is one of the 
> biggest and most helpful bunch of Linux geeks there is, thought I 
> would throw it out here.
> Here's the situation. I have a lot of old PCs I want to convert to a 
> custom Debian/Ubuntu distro. Most of them are using an old Suse 
> install. The guy who set these up is long gone, and even though these 
> boxes have worked for years, he otherwise screwed up many things, and 
> the powers that be are Linux-leery, and want to move to Winderrs.
> I do not have Windows machines available for this imaging project, so 
> that lets out several choices.
> The machines are so old, that I think transferring a compressed image 
> will take more time to clone on uncompressing. The network they are on 
> is a mish-mash of token ring and ethernet, and it's mostly wired with 
> old IBM Type 2 wiring. The ethernet ones are using a balun to use the 
> old wiring. The network is pretty slow, and I don't want to set up 
> (another) DHCP server for cloning purposes. Many of the machines don't 
> have name resolution available.
> The average hardware is 400-1.700mhz celerons/PIIs typically with 256 
> meg of ram, all have USB, none have CD drives. They are using a 
> mixture of network printers, parallel and serial barcode printers.
> My custom image (remastersys is great for creating a fresh ISO from an 
> existing install) is a total of 2.6 gig, one / partition and one swap. 
> It has the several basic users created, generic printer configurations 
> set up. It was created on a larger drive with small partitions, then 
> using dd to only image the first two partitions by block count.
> My problem is that most of the machines are too old for either PXE 
> boot or USB boot. I have experimented with piping dd through netcat 
> (Knoppix), but it's pretty slow as well. So far what I have been doing 
> is using Damn Small Linux (it seems to detect the needed hardware 
> fine). It has a boot floppy that works in the machines well, and then 
> allows the machine to boot to USB, currently to a USB DVD drive, 
> hopefully eventually to a syslinux-prepared USB pen drive.
> I use http://www.littlesvr.ca/isomaster/ to plop my disk image into 
> the DSL iso. It lives on a DVD disc. Once I get my floppy-->USB DVD 
> DSL booted, I just run dd if=/cdrom/masterimage.dd of=/dev/hda bs=64k 
> and off it goes. Machines modern enough to have USB 2.0 will clone in 
> 20 minutes, older 1.x USB machines take an hour and 20 minutes. I boot 
> into root, set the default user, hostname and printer, and am done. 
> There are no recent NV/ATI chipsets to worry about.
> While multicast solutions could be much faster on a more modern 
> network, I am reluctant to try to work with the Windows oriented 
> network admin to change things. Imaging the machines one at a time is 
> adequate.
> OK, here's my problem (finally). Sometimes the cloned machine comes up 
> with a GRUB error in stage 1.5 Sometimes I re-run the imaging process 
> and it works, sometimes it doesn't. The destination discs are usually 
> old, but all were in place and working before my imaging process. They 
> are always larger than my small image. I think my dd method of imaging 
> should overwrite boot sector and MBR. I haven't yet found anything in 
> common with the few machines this has failed on.
> Is there some quirk about GRUB with drive geometry? It seems like I 
> read somewhere about large disks in grub should be set in BIOS for 
> large, or LBA, or something. These are small disks, nothing over 40 gig.
> thx,
> Scott S.
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