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News and Editorials

Rescue and recovery distributions

May 20, 2009

This article was contributed by Ivan Jelic

According to the FSF's free software definition, free software gives us the "freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor". Rescuing your neighbor from their computer problems is another good way of using free software. In this article we look at several distributions that might help you rescue a system for yourself or your neighbors.

Parted Magic 4

Purposely or by accident, Parted Magic happens to have a similar name as one of the best known proprietary disk partitioning tools. Parted Magic fits on a small, 73M, CD. One could even use that old, small USB stick you have lying around.

The default boot option copies the system to RAM, allowing optical devices to be used if necessary. If the system booting Parted Magic has between 128 and 512 MB of RAM, the creator suggests booting from removable media. The "Live with low RAM settings" option applies to the computers with less RAM than previously mentioned, so the system starts only TWM and Gparted by default. The rest of the boot options mainly relate to the graphical setup in cases where the system has an old/exotic graphical subsystem, usable only with Xvesa. Detailed explanations of all boot options are available by pressing F1.

Parted Magic 4 uses LXDE by default. The system starts without automatic network setup, so the connection needs to be initiated by the user. The "start network" GUI does this job, offering a wizard like setup for wired and wireless connections. Gparted is available from the desktop, but the full arsenal of PM's tools is visible in "System tools" menu section.

Besides Gparted 0.4.4, with full common GNU/Linux and FAT/NTFS filesystem (including EXT4) support, other items in the System tools menu make Parted Magic a serious contender for the data rescue and recovery swiss army knife title. Partition and disk cloning are made possible with G4L and Partition Image; data synchronization is taken care of by Grsync (rsync is available from the shell, of course); and ISO editing by is done by ISO Master. The Secure Erase capability of ATA drives is exploited by Erase disk tool. Testdisk and Photorec, particularly useful recovery tools, are also part of Parted Magic.

Parted Magic also finds room for Firefox, Xchat, as well as Gftp and Lftp, which are especially useful for FTPS connections.


SystemRescueCD is aptly named. Rescuing the system with this distribution is not as user friendly as PM, but considering the target audience, a GUI is not that big an advantage.

Booting SystemRescueCD is relatively simple since it doesn't offer predefined options. The system will boot to a shell, with support for the common GNU/Linux filesystems, including EXT4 and BRTFS, and FAT/NTFS. The welcome message gives starting pointers about the available shell tools, network setup interface for wired and wireless connections and X server startup. After the "wizard" X config tool enables the X server (Xvesa is available as na option - "startx" might work too), JWM starts.

SystemRescueCD offers basic filesystem tools together with Gparted, Partimage and Testdisk. In addition to the recovery tools, SRCD provides Firefox and Dillo browsers, Xfburn, Xarchiver, Geany editor, Epdfviewer, Gvim and other general purpose applications. Several looks and searches didn't reveal any hidden graphical file manager, so Midnight commander is the only solution in this context.

Clonezilla live

Parted Magic and SystemRescueCD are intended to be multipurpose solutions, but Clonezilla live is made with only one purpose: to make Clonezilla available on a live system. Beside Clonezilla live, Clonezilla SE is recommended as a solution for massive deployment, which, according to official website "can clone many (40 plus!) computers simultaneously". Since we don't have 40 machines at one place to test it, this article is focused on Clonezilla Live.

In general, Clonezilla live allows the user to clone partition(s) or entire disks, and store images locally or to another machine through the network, using SSH, Samba, or NFS. The list of supported filesystems contains ext2, ext3, reiserfs, xfs, jfs, NTFS, FAT, and HFS+, with EXT4 in a testing distribution branch. Clonezilla provides it's functionality through ncurses based dialogs in a wizard style. The only problem which occured during a routine disk-to-image clone test was the unavailability of any option for going backward in the process. The only option in situations like that is to quit and start over again.


Recovery Is Possible LinuX closes this round of recovery and restore distributions. According to our testing experience, it's quite a nice closing.

According to the boot options, RIPLinuX should be able to start an X server automatically, but that option failed for some reason during the test. Startx solved the problem though, and made the Fluxbox desktop available.

The main part of the RIPLinuX graphical interface is the rich Fluxbox menu which makes all of the distribution's capabilities available to the user. The menu is organized in a way that links to documentation about the specific applications that are available right next to them, with a note about its online or offline nature. The choice of rescue and recovery tools which are shipped with RIPLinux is very similar to Parted Magic, with an addition of the Erase disk tool.

It seems that RIPLinuX developers managed to reach the absolute limit of its 92MB image, with plenty of general purpose applications included in the system. Beside Firefox 3.5b4, three text editors, two image viewers, GUI file managers and FTP clients, even Xine and XMMS found their way into RIPLinuX live. Even Gaim is included in case anyone wants use instant messaging from RIPLinuX.

Can there be only one?

With the exception of Clonezilla, which is strictly focused on disk/partition cloning, the rest of distributions share the same purpose. Based on their showing during the tests, Parted Magic and RIPLinuX offered almost the same functionality, with a different look and feel. SystemRescueCD seems to lack the tools the other two have, which puts it behind them.

Given that the user is unlikely to watch videos during rescue and recovery, the choice between Parted Magic and RIPLinuX is strictly personal.

Comments (18 posted)

New Releases

Foresight Linux 2.1.1 is out and about!

The release of Foresight 2.1.1 has been announced. "Well known for being a desktop operating system featuring an intuitive user interface and a showcase of the latest desktop software, this new release brings you the latest GNOME 2.26.1 release, a newer Linux kernel 2.6.29, a revamped notification area, and a ton of Xorg improvements!"

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jibbed 5.0 released

jibbed is a NetBSD Live CD. "This time it's version 5.0 build from the finest NetBSD-5 sources. As usual the Live CD contains the latest packages from pkgsrc and exclusively three new packages. These are the word processor Abiword and two fantastic games Wormux and Crack-Attack. As always it contains Xorg from base and the xfce4 Window manager."

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Mandriva Pulse 2 1.2.1 is available

The Pulse 2 team has announced the release of version 1.2.1 of Pulse 2. "Pulse 2 is an Open Source tool that simplifies application deployment, inventory, and maintenance of an IT network. It has been designed to handle from dozens of computers on a single site to 100 000+ computers spread on many sites."

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Announcing the Moblin v2.0 beta for Netbooks and Nettops

The Moblin steering committee has announced the release of Moblin v2.0 beta for Netbooks and Nettops. "With this release, developers can begin to experience and work with the source code of the visually rich, interactive user interface designed for Intel Atom based Netbooks. The Moblin v2.0 user experience has been designed from the ground up to provide unique ways to engage with the internet, aggregate your social networking activity, and enjoy your media content. The new user experience and core applications were developed using the Clutter animation framework, leveraging heavily from GL and the physics engine."

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Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.8 released

The eighth update to Red Hat Enterprise Linux has been released. "Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4, first shipped in February 2005, is now in the Production 2 lifecycle phase. With this, the focus of product updates in the future will shift away from providing significant code changes and focus on providing critical fixes and helping customers evolve their IT plans for eventual migration to Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5."

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Slackware64 Released

Slackware has now gone 64-bit with an official x86_64 port being maintained in-sync with the regular x86 -current branch. "We've been developing and testing Slackware64 for quite a while. Most of the team is already using Slackware64 on their personal machines, and things are working well enough that it is time to let the community check our work." DVDs will be available from the Slackware store with the release of Slackware 13.0.

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Tin Hat 20090519 is out!

Tin Hat 20090519 has been released. "Tin Hat is a fully featured Linux desktop based on Hardened Gentoo which runs purely in RAM. It aims to be very secure, stable, and fast. This release concentrates primarily on updating the hardened tool chain, and no changes were made to the kernel since the last release. The system was completely recompiled using hardened Gentoo's stock gcc-4.3.3 plus stack-protection added via the CFLAGS and CXXFLAGS in make.conf. Extensive testing of the most used services and apps gave no issues with the exception of Evolution which required lazy linking."

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Ubuntu's Karmic Koala Alpha 1 released

The Ubuntu distribution has announced the first Alpha release of Karmic Koala, which will eventually become Ubuntu 9.10. "The primary changes from Jaunty have been the re-merging of changes from Debian, updating to the current Linux kernel, and updating GNOME to the current development release. There are also some infrastructure changes for power management and the Intel video driver."

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Distribution News


Fedora considering mailing list moderation

It seems that some folks in the Fedora community are getting tired of the tone of the discussion on the project's mailing lists. Thus this proposal from the Fedora board: "the Board appoints one or more Board members or other Board-approved volunteers to monitor Fedora Project mailing lists. The Board will warn violators of our 'Be excellent to each other' policy in the form of a one-day list moderation (with notice to the poster). Messages not allowed through will be returned to the poster with explanation as to why they were not allowed. If after one day of moderation, the violation continues, the case will be brought to the Board for further action, which could include permanent moderation, complete removal from the project, or other remedies."

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A flag day for Fedora's flags

Back in March, the Fedora Powers That Be adopted a policy on images of flags (national and otherwise) shipped with Fedora packages. In May, they finally got around to announcing it. In general, such flags must be replaced with non-flag images or split out into a separate, optional "-flags" package. The policy, of course, is motivated by the desire to avoid the hassles which come once people get offended by specific flag images. The resulting discussion is interesting, revealing, among other things, that the GNOME project has a no-flags policy, while KDE has a specific "flags allowed" policy instead.

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Fedora 11 for the OLPC XO 1.5

Chris Ball has announced that the upcoming 1.5 version of the OLPC XO will be running Fedora 11. "Unlike previous releases, we plan to use a full Fedora desktop build, booting into Sugar but giving users the option to switch into a standard GNOME install instead. (This will mostly be useful for older kids in high school.)"

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One week slip of Fedora 11 Release

The release of Fedora 11 has been delayed for a week. The main cause is this blocker bug. "We cannot begin Release Candidate phase until the blocker bugs are closed or at least in MODIFIED state. We are not there today, which would be our last day to enter RC phase and still have enough time to release on the 26th. We hope to enter RC phase in the next couple days, and hit our new target, June 2nd."

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Fedora Board elections

The call for nominations for the Fedora Board elections is now open. "There are three seats open for this election, currently held by Tom 'spot' Callaway, Jesse Keating, and Seth Vidal. Two appointed seats are open for this election, currently held by Harald Hoyer and Chris Tyler."

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Fedora Board Recap 2009-05-14

Click below for a brief recap of the May 14 meeting of the Fedora Advisory Board. Topics include export restrictions, upcoming board elections, and mailing list toxicity.

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Gentoo Linux

Gentoo Council meeting summary

Click below for a summary of the Gentoo council meeting on May 14, 2009. Topics include wording of PMS for EAPI 3, votes on GLEP 54 and GLEP 55, discussion of dropping static libraries automatically, and council election update.

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Distribution Newsletters

DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 303

The DistroWatch Weekly for May 18, 2009 is out. "After last week's tip on how to upgrade a stable Mandriva Linux to the distribution's development branch (Cooker), we'll continue the series with a tutorial on running Slackware "Current", the development branch of the world's oldest surviving Linux distro. In the news section, Fedora presents a tentative look at a possible feature set for its next version; Ubuntu announces a new service for cloud computing amid controversy over its proprietary nature; the Debian-Desktop project launches new KDE 4 packages for "Lenny", and PC-BSD continues to expand its desktop options with Xfce and GNOME. Also in this week's issue - a roadmap for Sabayon Linux covering the rest of 2009 and a new security oriented live CD with OWASP. Happy reading!"

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Fedora Weekly News 176

The Fedora Weekly News for the week ending May 17, 2009 is out. "In this week's content-rich issue, announcements brings us Fedora Activity Day (FAD) updates from Maylasia and the upcoming Berlin and Porto Alegre FUDCons, and several upcoming Fedora related events in Romania and Brazil. A sampling of the Fedora Planet reveals changes in IcedTea, Eclipse Linux Tools, detail on transitioning from rawhide to Fedora 11, amongst other jewels. In QA news, details from the recent iBus test days and many weekly meeting updates. In Developments, a broken dependency brouhaha flavored the fedora-devel list this week along with discussion of emacs add-ons for the Fedora Electronic Lab spin, and details on being excellent to one another on the list. In translation news, updates to Fedora 11 and news of inclusion of the specspo package in the upcoming release. The artwork team muses about wallpaper gallery developments and needs and final media art prep for F11. Nicu's Fedora webcomic postulates on the F11 pre-release queue, and we complete this week's melange with much news on the virtualization front from the lib-virt list."

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The Mint Newsletter - issue 84

This issue of the Mint Newsletter looks at the upcoming release of Mint 7 and several other topics.

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openSUSE Weekly News, Special Edition

The Community Week special edition of the openSUSE Weekly Newsletter is out.

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OpenSUSE Weekly News/72

This issue of the OpenSUSE Weekly News covers Community Week, Pascal Bleser : vnstat on openSUSE, SUSE Linux Enterprise in the Americas: KDE: Social Desktop Starts to Arrive, Forums: Why Are We Not Helping More in the Wiki?, Beryl back from the ashes, and more.

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Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter, Issue #142

The Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter for the week ending May 16, 2009 is out. "In this issue we cover: Karmic Koala Alpha 1 Released, Landscape 1.3 released, Server Team: Hungry for Merges, Meta-cycles: Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu Florida: Jaunty Release Parties & Qimo build day, Ubuntu Forums: Tutorial of the Week, Infinote-based Gobby hits Karmic, New Ubuntu Forums LoCo Administrator, Ubuntu podcast #28, WorkWithU Vodcast: Episode #1, Server Team Meeting: May 12th, Hall of Fame: Ante Karamatic, and much, much more!"

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