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Rescuing Linux Systems--Generic and Distribution-Specific Safety Nets - page 9

Sending Out an SOS

  • July 8, 2002
  • By Bill von Hagen

H. Peter Anvin's SuperRescue rescue disk (http://freshmeat.net/projects/superrescue/?topic_id=866%2C861) advertises itself as "the most overfeatured rescue disk ever created", and lives up to the name. Based on Red Hat 7.2 (for the most part), SuperRescue essentially gives you a complete, single-CD version of Linux that contains everything from basic rescue-related utilities (fsck, tunefs, fdisk, etc), all the way to a version of the X Window system pre-configured for 1024x768 (but tunable with the Xconfigurator utility - also included, of course).

SuperRescue uses a special on-the-fly compression/decompression mechanism to provide 1.7 GB of binaries on a single bootable CD. Incredibly, after burning a SuperRescue CD from the downloadable ISO, booting from it, and starting multi-user mode, I was able to use the "startx" script to start not only the X Window system, but the entire KDE desktop. I would have been happy just to get twm, but all of KDE? Full-featured indeed.

Providing the X Window system is interesting, but the real focus of s rescue disk is the disk rescue, recovery, restoration, and backup utilities that it provides, SuperRescue is still reasonably complete in this respect, providing versions of fsck for the ext2, ext3, and ReiserFS filesystems. Given the size of SuperRescue and the number of tools that it provides, I was somewhat disappointed by the absence of tools and support for journaling filesystems such as JFS and XFS (even though these often require kernel patches to integrate into the Linux kernel). I would have traded support for these filesystems for a fair number of the X Window system utilities that SuperRescue includes, but that's my personal choice. SuperRescue does provide support for logical volume management and the physical volumes that underly it. This makes SuperRescue quite attractive if you are trying to repair or recover a system that uses standard Linux logical volume management.

SuperRescue is also a great rescue disk to use if you want to get the Linux system you're repairing onto a network and integrated with networked filesystems. SuperRescue includes loadable kernel modules for the Coda and InterMezzo distributed filesystems as well as Appletalk, IPX, and SMBFS if you want to mount remote Apple, Novell, or Windows filesystems and copy data to or from them. It has a limited number of loadable kernel modules for various PCMCIA Ethernet cards, but complaining about this is really looking a gift horse in the mouth.

SuperRescue's bountiful approach to rescuing damaged Linux systems excels in providing access to a wide variety of utilities that you can use to back up data from the damaged system that you are rescuing. SuperRescue includes dump, rdump, tar, cpio, and CD-related utilities such as mkisofs and cdrecord.

SuperRescue is an impressive piece of work. If you are more comfortable trying to rescue a Linux system using a graphical interface, SuperRescue is the only system-independent rescue disk that includes the X Window system. (There are various small Linux distributions that provide MicroX or Nano-X, but these are not specifically designed as rescue disks, and so are outside the scope of this article.)

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