Wednesday, January 25, 2006

More on cool rescue tools and utilities

As you already know I am a big fan of rescue tools and other "small and cool utilities", ideally combined with small hardware "gizmos" ...

On my 512 MB shuffle I already have GRUB booting Damn Small Linux and MoviX which only leaves around 400 MB of music - enough for a very cool gizmo that can play relaxing music AND also rescue/repair/check/boot/play movies/play DVDs on a large number of computers so that one was pretty much full and the only major step forward for me on that type of flash USB sticks + MP3 players might come when/if Samsung will have its 2 GB shuffle killer ...

However today I was too bored so I decided to re-organize my HDD-based MP3 player - 20 GB on HDD is a LOT more than 0.5 GB on flash-RAM so the target was to still keep at least 90% of the space for music but to see what amazing things I can place into the remaining 1-2 GB of space. Some of the stuff below was already discussed in my posts but towards the end there will be a few newer and very interesting things, so please bare with me ...

GRUB is so small and powerful so it was again the obvious choice for a boot manager and then I have added:

1) Linux bootable stuff

- KNOPPIX (v4.02 currently, CD version, around 700MB); this one is the large ultimate tool-and-utilities LIVE Linux image and while it is quite big it has a very large number of programs - from text and graphic editors and games to network security tools, so if a computer has enough RAM and can boot this it might solve most problems!

- DSL (v2.1b, around 50 MB) - this one is so small that I have added it "just in case" (also might work on some older systems with less RAM); I have also added Samba as a MyDSL package "just in case";

- MoviX (v0.8.3, around 30 MB) - if I only want to see some AVI/MPG or play some DVD this one is faster and much easier than going to the full KNOPPIX boot, and given the small size it was definitely a keeper;

2) Windows bootable stuff

- the Windows recovery console (around 10 MB) - the XP version is newer but the Windows 2000 version has a small "bug" that can sometimes become a feature - it will let you get to the recovery console on an XP system even if you do not know the Administrator password!!! The recovery console is a limited text-mode-only tool but it can fix a few things (MBR, boot) for a Windows installation or can disable a driver/service that creates fatal problems, so at 10 MB why not keep it ? However in order to keep it AND the next item a small trick was needed - the boot sector was saved as a separate 512 bytes file (BOOTCONS.BIN) and NTLDR was renamed as NTLDR_ and then the same change was made inside the 512 bytes BOOTCONS.BIN file so that when GRUB chainloads this one it will load that NTLDR_ corresponding to the recovery console!

- a BartPE full bootable Windows live image - probably under 200 MB but it depends on what you would like to place inside. You can find some info in the LangaList or some step-by-step details in the InformationWeek article but there are many other places with information on that matter! When building your custom BartPE image you will probably want to add as many (safe) net and storage drivers as possible and also most of your favorite tools - I am a big fan of Total Commander but the most important tool on a bootable live Windows image is probably ERD Commander that will let you do some nice tricks (even an older version might be very handy).

3) PORTABLE Windows applications

- there are many portable applications but most often I only need a few from here so I have a PORTABLE folder with:

- Portable (around 170 MB) - that solves text editing, spreadsheets, presentations and some other things; and unlike Microsoft Office this will never de-activate itself when you upgrade the HDD on your system :))

- Portable Firefox (under 20 MB) - safe browsing (and you can still have plugins and extensions);

- Portable Gaim (under 10 MB) - convenient instant messaging with no installation!

(there are also other portable applications available, so just keep looking for those that you feel you might need - and when using them on other computers never forget about safety !!!)

Now a number of final observations:

- things that are a form of "image" are safer than individual files - for instance it might be almost impossible for a virus to get inside BARTPE.ISO even on a USB drive;

- obviously write-once CDs are perfectly safe from this point of view (but not all PORTABLE applications might work like that);

- but USB is handy since you can update things easy, you can save your documents there and so on;

- a CD might have one extra important advantage for a "live Windows image" - when booting from USB a RAMdrive is used - so it is very likely that you will only be able to boot BartPE from USB on systems with more than 256 MB RAM; however with a CD you can boot BartPE even in 96-128 MB RAM; and I somehow remember that an older ERD Commander mini-CD could even start in 32 MB of RAM so that might be the ultimate rescue for older systems;

- also DSL and MoviX might have the same advantage over live windows when RAM is low;

- I do not believe that you can start anything with a GUI in 16 MB without swap :)

- there are still many older systems that do not boot from USB (and even the new ones can sometimes be VERY slow), so a "backup rescue tool" might be a 210 MB mini-CD - certainly not as cool and small as a USB stick but still usable; I believe that PuppyLinux might even be able to write back stuff on the boot CD as multiple sessions - so a 210 MB mini-RW might actually be the best alternative when USB is not supported but the computer has a CD burner!!!


Anonymous drdrksa said...

On the link below zou can find out how to make portable Total Commander :

2:00 AM  

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