Tip of the Trade: GParted

Most Linux system administrators are familiar with GParted, the excellent open source graphical disk-partitioning tool. GParted outshines all graphical disk-partioners, including its commercial competitors. With GParted, you can create, destroy, resize, move, and copy partitions on all the major filesystems, including ext2/3, NTFS, fat16/32, Reiser3/4, XFS, JFS, and several more. Even better, GParted comes on its own LiveCD, so you can use it on any Linux, Mac OSX, or Windows system without having to install it. Thus, you can perform miraculous feats of rescue on non-booting systems, or easily prepare a system for a new operating system installation.

For big cloning and partitioning mojo, look no further than GParted and it's spin-off -- GParted-Clonezilla LiveCD and DRBL. Use these tools to rescue non-booting systems or prepare a box for a new OS installation, and they're now available for USB sticks.

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But that's not all. GParted also has a LiveUSB version. That's right, you can use your handy-dandy USB stick instead of lugging around a dumb old CD.

And it gets better. Now you can get the GParted-Clonezilla LiveCD. That's right, two great applications that taste great together! Clonezilla is an intelligent partition or disk-cloning program that works on any filesystem. On supported filesystems, which are pretty much the same batch as GParted plus LVM2, Clonezilla copies only the used sectors. On unsupported filesystems it does a sector-by-sector copy with the dd command. With dd you can copy anything; it just takes longer because it can't tell used sectors from empty sectors, so it copies all of them.

But wait, there's more: Clonezilla works on single machines. Wouldn't you like to massively clone a whole network? Well now you can, with DRBL (Diskless Remote Boot in Linux) Live. This runs on a Debian-live based bootable CD or USB, and with it you can clone and replicate entire classrooms or computer labs in the time it takes to have a healthy walk around campus.

The DRBL maintainers are calling the Live version not-quite-ready-for-prime time, so you might want to stick with a hard drive installation on production systems for now. If you're thinking, well hey, why get excited about yet another thin client server, remember, with DRBL client systems can boot either to an operating system installed on their hard drives, or use PXEBoot and run from the DRBL server. In addition, DRBL uses the client's own hardware for more speed and power.

And the icing on the cake -- everything mentioned above is free software, licensed under the GPL, and free of cost.

This article was originally published on Apr 17, 2007
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