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I think I have bits and pieces of this scattered elsewhere, but I need a page like this so I'll start it here. The initial focus is thinking about the partition layout I want to use on the newest clients, and the anticipated transition from using a dos utility partition to a Linux utility partition.

The Church computer school that I volunteer with bought 10 new (to them) computers last year which haven't yet been put in service. The intent is to get one computer setup 100% correct and then make a backup image, then restore it to each of the other nine.

I also plan to:

  • keep a copy of the image on each machine along with the image creation / restore software (initially Ghost -- intend to change to Linux, see below) so that, if we start to see flaky operation, we can quickly restore the image (well, fairly quickly)
  • keep a bootable utility partition on the disk so that we can boot up into dos (my old approach) or Linux (the new approach) and do things like format a partition, restore an image, configure the bootloader
  • install a bootloader that defaults to Win95 but gives a 2 second or so "window" to boot to the utility partition
  • burn the image to CD along with the image creation / restore software

On my own systems (at home) I do something very similar, but up until now I've used all dos/Windows based software (most recently Ghost, System Commander, Partition Commander, previously Drive Image, fdisk, and the OS/2 bootloader (and other stuff the further back in time you want to go)).

Now, to avoid additional licensing costs, I'd like to switch to all free tools, and candidates include the following:

  • lilo (look at GRUB for a safer and better alternative)
  • parted (and cfdisk)
  • Ranish Partition manager (not quite free) (and is it Linux or dos?)
  • dd and cp
  • Partition Image

(In searching recently, I have found more free or almost free dos tools, but I'd like to switch to Linux for other reasons.)

I'll continue in #Notes.




Partition Layout

Current thoughts (as I start to write this -- it's already changed from my first plan):

Ideally (not sure any of the hard drives are big enough):

  • hda1, 20 MB, primary -- Small Linux utility partition (maybe adapted from the Vector boot/root diskettes, or Leaf, or ??? -- see LinuxOnATinyPartition)
  • hda2, 650 MB, primary -- Win95, Office, the basic school / Windows installation
  • hda3, 200 MB, logical -- future Linux swap (maybe Windows as well -- might be able to shrink hda2 a little -- this would then need to be Windows compatible and immediately after hda2 or hda3)
  • hda4, the extended partition
  • hda5, 280 MB -- Small partition to hold an on-disk image of the hda2 partition
  • hda6, 1150 MB, logical -- future Linux installation -- possibly a cut-down version of Vector CFK, or maybe Knoppix installed as a CD image on the hard drive (just saw that option last night -- could be a good one)

I'm ignoring a few things for now -- Having read about the Ranish Partition Manager last night, and now knowing how to put more than 4 primary partions on a disk, I'm considering that -- people in the dos/Windows world could be totally oblivious to anything else on the disk -- is that a good idea, or not? _Oops, not totally true -- Windows can see other primary partitions iff: they are readable by Windows (fat, ntfs, etc.0 and they are physically before the first partition not readable by Windows (IIUC).

Some other miscellaneous tidbits:

  • I found that as I experimented creating and restoring the image on a different machine, (with Ghost), some of the hardware was recognized as a new device and was reinstalled. This is a disappointment -- I wonder if there is a resolution. (What I've found so far is the sound card (Soundblaster) and the NIC (maybe because of a different MAC address?).)
  • Even ignoring the reinstallation of the sound card and NIC, there were some things that would have to be changed from machine to machine, like the user name, the Microsoft license numbers (we do have licenses for all the machines -- the 10 latest machines came with Windows and Office and the same license numbers on each, so we might take the same approach and just keep a paper record of the license numbers), the IP address (we're not using DHCP at this point) -- thus one reason to keep an image on each machine was that image could keep all those things that would change from machine to machine.
  • We put the Windows cab files on the image -- I had thought about deleting those, but now that we see the soundcard and NIC needing to be reinstalled, I probably want to keep them. (Even if we got those two things resolved, we might need them as we occasionally juggle monitors, and these days, some monitors (plug and play) seem to need an installation.)
  • After getting this image installed on these 10 machines, we'll probably take the same image and try to install it on the other machines, with the minimum possible changes, and the same image and utilities on the hard drive approach. The hard drives are somewhat smaller though, so the Knoppix cd-image on the hard drive install may be the only feasible one.
  • Since we are anxious to get these machines in service, and I'm not resolved on the Linux to put on the utility partition, I'll probably just create the partition for now and add Linux later (and update the images, etc.)
  • Jeff Zartler sent me a note about how to install lilo to serve as a bootloader for dos and Windows without having a Linux partition on the hard drive. I may use that approach for now. (It basically involves booting Linux from a root boot floppy set, and having the necessary contents of a /boot partition (less the Linux kernel) on a floppy, which you then mount and run lilo on. (It might involve the chroot jail trick -- I think I covered that on DdCloningScript, Lilo, or both.)
  • The DdCloningScript#Lincs_Notes shows how we (the LVCFK) has been using cp to "clone" Linux partitions (and discusses some of our cloning trials with dd. Haven't tried either of these yet with Windows. I was thinking cp could not possibly work, but that's not necessarily true -- just need to mount both partitions as vfat or whatever -- anyway I need to do some trials -- probably do the initial installs using Ghost.
  • Oh, yeah, and we haven't done any compression in those trials, and I certainly want to do that -- I think I just saw a link (lost in a Mozilla crash) where they did something like that by piping stuff into tar.
  • Oops, I almost forgot -- I'm not sure how much partitioning I have to do before restoring an image from Ghost (in fact, was it just Partition Image that could only restore an image into "free space" (not an existing partition) or does Ghost have the same limitation. Anyway I should do some more experimentation before finalizing the approach.


So, now, at least for myself, I want to write down almost a step-by-step procedure.

See tidbits above -- I should do some more experimentation before finalizing the approach.

I have a good Win95 image (ignoring the driver reinstallation problem), now I want to make a good disk (i.e., with the other partitions) and then make an image of that, then try restoring. (I may go off for a little while and try to find the compressed tar solution -- darn Mozilla.)

  • Create the desire partitions on a "fresh" disk (20, 650, 280, free space for future)

  • Restore the Win95 image to the 650 partition

  • Make a new image with the 2 empty partitions and the Win partition

  • Try restoring that -- do I have to do any fdisk (parted, cfdisk) work first -- if so, identify it and add it to the procedure.

Some Reminders re Creating the Image

  • Edit c:\autoexec.bat and add "doskey" on a line by itself

  • Set up autoexec.bat and config.sys in the dos image to provide access to the cd-rom, include himem.sys, set the path properly (w/o drive letters), and start doskey.

  • Make sure the boot goes into W95 "dos" (not 6.22) and the dos directory contains W95 programs, not dos 6.22.


In addition to a few miscellaneous 1 of donations, we have the following clients.

We plan to keep about 15 clients in use in the classroom, and use some of the others for other church related purposes or sell/donate the surplus (after keeping a few spares).

Many of the 1 ofs have (or will) become servers or machines for special purposes (the teachers' console).

The current plan is to install the 10 latest machines to replace all the Compaqs (which seem to be the slowest and most troublesome machines, at least partially because many of the CD-Rom drives are very unreliable).

In the following I hope to eventually record the hardware configuration or each.

10 Machines Donated by Lehigh

  • 100 mhz (IIRC)

6 Compaq Presarios Donated by Southern Lehigh School District

10 166 MHz Machines Purchased Used

  • motherboard with PIIX3 chipset, rev. 0
  • 166 mhz (or 233?? -- double check)
  • 32 MB RAM
  • 2.1 GB Hard drive
  • Mitsumi FX140s CD-Rom
  • NIC: Current: Allied Telesyn AT-2000T PLUS which I have not been able to get working under Linux, therefore I plan to switch (before deployment)
  • NIC: Soon: 3Com509 which the LVCFK has generously donated 10 of (and I'm hoping to get 15 more so as to be able to use as a standard in all the machines) (ISA bus)
  • Creative Labs SB16 PNP SoundBlaster (SB Model CT2940, FCC ID: IBACT-V16FPNP) (ISA bus)
  • S3 Virge 86C325 Video Card (FCC ID: EW65T5BPLP) (PCI bus)
  • ATX power supply (nnn watts), larger than mini/midi tower, nice little assembly to hold one drive and replace it with access from only one side of the case)


  • () RandyKramer - 07 Mar 2003
  • <If you edit this page: add your name here; move this to the next line; and include your comment marker (initials), if you have created one, in parenthesis before your WikiName.>

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