iPXE CloneZilla

CloneZilla is a linux toolset that allows you to clone either a partition or whole disk to another location;  either a connected storage device,  or remotely to the network.   This is a great tool for imaging systems before you work on them and lets you have a copy in case the worst should happen.    It has a variety of bundled tools in order to read from most of the popular filesystems in use,  falling back to DD to copy each disk sector if you’re using some obscure or proprietorial filer.   This is the FOSS alternative to Norton Ghost!

The great thing about CloneZilla is that its quick and easy to get it booting via iPXE,  so is worth investing a small amount of time in setting up so that you have it ready to go should you need it.

These instructions are based on release clonezilla-live-20121217-quantal.iso which seems to be versioned 2.0.1-15.  

Download the ISO from the CloneZilla site.  Use 7zip or your favourite image opening tool to open the ISO.  You need to extract the following files:

  • vmlinuz
  • initrd.img
  • filesystem.squashfs

and put them onto your boot webserver.  In this example,  I have created a folder called CloneZilla.

############ CloneZilla ############
echo Starting CloneZilla with default options
kernel http://boot.server/CloneZilla/vmlinuz
initrd http://boot.server/CloneZilla/initrd.img

imgargs vmlinuz boot=live config noswap nolocales edd=on nomodeset ocs_live_run=”ocs-live-general” ocs_live_extra_param=”” ocs_live_keymap=”” ocs_live_batch=”no” ocs_daemonon=”ssh” usercrypted=Kb/VNchPYhuf6 ocs_lang=”” vga=788 nosplash noprompt fetch=http://boot.server/CloneZilla/filesystem.squashfs
boot || goto failed
goto start

And that is really about it! You’ll notice we pass a few arguments which set various options. The most important option is the ‘fetch=’ command which tells the image where to download the main file system from. The other option I set was ‘usercrypted=’ which uses the Linux mkpasswd command to set the root password on boot – in this example iloveclonezilla.

A really easy one this week, but one worth trying. I’m fighting to get Backtrack5 booting over iPXE without using the ISO method, but this is proving troublesome. I think the image simply isn’t able to cope with being booted from a http network source.

We Canna do it Captain, we don’t have the Power.

Last night, we experienced an area wide power cut.   Despite being in modern 21st century,  this is nothing unusual – they seem to occur 3-4 times per year, with an average length of about 20mins.

Many people in the area are fully prepared,  with battery powered lanterns, torches and the traditional candles and matches to hand.  But after you’ve provided yourself a bit of light (when it happens at night), you find yourself sitting there, wondering what to do now the TV, Radio, Computers have all gone off.   And of course, whilst your broadband has almost certainly gone off, your smartphone falls back to the mobile network for its internet which more often than not keeps working.  Anyone using social networks via their phone can tweet for facebook that the power has gone out,  and start comparing notes as to how far it stretches.  Most people wouldn’t bother to phone their power supplier to let them know about the outage, as I think the assumption is that they can detect it and start resolving it ASAP.

But do they?

The previous supplier of electricity, Central Networks used to have a map that you could click on and see where they knew there were faults.  Western Power Distribution , the new incumbent do not.  Now,  the information used to be available to the suppliers, so where has it gone now?  Do they no longer have the systems to collect this data from the grid,  or was it collated from their CRM systems?  Maybe they feel that it is some kind of sensitive data so best not to share it,  or simply that the bosses do not think this information is valuable to its client base.
I’m singling out Western Power, but a quick search of the power companies listed by the National Grid ( seem to highlight only 
Northern Power Grid (
Electricity Northwest (
seem to be willing and/or able to provide this information.   And good on them too.  Not only do ENWL show current unplanned outages, but also future planned work.   

So my point is,  if they can do it,  why can’t other utility providers provide outage information.  Or,  maybe its something that the National Grid can do – after all, they provide a live view of the demand (,  but can they see deep enough into the local grids to see the outages. 

Power cuts happen – its a fact of life.  But how long will it take suppliers to embrace the communication power of the Internet to get information out to its customers.  For now,  I guess we’ll just have stick with searching twitter for #PowerCut