Even before today, I couldn't say enough good things about Knoppix, the coolest run-from-CD Linux Distribution ever. But it gets better.

When I got home from flying this evening, there were two messages on my answering machine. Both were my Dad telling me that his work laptop was fubar. He wanted to find a way to backup the data to his Linux box (one that I setup for him as a home server last year--that he doesn't know much about). And this had to happen tonight because the laptop is going in for service tomorrow and they'll likely just blast the drive.

Oh, and he's three time zones ahead of me.

It sounded bleak.

I called him. In the first two or three minutes of the conversation, he explained that he'd used a Knoppix CD that came with a book he bought to mount the partition with all his data on it. He just needed to know how to get the data from the laptop to the the server.

I was a little shocked. I never figured he'd have gotten this far on his own. He's apparently been reading up on Linux recently. That's cool.

It took a bit of time, but I was able to explain how to tar up the contents of the disk and the copy the data over to his server. All told, it took maybe an hour. Most of that was waiting on tar and the network.

Thank You Knoppix!

This could have been a major pain in the ass without Knoppix handy.

Posted by jzawodn at November 09, 2003 09:44 PM

Reader Comments
# Mr. Troll said:

Good thing he wasn't using MySQL! (I'll bet no airport in the world uses MySQL either!)

on November 9, 2003 10:19 PM
# Dan said:

I've been finding that rsync's really handy for backing up machines in desperate need of service--I hit the same sort of problem with my wife's iMac. I tried the tar route, but that wouldn't work, as the resulting tar file would've been bigger than 2G, which didn't make something somewhere happy. Rsync, though, didn't mind in the least, partially I'm sure because no file breached the limit, and partly because we bypassed whatever bits had the limitation.

I'm not sure I'd want to walk my mom through using rsync, but, then, my mom doesn't have a spare server either so it's not as much a problem. :)

on November 10, 2003 11:51 AM
# vinh said:


to get over the 2GB limitation with tar, stream it. as a bonus, you cut down the 3 step process, tar - transfer - untar, into 1 step, tar/transfer/untar in 1 shot.


tar cf - | ssh user@host "cd ; tar xf -"

you can add additional pipes to add on the fly compression too, but that's a matter of CPU vs bandwidth being the bottleneck.

tar should be faster than rsync; as i believe rynch deals with individual files, which is always slower than dealing with one (a packed archive such as tar file) when transferring over a network.

on November 12, 2003 11:35 AM
# vinh said:

ack, shouldn't have used tags...

i meant:

tar cf - <what to tar> | ssh user@host "cd <where to untar>; tar xf -"

on November 12, 2003 11:37 AM
# Dan said:

Tar might be faster than rsync if you don't mind jumping through the hoops, but I was uncomfortable with the complaint, as I didn't want to be left with a file I couldn't use, or could only uncompress in a single great wad rather than get individual files out of. I've been bitten by enough 2G/4G limits to be a bit nervous.

Rsync has had a nice side-effect, though -- it's made incremental backups fast and easy as we wait for the damn tech support folks to get their act together and figure out how to get the machine in for service. (Don't ask, you don't want to know) Plus it makes it easier to snag individual files out onto another machine to work on when her machine's otherwise too cranky to be useful.

on November 14, 2003 05:40 AM
# Brian said:

If his server was running an ssh daemon, do you know about using "fish" within Konqueror? I just saw it mentioned in some Linux article and it has changed my life. Maybe I was/am ignorant of simple ways of transferring files between systems (I've used rsync before but find it difficult to remember the commands and it seems to barf on large files), but this was point and click beauty. All it does is log into your server via ssh, but it puts the server's filesystem into Konqueror as if it were just any other local filesystem. So then you could select /home (or whatever needs backing up) and click 'copy' and then go to fish://my.ip.add.ress and click 'paste'. Whammo. It starts copying as if it were happening locally. I think you have to try this once to realize how awesome it is.

on December 20, 2004 09:01 PM
# J said:

In response to the comment that suggested streaming the tar over ssh and untarring on the other side: that's a great idea, but remember to use "ssh -c arcfour" unless you want to wait a very long time while ssh uses a far slower encryption technique.

on December 20, 2004 10:25 PM
# Chris Lent said:

Knoppix helped my doctor. He was stuck with the cable company pointing at the software and the Microsoft OEM pointing at the cable hardware.

He popped in Knoppix, everything worked fine. Must be the software :-)

Oh and for dying hard disks, try dd_rescue .
Recovered a laptop drive this way with Knoppix and an external lapttop hard drisk enclosure. :-)

on December 22, 2004 08:12 AM
# David Martinez said:

I just added my experiences with Knoppix on my blog. I will add to it soon. I forgot to mention on it that I also fixed a networking problem with it on my desktop at home - I thought the network card was dead when it turned out to be the Windows VPN client causing conflict. Knoppix helped me realize the hardware itself was fine.

Anyway, the story is at


on April 6, 2005 03:49 PM
# Zake said:

knoppix is great! It is good voor booting on the cd en recover your data :-)


on January 15, 2008 05:59 AM
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