This HOWTO results from experiments on one computer. No doubt you will find some directories or files you need to back up in your first stage backup. I have not dealt with saving and restoring X on the first stage, nor have I touched at all on processors other than Intel.
I would appreciate your feedback as you test and improve these scripts on your own computers. I also encourage vendors of backup software to document how to do a minimal backup of their products. I'd like to see the whole Linux community sleep just a little better at night.
Volunteers are most welcome. Check with me before you start on one of these in case someone else is working on it already.
We have no way to determine the label of a swap partition. This means that there is no way to provide the swap partition's label when restoring. We could assume that a system with a single swap partition (as indicated by fdisk) has the label used in the swap partition line in /etc/fstab, but that only works on single hard drive systems, and could produce subtle errors in systems with multiple swap partitions.
The work-around is to add the label by hand by re-running mkswap with the -L option on it. Sigh.
A partition editor to adjust partition boundaries in the dev.hdx file. This will let users adjust partitions for a different hard drive, or the same one with different geometry, or to adjust partition sizes within the same hard drive. A GUI would probably be a good idea here. On the other tentacle, the FSF's parted looks like it will fill part of the bill. It does re-size existing partitions, but with restrictions.
For FAT12 or FAT16 partitions we do not format, write zeros into the partition so that Mess-DOS 6.x does not get confused. See the notes on fdisk for an explanation of the problem.
Translations into other (human) languages.
I've referred to Red Hat Package Manager (rpm) from time to time. What are the equivalent deb commands?
Modify the first stage backup code to only save the current kernel.