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Send in the clones.

June 13, 2004

Checking in from the other side of the playground for a moment, I’ve had a little time to upgrade the old “Pismo” PowerBook I mentioned the other day.

Sticking fresh RAM and a hard drive in it couldn’t have been much simpler.  The keyboard lifts up, and there are five screws to remove to get the processor daughter board out, and remove the drive carrier.  Another four screws and slide the new drive into the carrier, put everything back in, and fire it up.

That’s where the really amazing part started…


There was obviously no operating system on the drive, so I slid in the OS X Panther CD and booted from it.  I selected “Disk Utility” from the installer, partitioned the new drive, and then a silly thought hit me.  I shut down the notebook (without installing anything), attached a firewire cable between it and my 15” AlBook, held down the “T” key on the Pismo, hit the power button and fired it up in “Firewire Target Drive” mode. 

This makes the ‘book look like a simple external firewire drive.

Sure enough, my AlBook mounted it as a normal drive.  I then started up Carbon Copy Cloner (the greatest freeware backup software I’ve ever seen), and told it to clone my AlBook’s internal drive on the Pismo.

This took awhile (about an hour and some change, for about 35 gig in use).  When it was done, I restarted the Pismo, and Zang! —it came up perfectly fine as a clone of my AlBook.  Everything was installed and configured, and everything worked.

Let’s check the bidding on that, shall we?  That’s a different CPU, different motherboard, different network interface, different wi-fi interface, different video card, different screen geometry, and different drive geometry.  Yet it came up and everything worked, with no complaints.  The only noticeable difference, other than speed and screen resolution were that it grayed out the bluetooth icon in the menu bar (“sorry, bud—your bluetooth adapter appears to be MIA”), and put up two battery icons instead of one, since I’ve got two batteries in the Pismo.

I can’t think of a single other operating system I’ve ever used that could do this.  Certainly not any flavor of Windows or Linux I’ve ever seen.  Of course, there aren’t any other operating systems put out by companies that control their hardware platform as tightly as Apple does either, and that’s the key difference. 

But it’s still damn amazing.

Well, I’ve sorted out what I’ll be doing with the Pismo now, if nothing else.  Instead of backing up exclusively to my external hard drive, I’ll alternate between it and the Pismo.  It’ll still be handy for knocking about with, that will keep it reasonably up-to-date, and I’ll have an excellent hot backup should the AlBook have a problem again.

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