SubRosaSoft’s free DasBoot utility lets you turn a flash drive or iPod into a bootable Mac OS X diagnostic, repair and maintenance tool. It will export working copies of Preview, Disk Utility, Console, System Profiler and Termina to your iPod, along with your choice of diagnostic kit(s). The latter can include Data Rescue II, CopyCatX, FileSalvage, MacForensicsLab, VolumeWorks, Drive Genius, DiskWarrior and TechTool Pro. The software lets you export a working disk image - including a bootup disc - to your iPod, transforming the media player into an emergency maintenance tool. There’s no limit to the number of utilities you can host on your iPod and you can apply disk maintenance functions from the iPod, allowing you to easily repair a faulty Mac - in theory.
Installation offers few challenges: slip in the CD that came with the utility you want to carry on your iPod, spark up DasBoot, select the utility (and any other apps you may want to host on your media player), initiate the sequence and the software will copy it all across to the iPod. This takes a little time, but once done you should have these tools available next time you need them.
The software supports iPods that sync with the Mac using both FireWire and USB 2.0, but it’s important to note that pre-Intel Macs will only boot over a FireWire connection, while Intel Macs can boot using both FireWire and USB 2.0-attached drives. However, in tests using an iPod photo, an iBook and a copy of Data Rescue II we were unable to make the Mac start up from the iPod. We were concerned until we read the CD we had transferred to the iPod and realised it was a boot disc for Intel Macs. We then tried booting an Intel MacBook from the iPod and it worked perfectly. The moral of this story is don’t forget to transfer boot discs for both Intel and PowerPC Macs, if you use both.
While it takes a little while to launch the Mac from the iPod it’s a shorter wait than when launching from a CD. When launched DasBoot presents you with the SRS Launcher application. This lists all your available iPod-hosted system applications, and lets you choose which one to invoke by selecting it from an icon-based list.
All these iPod-hosted maintenance applications worked perfectly well: we were able to recover files using Data Rescue II hosted on the iPod, invoke Disk Utility operations, and launch Preview and Terminal without a hitch. We were able to conduct such operations directly from the iPod without booting up from the media player, as well as when using it as the system launcher.
Free and effective, SubRosaSoft’s DasBoot is a valuable assistant for those troublshooting situations. Combined with most available maintenance utilities, DasBoot transforms an iPod into a budgetable expense for any Mac system admin, and is a potential saviour for anyone who likes to be prepared. Recommended.