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Generating bmap information from images

When dealing with disk images, the bmap-tool project is a godsend for writing said images to a physical device. Relying on an accompanying bmap file, bmaptool skips unused data when copying an image. Sadly, only few image providers bundle their images with the necessary bmap information. Even though using bmaptool with plain images still pays off (writing to devices is notably faster than a regular dd), most of its value is lost.

bmaptool create

Although bmaptool features a create option, that mode of operation is mostly useless as it relies on the file sparseness to extract the unused blocks. However, sparseness has completely different semantics! Quoting Wikipedia:

When reading sparse files, the file system transparently converts metadata representing empty blocks into “real” blocks filled with zero bytes at runtime.

When creating a bmap file based on image sparseness and subsequently writing that image to a device, the previously sparse blocks will be skipped, resulting in non-zero bytes when reading from those blocks.

bmaptool-scan

I’ve written a small script which scans for the actual unused blocks, i.e., based on the underlying file system instead of the image sparseness. These blocks are truly unused, which means we can safely skip writing them when copying an image to a device.

Usage

# modprobe loop
# bmaptool-scan --bmap something.img | tee something.bmap
Found 1 partition(s) in image
- processing 1.7G partition at 1.0M into the image

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<bmap version="2.0">
 ...
</bmap>

There’s two program modes available: --bmap and --sparse. The former generates a bmap file, as can be seen above. The --sparse option punches holes in the input image. This can subsequently be used to generate a bmap file using bmaptool create, or just to optimize storage of the image.

Note that you need to run the script as root, and you need quite some Perl packages. See the README for more details.

Limitations

As the script relies on parsing the image partition table and probing any partition found using file system specific tools, there are a few limitations: