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 AMD or 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.
For those systems with /etc/mke2fs.conf, get that onto the first stage data so that it is used when partitions are built. We have to copy it into /etc before first stage restore.
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.