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ISO Master wrangles disc images

By Bruce Byfield on January 15, 2008 (4:00:00 PM)

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DVD burners such as as K3b and GnomeBaker use standard commands for manipulating .ISO images, such as mkisofs. However, they give users only limited control over the resulting images beyond selecting their contents. Users cannot even save the image to an .ISO formatted file; instead the burners save in their own project formats. Fortunately, this functionality gap is bridged by ISO Master, a program that, despite a slightly awkward interface, is intuitive enough that most users can quickly learn its fundamentals without having to refer to online help. Only the adding of a boot record is likely to give average users any trouble.

ISO Master's project page offers versions for recent versions of Debian, Fedora, SUSE, Mandriva, OpenBSD, and FreeBSD, as well as a variety of smaller distributions. If your distribution is not listed, or has only an older packaged version, as Arch Linux and Gentoo do, you can scroll down to the bottom of the page for the address for the Subversion repository or for tar archives of older releases.

The ISO Master interface is roughly similar to those of K3b and GnomeBaker, with a list of files on your hard drive in the top pane, a list of files added to the new or open image in the bottom, and a running estimation of the file size clearly visible. The main difference is that ISO Master does not support dragging and dropping files with the mouse. Instead, you select a file in one of the panes, then an icon from one of the task bars. Somewhat confusingly, the top pane has its own navigational taskbar, while the second taskbar below it has two icons for navigating the bottom pane followed by one action -- Add -- that applies to the top pane, then two more -- Extract and Remove -- that apply to the bottom page. However, general navigation remains simple enough that, for most people, the confusion should be only momentary.

Configuration choices are also somewhat disorganized, with options for viewing hidden files or displaying directories first under the View menu and options for eliminating duplicate files or following symbolic links under Settings. But again, given the limited number of options, you should have few problems finding your preferences so long as you take the trouble to explore the program thoroughly before using it.

 

The simplest action in ISO Master is editing an existing image by selecting it from Image -> Open. Once the image's contents display in the bottom page, you use the icons on the second task bar to add files -- space permitting -- create new directories, and extract files in much the same way you would an archived file.

In addition, you can also select Image -> Properties to edit the image's metadata. The time when the image was created is uneditable, because ISO Master does not overwrite the original file. However, you can edit the Volume Name and Publisher, as well as the image's support for Rockridge and Joliet ISO images -- that is, the image's support for Unix-like and Windows operating systems -- although in many cases you want to leave it with support for both. ISO Master does not offer the detailed selection of Rockridge and Joliet characteristics that K3b does, but, since few people are likely to require them, or even be aware of them, that is unlikely to be a concern for very many.

Another handy function in ISO Master is the ability to read the details of the image's boot record by selecting BootRecord -> Properties. Although you probably don't need the details when working with an existing image, they can be extremely useful when creating a new ISO image image. For the most part, creating a new image is no more complex than editing an existing one, but if you want the image to be bootable, you may have some difficulties.

If you feel equal to the task, you can refer to ISO Master's Web site and pore over the standards documentation to learn how to write an El Torito boot specification. Although ISO Master maintainer and lead developer Andrew Smith modestly refers to himself as an amateur, he clearly knows more about the standard than the rest of us ever will.

As an alternative, however, you can identify the boot record in an existing image, extract it to your hard drive, then add it to your own images. You may waste a CD or DVD or three in learning which of the five options under BootRecord -> Add is appropriate for your borrowed boot record, but with luck and patience, the research will allow you to make your own bootable ISO images at will.

Not everyone, of course, needs to create their own ISO images, which is why most burners either don't include much of the functionality or else hide it where only advanced users are likely to find it. However, if you do need to manipulate ISO images, ISO Master should give you all the functionality you need.

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist who writes regularly for Linux.com.

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on ISO Master wrangles disc images

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K3B Much Easier To Use

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 138.27.1.3] on January 15, 2008 05:38 PM
Contrary to what's stated in the 1st paragraph of this article (nice write up, BTW), K3b can easily burn standardized ISO images. 1) Create project, 2) Drag-n-drop files into project, 3) Click burn button, 4) Click 'Only Create Image' box in Settings part of dialog box that appears, 5) Click Image tab and enter directory/filename.iso where you want image burned, 6) fill out anything else you want, 7) click the Burn button. Note: Instructions for KUbuntu Gutsy Gibbon, KDE v3.5.8.

-Al

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K3B is good stuff, I love the *nix way of making ISO from disks and drives also

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 204.50.208.4] on January 15, 2008 08:39 PM
Why use complicated programs to ISO disk and drive images when you can simply:

dd if=/dev/cdrom of=~/cdrom.iso

It's so clean and simple it hurts.. I'll note the K3B tip. I've also read that you can simply mount a .iso file and work with it like any other read/write mounted media.

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Re: K3B is good stuff, I love the *nix way of making ISO from disks and drives also

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 199.64.0.252] on January 15, 2008 10:05 PM
Yep. As root and with /path/to/mount created:

mount -o loop -i iso9660 file.iso /path/to/mount

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ISO Master wrangles disc images

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 85.210.149.64] on January 16, 2008 12:41 AM
as i understood, the point of this program is not to create, burn or image iso files, but to edit and extract them. in that respect, it is not a competitor but a companion to tools such as k3b which cannot AFAIK view or edit the contents of iso files...

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ISO Master wrangles disc images

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.220.191.168] on January 16, 2008 02:35 AM
Bruce, you should have done your homework, man! Every single standard GUI-based optical media tool that I can think of can save to .iso. It's the basic format. Many of them do also have their own specific formats for saving projects, but as far as I'm aware, all of them -- k3b, brasero, you name it -- save images as .iso. Actually, .iso images are the default for k3b and brasero.

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ISO Master wrangles disc images

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.79.190.149] on January 16, 2008 02:40 AM
Uhm, not able to save .iso format? Well, I've read the preceding comments, so 'nuf said. Research the programs a bit more thoroughly before writing reviews. On another note, anyone out there still use XCDRoast? It's a great program.

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ISO Master wrangles disc images

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 206.248.172.245] on January 16, 2008 03:49 AM
A great tool. It's actually a graphical iso image editor. I've used it to add an application to a Knoppix CD, making my own slightly modified version of Knoppix. This is something you can't do (easily) with K3B or XCDRoast. With ISOMaster it's trivial.

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ISO Master wrangles disc images

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 83.100.250.108] on January 16, 2008 10:24 PM
Ive had great trouble with K3B writing multisession to DVD-RW.. it says my writer dont support it.. sorry, windows says and does otherwise.

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ISO Master wrangles disc images

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 203.109.162.136] on February 03, 2008 09:59 AM
Apart from the incorrect assumption that you can't create iso images using k3b, this is a good review. This looks like a great tool for creating and especially editing iso images. AFAIK you cannot edit iso images by mounting and changing files because you can only mount it read only. K3b can't edit iso files either. Using dd to create images is handy but it gets a bit tricker when adding files from different folders or making it bootable, not to mention using it to edit iso images.

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ISO Master wrangles disc images

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.208.147.243] on February 08, 2008 01:13 AM
ISO Master was created by a guy so he could sharpen his skills at making GUI apps for Linux.

For a first GUI app, I think he did a great job..

K3B is a different type of project with more than one developer and more than 5 years behind it.

ISO master was made in about 18 months by one guy with limited help.

I say good job.



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