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access a disk image read-only with a copy-on-write overlay to allow fsck or the like to write changes
# usage: [imagefile] [cowfile] [devname]
# imagefile: path to the image file you want to load
# cowfile: path to the file to store writes into. If it doesn't exist, a sparse 1GB file will be created.
# devname: the name you want the drive to show up as in /dev/mapper
# create COW file if it doesn't exist (otherwise, assume we are using a file from a previous use)
# the if you don't think 1000MiB will be enough, you can create a larger one.
[ -f "$cowfile" ] || dd if=/dev/zero of="$cowfile" bs=1 count=1 seek=1048575999
# attach the files to loop devices (with the image file read-only)
imgdev=`losetup -f -r --show "$imgfile"`
cowdev=`losetup -f --show "$cowfile"`
# get the size of the image device
imgsz=`blockdev --getsz $imgdev`
# create the devmapper table for a copy-on-write device using the two loop devices
echo 0 $imgsz snapshot $imgdev $cowdev p 8| dmsetup create $dmname
# and now probe the partition table of the new device
partprobe -s /dev/mapper/$dmname
# to detatch everything:
# dmsetup remove $dmname
# losetup -d $cowdev
# losetup -d $imgdev
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