Wipe a HD via Unix in Single User Mode?

Is it possible to wipe a hard drive using diskutil or another method when booting up in Single User Mode? We routinely need to wipe drives and if possible, this would be the easiest.
I suspect because the OS that boots in Single User Mode is on that same drive will make this impossible.
Thanks in advance for your tips and comments,

Yes, you cannot erase an OS while it's 'hosting' the erasure. Single user mode is part of Mac OS X, so it's on the hard drive, not in the firmware or anything super-low-level like that. Oh well. So... you might be able to erase the vast majority of user, application, and even OS files, but it won't be complete and won't be 'as good as' a volume-format.
A couple alternatives come to mind (sorry if you know all this. Not trying to be pedantic or patronizing, just making sure you know your options).
We keep host computers around just for running wipes, backups, and diagnostics that cannot run from a drive holding the booted OS. You simply restart the to-be-wiped Mac holding the 't' key, connect it via firewire, and treat it as an external hard drive.
You could also just boot from a Mac OS X install disc and wipe from the copy of Disk Utility included on the disc. Better yet, throw a +bona fide+ copy of OS X onto a pocket hard drive, boot the victim-Mac from that (hold option while it is first starting up), and wipe the internal HD normally, now that it's not in use. You could maybe even use single user mode in the booting OS, like you'd imagined, and format from there (I'm not sure that would be faster than letting it boot normally, though, as you might have to use "dd" or some other similar low-level wipe method, as I don't think the frameworks required for Apple's cli "diskutil" are available in single user mode).
I haven't tried to use it on a Mac, but I have a 256 MB USB flash drive with, er, ['Darn' Small Linux|http://tinyurl.com/5md7t] on it for diagnosing Windows boxes. It runs a script on boot which, if you don't intervene to run utilities or what-have-you, will wipe all attached hard drives and shut down. I keep it locked up for understandable reasons, but its super useful just as a time-saver, booting most machines and beginning the countdown-to-wipe in under ten seconds.
Anyway, let us know what your goals and thoughts are.
Cheers, Joel

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      Referenced from: /Applications/iPhoto.app/Contents/MacOS/iPhoto
      Reason: image not found
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  • Back up files through Single user mode

    Hello there,
    it seems that I have problem with my hard drive. I tried to repair it with disk utility and the fsck command in Single user mode with no luck. The fsck command gives me the "Exited with signal 8" message and it won't start up the usual way or under Safe boot so I came to the conclusion to back up my files on an external drive and reinstall the system. I need step by step instructions how to back up the entire hard drive onto the external drive in Single User mode.

    Do you have another mac with firewire?
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    This requires you to use your installation disk. With errors from fdsk, I do not think you will be able to copy all directories. I used a flash drive. A harddrive should be the same. To copy everything, use the directory /Volumes/Macintosh-HD
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    You could try getting into the Unix command line interface and copy some files or directories.
    You can copy files on the Unix command line interface if you placed the flash drive the USB port before powering on your machine.
    Boot up your installation CD or DVD. To do this, place to the CD or DVD its drive. Power off the the machine. Hold down the c key then power on your machine. After you specify the language you will come to the installation panel. Do not install. Go to the top of the screen and click on the tools menu item. Click on Terminal to use the command line interface.
    You should verify that the files have been copied correctly by trying them in another Mac before it the deleting the original.
    *Here is an overview of the commands.*
    Lets assume that the problem account has a short user name of mac.
    #Copy directory "/Applications/Applescript files" to
    # directory "/Volumes/Spotless/Applescript files".
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    ditto -X -rsrc /Applications/Applescript\ files /Volumes/Spotless/Applescript\ files
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    cd /Volumes/COPYIT/answers/
    # pwd is print working directory
    #the ls command is for list
    # l is long
    # a to show hidden files. not shown in this example.
    # F is type of file where / is directory
    sh-2.05b# # Please note ls is the list command. l is a lower case L
    sh-2.05b# ls -lF
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    cd is change directory
    pwd is a print working directory
    ls is list
    sudo is Super user do
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    cp is copy
    copy a file example:
    sh-2.05b# cd /Volumes/Macintosh-HD/Users/mac/desktop
    sh-2.05b# pwd
    sh-2.05b# cp -i answers.txt /Volumes/SpotMore
    Will copy the file answers.txt in the directory SpotMore.
    Some files have a space in the name. You need to escape. see example:
    mac $ ls -l ~/"see it"
    -rw-r--r-- 1 mac staff 3171 Oct 26 23:38 /Users/mac/see it
    mac $
    mac $ cd /Users/mac/Desktop/ttt\ html\ copy/
    Do you know about tabing? Type in a few letters of a name then press the tab key. The computer will type out the rest of the name if it is unique.
    The up arrow key will retrive the previous command. You the left arror and right arror keys to move around. Use the delete key to delete a character to the left.
    *More examples and moving around*
    sh-2.05b# pwd
    sh-2.05b# ls /Volumes
    .Trashes        Classic                Macintosh-HD
    ._.Trashes      Mac OS X Install DVD   SpotMore
    sh-2.05b# df -h
    Filesystem      Size   Used  Avail Capacity  Mounted on
    /dev/disk4s3    2.6G   2.5G    89M    97%    /
    devfs           121K   121K     0B   100%    /dev
    fdesc           1.0K   1.0K     0B   100%    /dev
    <volfs>         512K   512K     0B   100%    /.vol
    /dev/disk5      467K   9.0K   435K     2%    /Volumes
    /dev/disk6       95K    64K    27K    70%    /private/var/tmp
    /dev/disk7       95K    14K    77K    15%    /private/var/run
    /dev/disk3s1    3.7G   1.3G   2.5G    34%    /Volumes/SpotMore
    /dev/disk0s10   1.1G   1.1G   3.4M   100%    /Volumes/Classic
    /dev/disk0s12    70G    45G    25G    65%    /Volumes/Macintosh-HD
    sh-2.05b# cd /Volumes/SpotMore/
    sh-2.05b# pwd
    sh-2.05b# # Please note ls is the list command.  l is a lower case L
    sh-2.05b# ls -l
    total 880
    -rw-r--r--    1 unknown  unknown    6148 Sep 10  2010 .DS_Store
    drw-------    4 unknown  unknown     136 Aug 25  2010 .Spotlight-V100
    drwxrwxrwt    3 unknown  unknown     102 Sep  3  2010 .TemporaryItems
    d-wx-wx-wt    3 unknown  unknown     102 Sep 10  2010 .Trashes
    drwx------    3 unknown  unknown     102 Sep  3  2010 Desktop
    -rw-r--r--    1 unknown  unknown   18944 Aug 27  2010 Desktop DB
    -rw-r--r--    1 unknown  unknown       2 Jul 29  2010 Desktop DF
    -rwxrwxrwx    1 unknown  unknown   26281 Oct 27  2009 Warranty Information.PDF
    drwxr-xr-x   13 unknown  unknown     442 Aug  4  2010 backup
    drwxr-xr-x   13 unknown  unknown     442 Aug  4  2010 backupPrior
    drwxr-xr-x    7 unknown  unknown     238 Aug 27  2010 cons
    drwxr-xr-x   65 unknown  unknown    2210 Sep  4  2010 iMac-back
    ... clipped ...
    sh-2.05b# cd /Volumes/Macintosh-HD/Users/mac/desktop
    sh-2.05b# pwd
    sh-2.05b# # Please note ls is the list command.  l is a lower case L
    sh-2.05b# ls
     Z2300               iMac
    .DS_Store            move
    .FBCIndex            new Belward
    .FBCLockFolder       primary-comments-new copy.doc
    Consolidate-rc       primary-comments-new.doc
    Downloads            psc 1200
    ... clipped ...
    sh-2.05b# ditto -X -rsrc iMac /Volumes/SpotMore/iMac-back
    sh-2.05b# # Please note ls is the list command.  l is a lower case L
    sh-2.05b# ls -h /Volumes/SpotMore/iMac-back/
    total 2800
    -rw-r--r--    1 unknown  unknown    24K Sep 12  2010 .DS_Store
    -rw-r--r--    1 unknown  unknown     2K Apr 18  2010 Differentiate Between Models .html
    ... clipped ...
    sh-2.05b# pwd
    sh-2.05b# ls
     Z2300               iMac
    .DS_Store            move
    .FBCIndex            new Belward
    .FBCLockFolder       primary-comments-new copy.doc
    ... clipped ...

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