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from a sparse file to a block device over the network

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http://unix.stackexchange.com – If I have a sparse file representing a block device, then how can I efficiently restore the file over a network? Ideally, I'd use rsync -S host:file /dev/sdb, but rsync won't write to block devices. I am using ssh host dd if=file | dd of=/dev/sdb, but that's not efficient as the zero bytes will come over the network and be written to the device. Can I use tar -S or cp --sparse=always somehow? Can I do this without storing the file locally (even temporarily)? Can sshfs recognise sparse files? (HowTos)