Monday, July 19, 2010

How to make you own Linux distro


Not happy with the Linux distros out there?? You would like to have the program X, the desktop environment Y and the kernel  Z, but can not find a way to do this?? Easy, look no further, your problems are over: Linux allows you to build your own customized distribution. And with more than one option for this.

I will illustrate some ways you can build your own Linux distribution. In fact, some are just ways to do a remaster of a Linux distribution, while an option is to create a completely different distro from scratch.

Options for Building a Linux Distro:
  • Reconstructor (For distros based on Debian / Ubuntu)

  • Suse Studio (For distros based on Open Suse, RPM package format)

  • Slax (For distros based on Slackware)

  • NimbleX (for distros based on Slackware)

  • Linux From Scratch (Create a Linux distribution from scratch, and compile all packages)


Reconstructor
Reconstructor is a tool for customizing and creating Linux distributions. Allows customization of the distributions Ubuntu and Debian GNU / Linux. Customizations include: picture of the logo in the boot, text color, wallpaper, themes, icons, applications and more.
Reconstructor recently became compatible with the Ubuntu distribution 10.04. It has been compatible with Debian Lenny for some time now.
To use the Reconstructor, you only need a modern browser (Firefox, Safari, Chrome, etc.) with Javascript enabled. Internet Explorer is not recommended, but if you should use it, Reconstructor is only guaranteed to work with Internet Explorer 8.
You need to create an account with Reconstructor before you can proceed. The account is free and requires only about five fields of information to be filled by you. Then log in the website. Start by creating a new project. Give your project a good name, description and version. You can then choose the distro you want to base your project, and with just a few clicks, you'll begin building your customized distribution.
The Reconstructor Build Service is free to use up a certain amount.

The fees are as follows:
  • Load and store a project file: $ 0.02 per MB per month

  • Create a project: $ 0.30

  • Download a project: U.S. $ 0.45 per GB


Project Hosting
  • File Storage: $ 0.45 per GB per month

  • Download: $ 0.35


Reconstructor also has a local stand alone application for remastering the distributions that were built using the web interface.

Suse Studio
SUSE Studio is a free hosting service that enables to create custom software appliances, combining the software with the operating system SUSE Linux Enterprise.
SUSE Studio is an online Linux creative tool by Novell, Inc..
Users can develop their own Linux operating system, mainly choose which applications they want on their custom Linux distros and what will be their appearance.
Also, the base distro may be chosen from the Home or Enterprise versions, GNOME, KDE, and a multitude of other resources.
You can create a fully functional system with Firefox, 3D graphics, and all applications you can find on the list. SUSE Studio is the engine behind the fan-made "Chrome OS", which was a semi functional, loaded with a version for developers of Google Chrome, Google links, web applications and OpenOffice.
SUSE Studio supports the following boot options:
  • Live CD / DVDs

  • VMware Image

  • Hard Drive / USB image

  • Xen image

Like Reconstructor, you must create an account to start working on creating Linux distributions, this time based on Suse Linux.

Slax
Slax is a Linux LiveCD distribution based on Slackware, currently being developed by Tomas Matejicek. Its slogan is "The pocket Operating System"
The latest version of Slax is 6.1.2, which was launched on August 4, 2009.
The developer has stated that work on Slax 7 will begin once a stable kernel (version 2.6.34) is released with LZMA support for squashFS.
One  key benefit of the distribution Slax is its ease of customization.
Extra software can be added and removed, using the packages from Slackware and Slax modules.
A traditional package manager, such as Debian's APT, is not necessary to load additional software; Slax modules are entirely self-contained.
Users can also modify the image of the CD or USB standard installation to customize the packages available on disk / image installation.
Slax also lets you use the Slackware packages, being necessary to convert to Slax modules with the command tgz2lzm.
The Slax homepage offers a software repository for downloading user created modules and uploading new ones. In Slax, modules can be easily added to the distribution, without requiring the use of a package manager, just double-clicking the module file to activate it.

NimbleX
NimbleX is a small distribution based on Slackware Linux, optimized to run from a CD, USB drive or a network environment.
NimbleX has been praised for its rapid boot, as well as for its little disk consumption, which is surprising for a distribution using KDE as desktop environment. NimbleX also is notable for allowing users to generate custom boot images from the site of the distro, using only a web browser.
It was celebrated by the Romanian press for being the first major Linux distribution created and maintained by a Romanian, Bogdan Radulescu.
NimbleX uses a 2.6 kernel. The default GUI is KDE, but for slower computers, the standard desktop environment can be switched for one with less use of resources such as Fluxbox or Xfce.
Typical office applications, web browsing and instant messaging components are included, but hardly NimbleX offers all the graphical administration tools - most administration tasks, such as adding a new user, have to be done from the command line . This feature allows NimbleX to have a small disk consumption on the installation - a typical installation takes less than 400 megabytes of hard disk.
Additional applications can be installed using the graphical installer, Gslapt (or slapt-get command line), which brings the automatic resolution of dependencies for Slackware packages.
NimbleX allows the construction of a Linux distribution, custom Slackware based,  at this address: http://custom.nimblex.net/

Linux From Scratch (LFS)
Last but not least, is Linux From Scratch (LFS)
Linux From Scratch (LFS) is a type of a Linux installation and the name of a book written by Gerard Beekmans and others. The book instructs readers on how to build a Linux system from source code.
The book is available free from the Linux From Scratch website and is currently at version 6.6.
To keep LFS  small and focused, the book Beyond Linux From Scratch (BLFS) was created, which provides instructions on how to develop the basic Linux system that was created in LFS.
It introduces and guides the reader through improvements to the system, including networking, X server, sound, printer and scanner support. Since version 5.0, the version of the book BLFS match the version of the LFS book.
After the initial two books, two more were released, covering other aspects, Cross Linux From Scratch (CLFS) describes   cross-compilation and Hardened Linux From Scratch (HLFS) focuses on security enhancements, Stack-smashing protection, PaX and Address space layout randomization using grsecurity.
Cross Linux From Scratch provide the necessary instructions to build a basic Linux distribution, command line only. While LFS is limited to x86 architecture, CLFS supports a wide range of processors. CLFS covers advanced techniques not included in the LFS, as cross-build toolchains, multi-library (32 and 64-bit side by side), and alternative instruction sets of  architectures such as x86-64, Itanium, SPARC, MIPS, and Alpha.
Hardened Linux From Scratch focuses on creating a more secure version of Linux From Scratch  as its main goal, including embedded systems.
Linux From Scratch is a way to install a full Linux system through the construction of all components manually. This is obviously a longer process than installing a pre-compiled Linux distribution .
According to Linux From Scratch website, the advantages of this method are: a compact system, flexible and secure and a better way to understand  the inner works of operating systems based on Linux.
There is no package manager or upgrade scripts, leaving to the user all tasks: maintenance , upgrade, installation of programs and services.
It is a teaching distribution, but by no means easy, since all the tools to work with it must be compiled from source code.



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