5.1. Customising package installation

This chapter discusses the customisation of package installation. This involves:

  1. Selecting additional packages to be installed

  2. Installing modified packages

5.1.1. Package sources


Debian repositories

To set a local mirror (used to ''build'' the live-cd)

$ lh config --mirror-bootstrap "http://local.intra.net/debian/" --mirror-chroot "http://local.intra.net/debian/"

The generic mirror is added to the live-system's /etc/apt/sources.list.

$ lh config --mirror-binary "http://ftp.debian.org/debian/"

Note: It is ''not'' used for building the live-cd but to install new software while using the live-cd.

It can be disabled by setting binary indices parameter to disabled

$ lh config --binary-indices disabled

Note: the same applies for mirror chroot security and mirror binary security

$ lh config --mirror-chroot-security {URL}
$ lh config --mirror-binary-security {URL}

Own repository

To add more repositories (e.g. backports, experimental packages, etc.), create config/chroot_sources/your-cdd-repo.{chroot,binary} file.

e.g. config/chroot_sources/live.chroot allows you to install packages from the debian live snapshot repository at live-cd build time (you have to add the packages in your package list):

deb http://live.debian.net/ sid-snapshots main contrib non-free

If you add the line to config/chroot_sources/live.binary the repository will be added to your live-system's /etc/apt/sources.list.

If such files exist, they will be picked up automatically.

You can also put the gpg-key used to sign the repository into config/chroot_sources/foo.{binary,chroot}.gpg

5.1.2. Package installation

You can elect to use either apt or aptitude when installing packages. Which utility is used is governed by the LH_APT variable in config/chroot or by the --apt argument to lh config:


Specifying a missing package causes package installation to fail, which may not be the desired behaviour.

This is the default setting for building images for Lenny or later.


Specifying a missing package causes package installation to succeed, which may not be the desired behaviour.

This is the default setting for building images for Etch.

5.1.3. Installing additional packages

live-helper has a number of mechanisms for indicating that additional packages should be installed, including:

  1. The LH_PACKAGES variable

  2. Package lists

  3. Local packages (chroot_local-packages/)

  4. Tasks The LH_PACKAGES variable

To install additional packages, simply add them to the LH_PACKAGES variable in config/chroot. For example:

LH_PACKAGES="package1 package2 package3 ... "

You can also specify initial values on the command line:

$ lh config --packages "package1 package2 package3"

The behaviour of live-helper when specifying a package that does not exist is determined by your choice of APT utility. See Section 5.1.2, “Package installation” for more details.

If you need to specify a large number of packages to be installed or you need flexibility regarding which packages to install, you should probably be using package lists. See Section, “Package lists” for more information. Package lists

Package lists are a powerful way of expressing which packages should be installed. live-helper ships with a number of predefined package lists which provide sensible default package selections for the GNOME and KDE desktop environments, as well as standard systems.

To specify a package list, add the name of the list to the LH_PACKAGES_LISTS variable in config/chroot. For example:


Package lists that are distributed with live-helper reside in the /usr/share/live-helper/lists directory. Local packages lists

You may supplement the supplied lists using local package lists stored in config/chroot_local-packageslists.

Package lists that exist in this directory always override package lists distributed with live-helper. This can cause undesired effects when.

live-helper 2.x change

Any file with .list suffix in config/chroot_local-packageslists is automatically enabled, the variable LH_PACKAGES_LISTS should only be used referencing packages lists included in live-helper (at /usr/share/live-helper/lists/. Extending a provided package list using includes


#include <gnome>

The package lists that are included with live-helper make extensive use of includes. They are available to view in the /usr/share/live-helper/lists directory. Using conditionals inside packages lists



or if LH_ARCHITECTURE is set to i386 or amd64:

#if ARCHITECTURE i386 amd64

or if LH_SECTIONS contains either contrib or non-free:

#if SECTIONS contrib non-free

A conditional may surround an #include directive:

#include <gnome-full>

Any live-helper configuration variable that begins with LH_ can be tested in this way.

The nesting of conditionals is not supported. Tasks


5.1.4. Installing modified or third-party packages

Whilst it is against the philosophy of Debian Live, it may sometimes be necessary to build a Live system with modified versions of packages that are in the Debian repository. This may be to modify or support additional features, languages and branding, or even to remove elements of existing packages that are undesirable. Similarly, "third-party" packages may be used to add bespoke and/or proprietary functionality.

This section does not cover advice regarding building or maintaining modified packages. Joachim Breitner's 'How to fork privately' may be of interest, however. The creation of bespoke packages is covered in the Debian New Maintainers' Guide and elsewhere.

There are two ways of installing modified custom packages:

  1. chroot_local-packages

  2. Using a custom APT repository

The chroot_local-packages is simpler to achieve and useful for "one-off" customisations but has a number of drawbacks, whilst using a custom APT repository is more time-consuming to set up.  Using chroot_local-packages to install custom packages

To install a custom package, simply copy it to the config/chroot_local-packages directory. Packages that are inside this directory will be automatically installed into the live system during build - you do not need to specify them elsewhere.

Packages must be named in the prescribed way. One simple way to do this is to use dpkg-name. FIXME

Using chroot_local-packages for installation of custom packages has disadvantages:

  1. It is not possible to use secure APT

  2. You must install all appropriate packages in the config/chroot_local-packages directory

  3. It does not lend itself to storing Debian Live configurations in revision control Using an APT repository to install custom packages


Unlike using chroot_local-packages, when using a custom APT repository you must ensure that you specify the packages elsewhere. See Section, “The LH_PACKAGES variable” for details.

Whilst it may seem unnecessary effort to create an APT repository to install custom packages, the infrastructure can be easily re-used at a later date to offer updates of the modified packages. Custom packages and APT

live-helper uses APT to install all packages into the live system so will therefore inherit behaviours from this program. One relevant example is that (assuming a default configuration) given a package available in two different repositories with different version numbers, APT will elect to install the package with the higher version number.

Because of this, you may wish to increment the version number in your custom packages' debian/changelog files to ensure that your modified version is installed over one in the official Debian repositories. This may also be achieved by altering the live system's APT pinning preferences - see Section, “Altering APT preferences during Live system” for more information. Altering APT preferences during Live system


Whilst it may seem unnecessary effort to create an APT repository to install custom packages, the infrastructure can be easily re-used at a later date to offer updates of the modified package.