Debian Live Manual


1. About this manual

1.1 For the impatient
1.2 Terms
1.3 Authors
1.4 Contributing to this document
1.4.1 Applying patches
1.4.2 Translation

2. About the Debian Live Project

2.1 Motivation
2.1.1 What is wrong with current live systems
2.1.2 Why create our own live system?
2.2 Philosophy
2.2.1 Only unchanged, official packages
2.2.2 No package configuration of the live system
2.3 Contact


3. Installation

3.1 Requirements
3.2 Installing live-build
3.2.1 From the Debian repository
3.2.2 From source
3.2.3 From 'snapshots'
3.3 live-boot and live-config
3.3.1 From the Debian repository
3.3.2 From source
3.3.3 From 'snapshots'

4. The basics

4.1 What is a live system?
4.2 First steps: building an ISO image
4.2.1 Testing an ISO image with Qemu
4.2.2 Testing an ISO image with virtualbox-ose
4.2.3 Burning an ISO image to a physical medium
4.3 Building a USB/HDD image
4.3.1 Copying USB/HDD image to a USB stick
4.3.2 Testing a USB/HDD image with Qemu
4.3.3 Using the space left on a USB stick
4.4 Building a netboot image
4.4.1 DHCP server
4.4.2 TFTP server
4.4.3 NFS server
4.4.4 Netboot testing HowTo
4.4.5 Qemu
4.4.6 VMWare Player

5. Overview of tools

5.1 live-build
5.1.1 The lb config command
5.1.2 The lb build command
5.1.3 The lb clean command
5.2 The live-boot package
5.3 The live-config package

6. Managing a configuration

6.1 Use auto to manage configuration changes
6.2 Example auto scripts

7. Customization overview

7.1 Build time vs. boot time configuration
7.2 Stages of the build
7.3 Supplement lb config with files
7.4 Customization tasks

8. Customizing package installation

8.1 Package sources
8.1.1 Distribution, archive areas and mode
8.1.2 Distribution mirrors
8.1.3 Distribution mirrors used at build time
8.1.4 Distribution mirrors used at run time
8.1.5 Additional repositories
8.2 Choosing packages to install
8.2.1 Choosing a few packages
8.2.2 Package lists
8.2.3 Predefined package lists
8.2.4 Local package lists
8.2.5 Local binary package lists
8.2.6 Extending a provided package list using includes
8.2.7 Using conditionals inside package lists
8.2.8 Tasks
8.2.9 Desktop and language tasks
8.3 Installing modified or third-party packages
8.3.1 Using chroot_local-packages to install custom packages
8.3.2 Using an APT repository to install custom packages
8.3.3 Custom packages and APT
8.4 Configuring APT at build time
8.4.1 Choosing apt or aptitude
8.4.2 Using a proxy with APT
8.4.3 Tweaking APT to save space
8.4.4 Passing options to apt or aptitude
8.4.5 APT pinning

9. Customizing contents

9.1 Includes
9.1.1 Live/chroot local includes
9.1.2 Binary local includes
9.1.3 Binary includes
9.2 Hooks
9.2.1 Live/chroot local hooks
9.2.2 Boot-time hooks
9.2.3 Binary local hooks
9.3 Preseeding Debconf questions

10. Customizing run time behaviours

10.1 Customizing the live user
10.2 Customizing locale and language
10.3 Persistence
10.3.1 Full persistence
10.3.2 Home automounting
10.3.3 Snapshots
10.3.4 Persistent SubText
10.3.5 Partial remastering

11. Customizing the binary image

11.1 Bootloader
11.2 ISO metadata

12. Customizing Debian Installer

12.1 Types of Debian Installer
12.2 Customizing Debian Installer by preseeding
12.3 Customizing Debian Installer content


13. Reporting bugs

13.1 Known issues
13.2 Rebuild from scratch
13.3 Use up-to-date packages
13.4 Collect information
13.5 Isolate the failing case if possible
13.6 Use the correct package to report the bug against
13.6.1 At build time whilst bootstrapping
13.6.2 At build time whilst installing packages
13.6.3 At boot time
13.6.4 At run time
13.7 Do the research
13.8 Where to report bugs

14. Coding Style

14.1 Compatibility
14.2 Indenting
14.3 Wrapping
14.4 Variables
14.5 Miscellaneous

15. Procedures

15.1 Udeb Uploads
15.2 Major Releases
15.3 Point Releases
15.3.1 Point release announcement template


16. Examples

16.1 Using the examples
16.2 Tutorial 1: A standard image
16.3 Tutorial 2: A web browser utility
16.4 Tutorial 3: A personalized image
16.4.1 First revision
16.4.2 Second revision
16.5 A VNC Kiosk Client
16.6 A base image for a 128M USB key
16.7 A localized KDE desktop and installer

Debian Live Manual


9. Customizing contents

This chapter discusses fine-tuning customization of the live system contents beyond merely choosing which packages to include. Includes allow you to add or replace arbitrary files in your Debian Live image, hooks allow you to execute arbitrary commands at different stages of the build and at boot time, and preseeding allows you to configure packages when they are installed by supplying answers to debconf questions.

9.1 Includes

While ideally a Debian live system would include files entirely provided by unmodified Debian packages, it is sometimes convenient to provide or modify some content by means of files. Using includes, it is possible to add (or replace) arbitrary files in your Debian Live image. live-build provides three mechanisms for using them:

  • Chroot local includes: These allow you to add or replace files to the chroot/Live filesystem. Please see Live/chroot local includes for more information.
  • Binary local includes: These allow you to add or replace files in the binary image. Please see Binary local includes for more information.
  • Binary includes: These allow you to add or replace Debian specific files in the binary image, such as the templates and tools directories. Please see Binary includes for more information.
  • Please see Terms for more information about the distinction between the "Live" and "binary" images.

    9.1.1 Live/chroot local includes

    Chroot local includes can be used to add or replace files in the chroot/Live filesystem so that they may be used in the Live system. A typical use is to populate the skeleton user directory (/etc/skel) used by the Live system to create the live user's home directory. Another is to supply configuration files that can be simply added or replaced in the image without processing; see Live/chroot local hooks if processing is needed.

    To include files, simply add them to your config/chroot_local-includes directory. This directory corresponds to the root directory (/) of the live system. For example, to add a file /var/www/index.html in the live system, use:

       $ mkdir -p config/chroot_local-includes/var/www
       $ cp /path/to/my/index.html config/chroot_local-includes/var/www

    Your configuration will then have the following layout:

       -- config
           |-- chroot_local-includes
           |   `-- var
           |       `-- www
           |           `-- index.html
           `-- templates

    Chroot local includes are installed after package installation so that files installed by packages are overwritten.

    9.1.2 Binary local includes

    To include material such as documentation or videos on the media filesystem so that it is accessible immediately upon insertion of the media without booting the Live system, you can use binary local includes. This works in a similar fashion to chroot local includes. For example, suppose the files ~/video_demo.* are demo videos of the live system described by and linked to by an HTML index page. Simply copy the material to #{config/binary_local-includes/} as follows:

       $ cp ~/video_demo.* config/binary_local-includes/

    These files will now appear in the root directory of the live media.

    9.1.3 Binary includes

    live-build has some standard files (like documentation) that gets included in the default configuration on every live media. This can be disabled with:

       $ lb config --includes none

    Otherwise, the material will be installed by live-build in includes by default on the media filesystem, or else you can specify an alternate path with --includes.

    9.2 Hooks

    Hooks allow commands to be performed in the chroot and binary stages of the build in order to customize the image.

    9.2.1 Live/chroot local hooks

    To run commands in the chroot stage, create a hook script containing the commands in the config/chroot_local-hooks directory. The hook will run in the chroot after the rest of your chroot configuration has been applied, so remember to ensure your configuration includes all packages and files your hook needs in order to run. See the example chroot hook scripts for various common chroot customization tasks provided in /usr/share/live/build/examples/hooks which you can copy or symlink to use them in your own configuration.

    9.2.2 Boot-time hooks

    To execute commands at boot time, you can supply live-config hooks as explained in the "Customization" section of its man page. Examine live-config' s own hooks provided in /lib/live/config/, noting the sequence numbers. Then provide your own hook prefixed with an appropriate sequence number, either as a chroot local include in config/chroot_local-includes/lib/live/config/, or as a custom package as discussed in Installing modified or third-party packages.

    9.2.3 Binary local hooks

    To run commands in the binary stage, create a hook script containing the commands in the config/binary_local-hooks. The hook will run after all other binary commands are run, but before binary_checksums, the very last binary commands The commands in your hook do not run in the chroot, so take care to not modify any files outside of the build tree, or you may damage your build system! See the example binary hook scripts for various common binary customization tasks provided in /usr/share/live/build/examples/hooks which you can copy or symlink to use them in your own configuration.

    9.3 Preseeding Debconf questions

    Files in the config/chroot_local-preseed directory are considered to be debconf preseed files and are installed by live-build using debconf-set-selections.

    For more information about debconf, please see debconf(7) in the debconf package.