Debian Live Manual


1. Sobre esse manual

1.1 For the impatient
1.2 Terminologia
1.3 Contribuindo com esse documento
1.3.1 Aplicando patches
1.3.2 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


16. Examples

This chapter covers example builds for specific use cases with Debian Live. If you are new to building your own Debian Live images, we recommend you first look at the three tutorials in sequence, as each one teaches new techniques that will help you use and understand the remaining examples.

16.1 Using the examples

To use these examples you need a system to build them on that meets the requirements listed in Requirements and has live-build installed as described in Installing live-build.

Note that, for the sake of brevity, in these examples we do not specify a local mirror to use for the build. You can speed up downloads considerably if you use a local mirror. You may specify the options when you use lb config, as described in Distribution mirrors used at build time, or for more convenience, set the default for your build system in /etc/live/build.conf. Simply create this file and in it, set the corresponding LB_MIRROR_* variables to your preferred mirror. For example:


16.2 Tutorial 1: A standard image

Use case: Create a simple first image, learning the basics of live-build.

In this tutorial, we will build a default ISO hybrid Debian Live image containing only base packages (no Xorg) and some Debian Live support packages, as a first exercise in using live-build.

You can't get much simpler than this:

   $ mkdir tutorial1 ; cd tutorial1 ; lb config

Examine the contents of the config/ directory if you wish. You will see stored here a skeletal configuration, ready to customize or, in this case, use immediately to build a default image.

Now, as superuser, build the image, saving a log as you build with tee.

   # lb build 2>&1 | tee binary.log

Assuming all goes well, after a while, the current directory will contain binary-hybrid.iso. This ISO hybrid image can be booted directly in a virtual machine as described in Testing an ISO image with Qemu and Testing an ISO image with virtualbox-ose, or else imaged onto optical media or a USB flash device as described in Burning an ISO image to a physical medium and Copying USB/HDD image to a USB stick, respectively.

16.3 Tutorial 2: A web browser utility

Use case: Create a web browser utility image, learning how to apply customizations.

In this tutorial, we will create an image suitable for use as a web browser utility, serving as an introduction to customizing Debian Live images.

   $ mkdir tutorial2 ; cd tutorial2 ; lb config -p lxde --packages iceweasel

Our choice of LXDE for this example reflects our desire to provide a minimal desktop environment, since the focus of the image is the single use we have in mind, the web browser. We could go even further and provide a default configuration for the web browser in config/chroot_local-includes/etc/iceweasel/profile/, or additional support packages for viewing various kinds of web content, but we leave this as an exercise for the reader.

Build the image, again as superuser, keeping a log as in Tutorial 1:

   # lb build 2>&1 | tee binary.log

Again, verify the image is OK and test, as in Tutorial 1.

16.4 Tutorial 3: A personalized image

Use case: Create a project to build a personalized image, containing your favourite software to take with you on a USB stick wherever you go, and evolving in successive revisions as your needs and preferences change.

Since we will be changing our personalized image over a number of revisions, and we want to track those changes, trying things experimentally and possibly reverting them if things don't work out, we will keep our configuration in the popular git version control system. We will also use the best practice of autoconfiguration via auto scripts as described in Managing a configuration.

16.4.1 First revision

   $ mkdir -p tutorial3/auto
   $ cp /usr/share/live/build/examples/auto/* tutorial3/auto/
   $ cd tutorial3

Edit auto/config to read as follows:


   lb config noauto \
       --architecture i386 \
       --linux-flavours 686 \
       --packages-lists lxde \
       --packages "iceweasel xchat" \

First, --architecture i386 ensures that on our amd64 build system, we build a 32-bit version suitable for use on most machines. Second, we use --linux-flavours 686 because we don't anticipate using this image on much older systems. Third, we've chosen the lxde package list to give us a minimal desktop. And finally, we have added two initial favourite packages: iceweasel and xchat.

Now, build the image:

   # lb build

Note that unlike in the first two tutorials, we no longer have to type 2>&1 | tee binary.log as that is now included in auto/build.

Once you've tested the image (as in Tutorial 1) and are satisfied it works, it's time to initialize our git repository, adding only the auto scripts we just created, and then make the first commit:

   $ git init
   $ git add auto
   $ git commit -a -m "Initial import."

16.4.2 Second revision

In this revision, we're going to clean up from the first build, add the vlc package to our configuration, rebuild, test and commit.

The lb clean command will clean up all generated files from the previous build except for the cache, which saves having to re-download packages. This ensures that the subsequent lb build will re-run all stages to regenerate the files from our new configuration.

   # lb clean

Now edit auto/config to add the vlc package:


   lb config noauto \
       --architecture i386 \
       --linux-flavours 686 \
       --packages-lists lxde \
       --packages "iceweasel xchat vlc" \

Build again:

  # lb build

Test, and when you're satisfied, commit the next revision:

   $ git commit -a -m "Adding vlc media player."

Of course, more complicated changes to the configuration are possible, perhaps adding files in subdirectories of config/. When you commit new revisions, just take care not to hand edit or commit the top-level files in config containing LB_* variables, as these are build products, too, and are always cleaned up by lb clean and re-created with lb config via their respective auto scripts.

We've come to the end of our tutorial series. While many more kinds of customization are possible, even just using the few features explored in these simple examples, an almost infinite variety of different images can be created. The remaining examples in this section cover several other use cases drawn from the collected experiences of users of Debian Live.

16.5 A VNC Kiosk Client

Use case: Create an image with live-build to boot directly to a VNC server.

Make a build directory and create a skeletal configuration in it built around the standard-x11 list, including gdm3, metacity and xtightvncviewer, disabling recommends to make a minimal system:

   $ mkdir vnc_kiosk_client
   $ cd vnc_kiosk_client
   $ lb config -a i386 -k 686 -p standard-x11 \
       --packages "gdm3 metacity xvnc4viewer" \
       --apt-recommends false

Create the directory /etc/skel and put a custom .xsession in it for the default user that will launch metacity and start xvncviewer, connecting to port 5901 on a server at

   $ mkdir -p config/chroot_local-includes/etc/skel
   $ cat >config/chroot_local-includes/etc/skel/.xsession <<END

   /usr/bin/metacity &


Build the image:

   # lb build


16.6 A base image for a 128M USB key

Use case: Create a standard image with some components removed in order to fit on a 128M USB key with space left over to use as you see fit.

When optimizing an image to fit a certain media size, you need to understand the tradeoffs you are making between size and functionality. In this example, we trim only so much as to make room for additional material within a 128M media size, but without doing anything to destroy integrity of the packages contained within, such as the purging of locale data via the localepurge package, or other such "intrusive" optimizations. Of particular note, you should not use --bootstrap-flavour minimal unless you really know what you're doing, as omitting priority important packages will most likely produce a broken live system.

   $ lb config -k 486 -p minimal --binary-indices false \
       --memtest none --apt-recommends false --includes none

Now, build the image in the usual way:

   # lb build 2>&1 | tee binary.log

On the author's system at time of writing, the above configuration produced a 78Mbyte image. This compares favourably with the 166Mbyte image produced by the default configuration in Tutorial 1.

The biggest space-saver here, compared to building a standard image on an i386 architecture system, is to select only the 486 kernel flavour instead of the default -k "486 686". Leaving off APT's indices with --binary-indices false also saves a fair amount of space, the tradeoff being that you need to apt-get update before using apt in the live system. Choosing the minimal package list leaves out the large locales package and associated utilities. Dropping recommended packages with --apt-recommends false saves some additional space, at the expense of omitting some packages you might otherwise expect to be there, such as firmware-linux-free which may be needed to support certain hardware. The remaining options shave off additional small amounts of space. It's up to you to decide if the functionality that is sacrificed with each optimization is worth the loss in functionality.

16.7 A localized KDE desktop and installer

Use case: Create a KDE desktop image, localized for Brazilian Portuguese and including an installer.

We want to make an iso-hybrid image for i386 architecture using our preferred desktop, in this case KDE, containing all of the same packages that would be installed by the standard Debian installer for KDE.

Our initial problem is the discovery of the names of the appropriate tasks. Currently, live-build cannot help with this. While we might get lucky and find this by trial-and-error, there is a tool, grep-dctrl, which can be used to dig it out of the task descriptions in tasksel-data, so to prepare, make sure you have both of those things:

   # apt-get install dctrl-tools tasksel-data

Now we can search for the appropriate tasks, first with:

   $ grep-dctrl -FTest-lang pt_BR /usr/share/tasksel/debian-tasks.desc -sTask,Description
   Task: brazilian-portuguese
   Description: Brazilian Portuguese environment
    This task installs programs, data files, and
    documentation that make it easier for Brazilian Portuguese speakers
    to use Debian.

By this command, we discover the task is called, plainly enough, brazilian-portuguese. Now to find the related tasks:

   $ grep-dctrl -FEnhances brazilian-portuguese /usr/share/tasksel/debian-tasks.desc -sTask,Description
   Task: brazilian-portuguese-desktop
   Description: Brazilian Portuguese desktop
    This task localises the desktop in Brasilian Portuguese.

   Task: brazilian-portuguese-kde-desktop
   Description: Brazilian Portuguese KDE desktop
    This task localises the KDE desktop in Brazilian Portuguese.

We will use the experimental --language option, as live-build happens to include syslinux templates for pt_BR (see Desktop and language tasks for details). And at boot time we will generate the pt_BR.UTF-8 locale and select the pt-latin1 keyboard layout. Now let's put the pieces together:

   $ mkdir live-pt_BR-kde
   $ cd live-pt_BR-kde
   $ lb config \
       -a i386 \
       -k 486 \
       -p kde-desktop \
       --language pt_BR \
       --tasks "brazilian-portuguese brazilian-portuguese-desktop brazilian-portuguese-kde-desktop" \
       --bootappend-live "locales=pt_BR.UTF-8 keyboard-layouts=pt-latin1" \
       --debian-installer live \
       --packages debian-installer-launcher

Note that we have included the debian-installer-launcher package to launch the installer from the live desktop, and have also specified the 486 flavour kernel, as it is currently necessary to make the installer and live system kernels match for the launcher to work properly.