Live Systems 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 changes
1.4.2 Translation

2. About the Live Systems 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 packages from Debian "main"
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 Installing 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 Downloading prebuilt images
4.3 Using the web live image builder
4.3.1 Web builder usage and caveats
4.4 First steps: building an ISO hybrid image
4.5 Using an ISO hybrid live image
4.5.1 Burning an ISO image to a physical medium
4.5.2 Copying an ISO hybrid image to a USB stick
4.5.3 Using the space left on a USB stick
4.5.4 Booting the live medium
4.6 Using a virtual machine for testing
4.6.1 Testing an ISO image with QEMU
4.6.2 Testing an ISO image with VirtualBox
4.7 Building and using an HDD image
4.8 Building a netboot image
4.8.1 DHCP server
4.8.2 TFTP server
4.8.3 NFS server
4.8.4 Netboot testing HowTo
4.8.5 Qemu

5. Overview of tools

5.1 The live-build package
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 Dealing with configuration changes
6.1.1 Why use auto scripts? What do they do?
6.1.2 Use example auto scripts
6.2 Clone a configuration published via Git

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 Package lists
8.2.2 Using metapackages
8.2.3 Local package lists
8.2.4 Local binary package lists
8.2.5 Generated package lists
8.2.6 Using conditionals inside package lists
8.2.7 Removing packages at install time
8.2.8 Desktop and language tasks
8.2.9 Kernel flavour and version
8.2.10 Custom kernels
8.3 Installing modified or third-party packages
8.3.1 Using packages.chroot 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
9.2 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 The persistence.conf file
10.3.2 Using more than one persistence store

11. Customizing the binary image

11.1 Bootloaders
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. Contributing to the project

13.1 Making changes

14. Reporting bugs

14.1 Known issues
14.2 Rebuild from scratch
14.3 Use up-to-date packages
14.4 Collect information
14.5 Isolate the failing case if possible
14.6 Use the correct package to report the bug against
14.6.1 At build time while bootstrapping
14.6.2 At build time while installing packages
14.6.3 At boot time
14.6.4 At run time
14.7 Do the research
14.8 Where to report bugs

15. Coding Style

15.1 Compatibility
15.2 Indenting
15.3 Wrapping
15.4 Variables
15.5 Miscellaneous

16. Procedures

16.1 Major Releases
16.2 Point Releases
16.2.1 Last Point Release of a Debian Release
16.2.2 Point release announcement template

17. Git repositories

17.1 Handling multiple repositories


18. Examples

18.1 Using the examples
18.2 Tutorial 1: A default image
18.3 Tutorial 2: A web browser utility
18.4 Tutorial 3: A personalized image
18.4.1 First revision
18.4.2 Second revision
18.5 A VNC Kiosk Client
18.6 A base image for a 128MB USB key
18.7 A localized GNOME desktop and installer


19. Style guide

19.1 Guidelines for authors
19.1.1 Linguistic features
19.1.2 Procedures
19.2 Guidelines for translators
19.2.1 Translation hints


Live Systems Manual


14. Reporting bugs

Live systems are far from being perfect, but we want to make it as close as possible to perfect - with your help. Do not hesitate to report a bug. It is better to fill a report twice than never. However, this chapter includes recommendations on how to file good bug reports.

For the impatient:

14.1 Known issues

Since Debian testing and Debian unstable distributions are moving targets, when you specify either of them as the target system distribution, a successful build may not always be possible.

If this causes too much difficulty for you, do not build a system based on testing or unstable, but rather, use stable. live-build always defaults to the stable release.

Currently known issues are listed under the section 'status' on our homepage at ‹›.

It is out of the scope of this manual to train you to correctly identify and fix problems in packages of the development distributions, however, there are two things you can always try: If a build fails when the target distribution is testing, try unstable. If unstable does not work either, revert to testing and pin the newer version of the failing package from unstable (see APT pinning for details).

14.2 Rebuild from scratch

To ensure that a particular bug is not caused by an uncleanly built system, please always rebuild the whole live system from scratch to see if the bug is reproducible.

14.3 Use up-to-date packages

Using outdated packages can cause significant problems when trying to reproduce (and ultimately fix) your problem. Make sure your build system is up-to-date and any packages included in your image are up-to-date as well.

14.4 Collect information

Please provide enough information with your report. Include, at least, the exact version of live-build where the bug is encountered and the steps to reproduce it. Please use your common sense and provide any other relevant information if you think that it might help in solving the problem.

To make the most out of your bug report, we require at least the following information:

You can generate a log of the build process by using the tee command. We recommend doing this automatically with an auto/build script (see Managing a configuration for details).

# lb build 2>&1 | tee build.log

At boot time, live-boot and live-config store their logfiles in /var/log/live/. Check them for error messages.

Additionally, to rule out other errors, it is always a good idea to tar up your config/ directory and upload it somewhere (do not send it as an attachment to the mailing list), so that we can try to reproduce the errors you encountered. If this is difficult (e.g. due to size) you can use the output of lb config --dump which produces a summary of your config tree (i.e. lists files in subdirectories of config/ but does not include them).

Remember to send in any logs that were produced with English locale settings, e.g. run your live-build commands with a leading LC_ALL=C or LC_ALL=en_US.

14.5 Isolate the failing case if possible

If possible, isolate the failing case to the smallest possible change that breaks. It is not always easy to do this so if you cannot manage it for your report, do not worry. However, if you plan your development cycle well, using small enough change sets per iteration, you may be able to isolate the problem by constructing a simpler 'base' configuration that closely matches your actual configuration plus just the broken change set added to it. If you have a hard time sorting out which of your changes broke, it may be that you are including too much in each change set and should develop in smaller increments.

14.6 Use the correct package to report the bug against

If you do not know what component is responsible for the bug or if the bug is a general bug concerning live systems, you can fill a bug against the debian-live pseudo-package.

However, we would appreciate it if you try to narrow it down according to where the bug appears.

14.6.1 At build time while bootstrapping

live-build first bootstraps a basic Debian system with debootstrap or cdebootstrap. Depending on the bootstrapping tool used and the Debian distribution it is bootstrapping, it may fail. If a bug appears here, check if the error is related to a specific Debian package (most likely), or if it is related to the bootstrapping tool itself.

In both cases, this is not a bug in the live system, but rather in Debian itself and probably we cannot fix it directly. Please report such a bug against the bootstrapping tool or the failing package.

14.6.2 At build time while installing packages

live-build installs additional packages from the Debian archive and depending on the Debian distribution used and the daily archive state, it can fail. If a bug appears here, check if the error is also reproducible on a normal system.

If this is the case, this is not a bug in the live system, but rather in Debian - please report it against the failing package. Running debootstrap separately from the Live system build or running lb bootstrap --debug will give you more information.

Also, if you are using a local mirror and/or any sort of proxy and you are experiencing a problem, please always reproduce it first by bootstrapping from an official mirror.

14.6.3 At boot time

If your image does not boot, please report it to the mailing list together with the information requested in Collect information. Do not forget to mention, how/when the image failed exactly, whether using virtualization or real hardware. If you are using a virtualization technology of any kind, please always run it on real hardware before reporting a bug. Providing a screenshot of the failure is also very helpful.

14.6.4 At run time

If a package was successfully installed, but fails while actually running the Live system, this is probably a bug in the live system. However:

14.7 Do the research

Before filing the bug, please search the web for the particular error message or symptom you are getting. As it is highly unlikely that you are the only person experiencing a particular problem. There is always a chance that it has been discussed elsewhere and a possible solution, patch, or workaround has been proposed.

You should pay particular attention to the live systems mailing list, as well as the homepage, as these are likely to contain the most up-to-date information. If such information exists, always include the references to it in your bug report.

In addition, you should check the current bug lists for live-build, live-boot, live-config and live-tools to see whether something similar has already been reported.

14.8 Where to report bugs

The Live Systems Project keeps track of all bugs in the Bug Tracking System (BTS). For information on how to use the system, please see ‹›. You can also submit the bugs by using the reportbug command from the package with the same name.

In general, you should report build time errors against the live-build package, boot time errors against live-boot, and run time errors against live-config. If you are unsure of which package is appropriate or need more help before submitting a bug report, please report it against the debian-live pseudo-package. We will then take care about it and reassign it where appropriate.

Please note that bugs found in distributions derived from Debian (such as Ubuntu and others) should not be reported to the Debian BTS unless they can be also reproduced on a Debian system using official Debian packages.