Linux, it’s a word that makes many a non-geek’s eyes glaze over almost immediately. However, desktop Linux offerings are now pretty much on par with the big names such as Windows and MacOS.

Thanks to decades of community work and support from organizations like Canonical, you can download something like Ubuntu Linux today and do almost all the things you can with Windows. All without needing a degree in computer science. Modern desktop Linux distros look good, work well and are suitable for average users.

However, they have one huge differencecompared to commercial operating systems – Open Source licensing.

This means we have full access to all theinner workings of Linux. You don’t have to pay to use it and you can customizeit in just about any way you like. That’s great for power users who like totinker with the nut and bolts, but what if you just want to preserve your owntweaked custom Linux installation?

You can actually create a fresh install of Linux, set it up just the way you want it and then turn it into a live, bootable installation. This is super-useful for a few reasons. First of all, it means you won’t have any downtime if you have to reinstall your operating system.

All your settings and software will already be waiting right from the start. It also makes it very easy to create custom installations for distribution. Let’s say you have to install Linux on a whole computer lab full of PCs and then install educational packages. Using a custom distribution tool means you only have to do that customization once and then simply install as usual.

One of the easiest tools out there is calledLinux Live Kit and we’re going to look at exactly how you can change anexisting Linux installation back into a custom distro.

Setting Up The Machine

In order to use the Linux Live Kit, you needan installation of Linux to customize. While you can go ahead and do it withyour main installation, it’s not the most practical approach if you want tocreate customized distributions for something other than your main computer.

So what we’ll be doing is installing UbuntuLinux to a VirtualBox virtual machine. That gives us a clean, controlledinstallation environment. It also means you can make custom Linux distros froma Windows machine if you like. Finally, it’s a good way to test the distroyou’ve just created, to make sure it works properly.

We are going to use the following components:

  • Windows 10
  • VirtualBox
  • Ubuntu 18  LTS

Remember, the process works exactly the sameif you use the Linux Live Kit on a Linux installation that running as normal ona computer, rather than in a virtual machine.

Installing Linux

The first thing to do is install Linux.Obviously if you want to use an existing installation, you can skip this step.

Installing Linux the usual way simply requiresthat you boot from the DVD or USB installation media. Because we’re usingVirtualBox, we just have to create a new virtual machine and then point ittowards the Ubuntu disc image we downloaded. Here are the steps you need tofollow.

Taking Care of Dependencies

Since Linux Live Kit is just a clevercollection of scripts, it needs certain other software packages to be presenton your Linux machine. In many cases they will already be a default part of theversion of Linux you have chosen, but you’ll have to verify this either way.

You need to make sure that aufs is supported by the kernel used by your chosen Linux distribution. You can check which kernel versions supports aufs here . If your chosen kernel does not support aufs, you’ll need to look at an alternative solution to Linux Live Kit.

Now we need to make sure that Squashfs isinstalled on the system. This is the compression technology used by Linux LiveKit. To install it, here’s what to do.

First, open the Terminal. In Ubuntu you can do this by clicking the “Show Application” button at the bottom left of the screen. This will bring up a search bar. Search for “Terminal” and click it when it comes up.

Now, in the terminal, type the following:

sudoapt-get update && sudo apt-get install squashfs-tools

If all goes well the package will beinstalled. If you run into trouble, you’ll have to refer to your version of theOS documentation. Troubleshooting repository and installation issues areoutside our scope for this tutorial.

Trimming the Fat

Since your live distro iw going to have allthe same content as your installed one, you should remove any files you don’tneed from your installation. You don’t have to do this and storage is cheapthese days if you’re using a flash drive. If you don’t know what’s safe to remove,skip this part for now.

Customizing

Now you can go ahead and make the changes youwant for your live distro. Install applications, tweak settings and so on. Onceyou are done with that, we can move on to the Live Kit itself.

Download Linux Live Kit

Now it’s time to download the scripts we need.You can find it on GitHub . Pay special attention to the tips inthe README here. Some of them may be relevant to your needs or situation. Forexample, there are specific instructions if you want to make a bootable liveCD.

Savethe downloaded files to /tmp. In the download you’llfind a folder named “/DOC/. This is filled with additional readme informationto help you in case you hit a snag.

Generating Your Live OS

Now that the script files are where theyshould be, we want to actually run the script. To do this, we’ll have to switchfrom being a regular user to being a Super User. In Ubuntu, open the terminal and type the following:

cd /tmp

This switches you to the TMP folder where weunpacked the Live Kit files.

The last thing we need to do is run the script, so type:

sudo ./build

Now just wait until the script is done!

Running Your Live Distro

So how do you get your live distro? The scriptgenerates two version in the /TMP folder. There’s an ISO image that you canburn to a disc or load up in a virtual machine to test. Most people are howevergoing to care about the bootable USB files. These are also in the /TMP folder.

Copy them to your flash drive, remember tounzip them in the process. Once they are on there, use the Terminal andnavigate to the /boot directory. Then run the “bootinst.sh” script to make thatflash drive bootable.

If all goes well, you’ll now have your ownlive OS!