September 13, 2011

Tools to create your own Linux Distro

Reconstructor - Web Based Ubuntu Customization Program

We already posted about UCK (Ubuntu Customization Kit) which is an application for creating a custom Ubuntu Live CD, but it doesn't have as many options as one would expect and it only runs in Ubuntu, as an application. One of the most mentioned ideas at Ubuntu Brainstorm is creating a custom installation/live cd website-as-service which would allow users to customize their install/live cd, in the spirit of Linux and open-source in general.

A service like this already exists: Reconstructor, a web based GNU/Linux distribution customization and creation toolkit. It allows for the customization of the Ubuntu and Debian GNU/Linux distributions. Customizations include boot logo image and text color, wallpaper, themes, icons, applications, and more.

Reconstructor is free to use. Even though it says certain services cost actual money, every user starts with a $5 balance and gets $5 each month which is enough for building and downloading your custom Ubuntu / Debian distributions. More info on this.

More about Reconstuctor and how to use it

Once create your free account and log-in, you can choose if you want your Ubuntu / Debian with Gnome, KDE, XFCE or text only:

And then you get to edit the actual packages that come with your custom Ubuntu / Debian Linux distribution:

Under the "Modules" section, you can edit the default theme, upload custom .deb files, change the default icons and wallpaper, boot menu and even create custom GConf keys (among many other options):

Here is the full list of things you can add through Modules:

  • Apt repository
  • Custom boot menu
  • Default theme (for Gnome, etc., use an already installed theme or upload your own)
  • Add Ubuntu PPA repositories
  • Perform a system upgrade
  • Change the Usplash image
  • Change Firefox start page
  • Create a custom desktop launcher
  • Change the default icon theme (use an already installed theme or upload your own)
  • Change the wallpaper
  • Window border
  • Install .deb package
  • Install a file to the chroot environment
  • Set the Live Environment hostname
  • Set the initial splash image of the Live CD
  • Set the live CD text color
  • Modify Gconf keys

Other than this, there are also some more advanced options.

When your project is ready, click on the "Build project" icon on the top left corner. Then you can select how you want your project to be built: as a Live Image, VMWare, Xen or Qemu:

When your project has finished building, you will receive an email with a download link and a log. In my test, it took around 5-10 minutes for my custom Ubuntu to be built. The downloads are valid for 7 days. After that you will need to rebuild the project.

UCK - Ubuntu Customization Kit

UCK is a tool that helps you customizing official Ubuntu Live CDs (including Kubuntu/Xubuntu and Edubuntu) to your needs. You can add any package to the live system, for example language packs, or applications.

Ubuntu Customization Kit (UCK) is a tool you can use to customize the official Ubuntu Live CDs by adding additional language packs, applications and so on. It doesn't just work for Ubuntu (GNOME), but also for Kubuntu / Xubuntu and Edubuntu.

To make it easy for Ubuntu users to stay up to date with the latest Ubuntu Customization Kit versions, a PPA has been created - for Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx and Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat -, which you can add by using the following command:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:uck-team/uck-stable

The, install UCK:
sudo apt-get install uck

There is also an unstable PPA (for Lucid only for now) for those who want to try out the testing versions of Ubuntu Customization Kit.

Ubuntu forums also detail how to create a custom distro here:


6 Tools to Easily Create Your Own Custom Linux Distro