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Create your own Ubuntu LiveCD with Reconstructor

Have you ever had a need to create a LiveCD based on Ubuntu, only with a few tweaks? You can now do that with a great tool called Reconstructor. Jack Wallen outlines how this tool is used in this week's entry. Read it. Try it. Love it.

If you've ever rolled out multiple instances of the same operating system you know these roll-outs can be a real pain. Much of the time you spend getting all of your roll-outs the same. You could always do a network installation. Network installations, of course, depend upon a boot disk that help the client connect to the server containing the image to install. This type of installation is certainly ideal for larger installations.

But for creating a unique Ubuntu LiveCD that will allow you to customize what goes on the CD as well as the default username, theme, splash screens, wallpaper, etc., you need Reconstructor. This is an ideal tool for creating a LiveCD for your company that you can hand out for PR purposes, or for whatever reason. And believe it or not, it's easy to use. There are a few tricks to know (especially when wanting to add applications that are not on the default LiveCD) in order to really make your LiveCD yours. But how is it done? Let's take a look.

Getting and installing

The first thing you have to do is install Reconstructor. This is simple. Open up the Add/Remove Software utility, search for "reconstructor" (no quotes), select the results, and apply the changes. Or you can open up a terminal window and issue the command sudo apt-get install reconstructor.

Once installed you will find Reconstructor in the System Tools submenu of the Applications menu.

Using Reconstructor

You will be surprised that creating your own LiveCD is nothing more than walking through a wizard with few simple screens. The only challenge is knowing to open up a terminal within the application in order to install the extra applications you need.

Once Reconstructor has started, the first screen is nothing more than a Welcome screen. Click Next to get to the next screen which will ask you the type of disk you want to create. Your choices are:

  • LiveCD
  • Alternate CD

Most likely you will want to create a LiveCD. Select that and click Next.

Figure A

Figure 1

Figure A shows the first screen which will actually require you to interact with more than a single click. If this is your first time around with revisor you must select the three check boxes in order to create the basic directory structure for Reconstructor to work. In this same window you can give your LiveCD a unique file name should you want.

Once you have finished this, click Next to move on to the next screen.

Figure B

Figure 2

Figure B shows the Customization window. This is where the majority of your Reconstructor work will happen. You can configure your desktop's look from wallpaper to font. You can configure your splash screen as well as what modules are run at startup.

But more importantly you can add applications to your LiveCD - even applications that are not currently on the version of Ubuntu you are running.

To do this you will open up the Terminal window associated with Reconstructor. Open up the Reconstructor terminal by clicking the icon in the bottom left of the Customization window. This is a root terminal so you can run apt-get without using sudo.

What you will want to do is install all of the applications you need on this LiveCD through this terminal. Once finished close the terminal and complete your customization. After the customization is complete click Apply and then click Next.

In this next window you have three more options to take care of. The first is customizing the file name for your LiveCD and the second is adding a description to the file, the final is selecting the architecture for the LiveCD. You will notice there are three check boxes - leave these checked.

Once you're done here click Finish and your build will begin. When the build is complete (this can take a while) you will find the ISO image where you configured it in the last window.

That's all there is to creating your own version of Ubuntu. I've used Reconstructor many times and it never fails me. Give it a go and see what you can come up with.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

13 comments
techdude26
techdude26

It happens with many Ubuntu users that they need to download the packages afresh on reinstalling the same version of OS (system is formatted b'coz of some reason). If the net speed is low it eats a lot of time to download and install the packages from repositories which were downloaded & installed before. If reconstructor is allowing to copy the packages also.... then for me (and probly for other ubuntu users also) it would do a lot of help. As next time I would install the ubuntu and instead of downloading the packages I would install it from the CD and save my time.

saundersp
saundersp

sound nice - BUT is there a version out there that will let me create a liveDVD of my system that i have set up, without having download the applications and things like that. I would like to put my ubuntu setup form my laptop on other laptops and desktops, including my applications and VMware. Also use it has a backup Thanks for your help with this, it would be nice if there is a simple create CD/DVD out there. Paul

emenau
emenau

Can't reconstructor simply reconstruct the complete aplication set that is on a certain computer.. just one button [reconstruct this PC as a live CD/DVD]

jerry
jerry

Interesting...Reconstructor is not available in the Add or Remove Applications in Ubuntu 8.10 on my machine. I'm also using Gnome 2.24.1 kernal 2.6.27-14. I looked in Synaptic also..nada. I tried the direct install mentioned in this article and got the following response in Terminal: Reading package lists... Done Building dependency tree Reading state information... Done E: Couldn't find package reconstructor Anyone have any clues?

version7x
version7x

Reconstructor isn't available in the default sources for apt if you're using 9.04. If you still want it, a preliminary .deb package is available at the main reconstructor site: http://reconstructor.aperantis.com

shodges119
shodges119

Can this import the existing Wine or Crossover applications most users will have?

mytmous
mytmous

I haven't had a chance to check yet - but has anyone used this utility in other distros? One of our marketing people wants to use the new eLive (unstable) distro as a base for a custom LiveCD. I can certainly check later this week (when I'm back in my office) - just wondered if anyone else had tried it already.

jlwallen
jlwallen

maybe it's something the reconstructor devs could work on. i personally would really use such a feature. build it click it distribute it

jlwallen
jlwallen

it will install Wine for you. you can break the iso open (with File Roller or Ark), add a new folder, add your Windows apps in that folder, and then create the iso with K3B. that way when you install the image that folder with the windows apps should be on the system. i haven't tried this but i will.

emenau
emenau

Btw, synaptic has a nice option to export a list of all installed packages and you can import that on another PC, wondering why that feature wasn't used in reconstructor. Reconstructor, great tool but maybe really impressive once it can reconstruct my current desktop and eventually export it to a PC that has buntu installed and warp it to my personal setup with one click. Super fast desktop migration on a new PC. 3 clicks reconstruct, then copy /home and continue on the new where you stopped working on the old one. Can be done i'm sure!! I wonder when the devs have time to build this. :-)

hoagies
hoagies

PCLinuxOS 2009.1 has some unique and interesting features, included in the distro: 1. Remaster (one's own distro on the machine) 2. From which a Live CD/DVD can be made 3. It also has a 'Make Live USB' feature All this means, is that one can always have a Live CD/DVD updated over time. And it also means, that one can walk around with a USB stick, completely updated to that point in time!!

rtstarliper
rtstarliper

I found instructions for creating a custom ISO for Backtrack 4 using a program from http://www.linux-live.org. Essentially, you build the system they way you want it, create a work space, then use the script from linux-live to package it. Note that I have not (yet) tried this on a 'normal' Ubuntu install, however BT4 is an Ubuntu-based live CD. I have made a custom BT4 CD including Nessus. The instructions are in the BT4 wiki n(undetr documentation at http://remote-exploit.org - I can't get there from this machine or I would provide a complete link).