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Idea; The omni-distro installer LiveCD

By Neon Samurai ·
An interesting idea. In short, a liveCD that goes through a distribution selection wizard then creates the appropriate installer disk. Maybe a more ambitious verison actually manages the installation of the selected distribution.

I'd add the idea of it supporting whatever free licensed os the project could manage; Linux distros, BSDs, ReactOS, Haiku.. toss 'em all into the list. Granted it quickly becomes something that would need serious funding; maybe a positive marketing project for the FSF?

Anyhow, I thought I'd share:

"
Katana multi-OS liveCD would be the example in my own area of interest. Knoppix deserves some serious recognition for the liveCD. Including multiple images on one disk is a great extension of that.

Let me daydream a little more though:

User gets the multi-installer disk and slips it in the machine. It presents a list of distributions with a description and a screenshot. Perhaps it runs a localized version of the Linux Distribution Chooser questions.

optionally, it checks the hardware against selection of distros for compatibility. It may even pull drivers for hardware to merge in with a give OS install. Debian pulls discovered kernel mods off a usb or floppy so it can be easy on the installer/distro side. Nvidia provides a good driver bundle that anyone can wget so it can be easy on the vendor/installer side.

optionally, it contains bootable images that can then bring up the selected OS. The only challenge here is space since a DVD will only hold so many CD ISO.

optionally, it contains network install images that kick off the applicable installer wizard and download process. The user does not get the benefit of a pre-install test run this way as they would with the liveCD.

optionally, it downloads the applicable livecd image rather than having them on the DVD. The image could be downloaded and booted directly or maybe it burns the image to a blank disk; keep dvd writer and .iso in ram and have user swap disks. The first installer disk essentially manages the distribution choice and install media creation then leaves the user and applicable distro installer alone.

optionally, it uses a webapp that presents a selection interface from your own apache. That builds a custom liveCD after user distribution selection is done. This means supporting liveCD customization of all listed distributions but it's at least on the local server for easy development and less processing load on the client side.

optionally, it may even include custom local installer for supported distributions presenting a common wizard experience but tapping the package manager and repository for whatever OS is selected. This may be the most ambitious as your writing your own installer superseding the distro provided one and it'd have to support all the distros listed on the disk.

On the maintainer side, how many major distributions are listed on the DVD. How many are fast changing versions which will take more time to keep the disk updated with. Do you do a library of disks listing different distribution categories (desktop, server, security, tiny, specialized)?

The base liveCD is easy enough up to the GUI layer. One would need to write the distro selection wizard and database of distro related screenshots and information. One needs to then write a kickoff process be it a download and boot/burn or unified installer reaching out to the relevant distro package source.

Installers are getting pretty good from wizard installers to the boot and stamp method like Ubuntu. It's still a world of download-burn-install distributions though. This disk would be concerned with vetting the given hardware and guiding a distro selection process and automating the download/burn steps. The distro disk is then in the drive so close the burn and tell the hardware to reboot; whammo, distro native install process.
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I'll take

by santeewelding In reply to Idea; The omni-distro ins ...

The thumb drive, please. Oh, and put Windows on it, too.

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technically possible

by Neon Samurai In reply to I'll take

If it was just a kickoff that downloaded the OS install image then one could easily fit it on a little USB thumbdrive even. Maybe the Windows selection asks for your serial before it goes out to get the ISO.

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Deam big.

by seanferd In reply to Idea; The omni-distro ins ...

If it is the kind of thing you can get rolling, it may even exceed the popularity of the Live CD itself.

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That's a great idea

by NickNielsen In reply to Idea; The omni-distro ins ...

Make it a DVD and it can carry the latest stable ISO for several different distros, plus do the download and install on the rest.

Just don't use it if your only connection is dial-up...

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definately with the smaller distributions

by Neon Samurai In reply to That's a great idea

The smaller image low resource distributions could easily fit. Standard size distributions would fill up current DVD sizes pretty quick I think though. Dialup would also be a problem even for an ftp install.

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Include four majors

by NickNielsen In reply to definately with the small ...

with defined release programs: Ubuntu, SimplyMepis, Fedora, and OpenSUSE, for example. Throw in Feather Linux, Knoppix, and other smaller distros if you have room.

Run it Live on a high-speed connection and go to town.

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Now to get someone with resources interested

by Neon Samurai In reply to Include four majors

Yup, one could bundle a few major big names with a selection of small image size distros. The trick would be creating a usable format for dialup or the setup steps previous to NIC drivers.

Now, how do we find someone with the resources to make this idea more than just passing chatter in a forum?

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Piece of cake

by NickNielsen In reply to Now to get someone with r ...

Set the system to boot as a kiosk. It automatically boots live and runs the distro selection routine, maybe as a Firefox session.

NICs installed as part of the kiosk startup, after that all you need are the selection scripts and installers.

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some wifi could be trouble

by Neon Samurai In reply to Piece of cake

For any system, the recommendation is to use a wire during install then wifi for regular use after. The troublesome wifi NIC could be a problem here.

Making the installer more of a hardware audit and driver repository may work though. Ideally, it could then pass the driver and detected config settings on to the distribution installer or live boot image.

A kiosk interface would be the way to go with the omni disk though. Get it into a GUI that can provide preview information about included platforms. From there it's equally easy to kick off a liveCD image or installer wizard.

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