While it’s hard to make the claim that there aren’t enough Linux distros out there, it’s also hard to escape the fact that no distribution is all things to all people. There are all kinds of reasons to consider rolling your own, but many people never make the attempt because it seems like such a huge undertaking. Fortunately, with modern software we can create new distros, remixes, and custom configurations in a matter of minutes instead of months. Here, we’ll showcase some of the current software tools that make this so easy.
We’ve previously covered Remastersys. It’s one of a group of tools that create your ISO files using the filesystem on which it’s being run. You essentially clone your current Debian/Ubuntu install and make it into a live CD. This makes it extremely easy to customize every little thing about your distro, because you’re actually running it and can changing settings normally as you go. Because of the flexibility of the program, it’s also more complex than some of the other options.
This is a set of shell scripts to convert your existing system into a live CD or USB image. It works similarly to Remastersys, but does not require you to be running Debian or Ubuntu. There is no GUI here, and your distribution may require you to manually install certain kernel modules for the scripts to run.
This is a Debian/Ubuntu tool that can create CD, USB, and netboot images. It’s much simpler to use than Remastersys, but it does not use your running system to build the image. Instead, you follow a “wizard” and choose your configuration options as you go. The program will pull the packages from your repositories and install them into your image. Live-Magic can be installed via the normal package managers. Ubuntu users can click here.
Revisor is a very nice remastering tool for Fedora. It gives a wide variety of media types and includes some customization features not found some of the other graphical tools, such as package-by-package selection or browsing by category. Revisor also allows you to choose whether your creation will be a live system or an installer.
The really interesting thing about Instalinux is that it allows you to create an ISO image online. At the website, you can choose which distribution to base it on as well as the packages. Instalinux will create a small bootable ISO (approx. 30mb) which, when booted, will begin the install and fetch the other packages from the Internet. This may be the most versatile tool on the list, and the web interface makes it extremely simple to use. It won’t, however, provide you with a full live desktop environment.
Somewhat similar to Instalinux, SUSE studio allows you to use a web interface to create a custom distribution or “appliance”. It tops the charts in supported media, by including output for CD, DVD, USB stick, hard drive, VMware, VirtualBox, and Xen. Unfortunately, SUSE Studio is an invite-only program. You can request an invitation from the website. Being backed by a large company, SUSE Studio is of course much more polished than Instalinux.
If you’ve can recommend another great remixing program, let us know in the comments.