Customizing Ubuntu Live CD 6.06.1

The word came down last week that I was to prepare a demo for yesterday’s Flashforward keynote. They gave me an IBM ThinkPad laptop and told me to install Linux and the current Flash Player onto the machine. I had a better brainstorm– something I keep hearing about called a live CD. So I set out to make my own custom live CD that was already equipped with Flash Player 9. The final CD was able to boot on both an IBM ThinkPad and an Intel-based MacBook and was a much better answer to the question, “What if we need to run the demo on a different machine instead?”

Ubuntu live CD with Flash Player 9

It took me a little while to customize the live CD. Previously, my only encounter with live CDs had only been a “Remastering Knoppix” session at a Linux user group. I couldn’t find good instructions for doing the same when I needed, particularly on a different type of system (Gentoo in my case). As a public service, I thought I would post the hackish instructions that I pieced together from various sources which led me to create the perfect live CD for this demo. The basic idea is to:

  1. unpack the ISO-9660 filesystem
  2. unpack the root squash filesystem
  3. modify the root squash filesystem
  4. re-pack the root squash filesystem
  5. re-pack ISO-9660 filesystem

So it’s not unlike peeling an onion, deep frying it, and putting it back together– not a perfect or elegant process but the end result is much tastier! These are the technical steps:

  • get the “Dapper Drake” Ubuntu 6.06.1 Live CD ISO image
  • mount the ISO image as part of the filesystem
  • copy the ISO contents into a temporary directory
    • the stock live CD comes with Windows installers for various free software packages like Firefox and Thunderbird; if you don’t need these on your live CD, you can save over 30 MB by deleting the programs/ directory
  • mount casper/filesystem.squashfs as part of the filesystem
    • use Squashfs and compile the kernel stuff
    • alternatively, Gentoo kernels seem to already have the squashfs stuff patched in
  • copy the contents into a temporary directory; do this as root and with -a option for a correct copy
  • make any necessary modifications to the root filesystem (in my case, this simply means copying into the correct directory)
  • whittle away any components you don’t strictly need for a demo live CD (OpenOffice, with a 200 MB tree, is a good candidate)
  • rebuild root filesystem; run as root: ‘mksquashfs squashfs-root filesystem.squashfs’
  • overwrite the old casper/filesystem.squashfs file with the newly created one
  • build burnable, bootable ISO: ‘mkisofs -o ubuntu-6.06.1-desktop-i386-custom.iso -b “isolinux/isolinux.bin” -c “isolinux/” -no-emul-boot -boot-load-size 4 -boot-info-table -cache-inodes -r -J -l ubuntu-6.06.1-desktop-i386’
  • test: ‘qemu -cdrom ubuntu-6.06.1-desktop-i386-custom.iso -boot d -m 256′

43 Responses to Customizing Ubuntu Live CD 6.06.1

  1. Ryan Stewart says:

    I’ll give you $20 for that CD :). No dice? $30?

  2. Charles Lai says:

    Ubuntu has been receiving a lot of press lately which prompted me to install Ubuntu as my first-time linux distribution. I’ve been using my Ubuntu machine as a local caching dns server for our network, and I’ve been very impressed by the very easy install and use (especially with the Gnome interface for gui people like me). I also noticed a billboard on 101 up by Oracle promoting Ubuntu as a server so the Ubuntu folks are trying to push this distribution both on the client and server. Their LAMP install option on their server disc looks like a quick way to get a fully configured Internet server up and running.

  3. D4rky says:

    spread the spirit of Ubuntu … and the beta of FlashPlayer9 πŸ˜›

  4. momma didn't raise no fool says:

    Once the current version for Windows is released for Linux, will the next version for Windows quickly follow and then we’ll have to wait again a long time for the versions to catch up again?Can we please keep version numbers unified between Win-Mac-Linux releases in the future?

  5. nauj27 says:

    Glad to read is Ubuntu tested πŸ™‚ keep the good work!

  6. baczek says:

    need… that… CD…

  7. James C says:

    Bigfoot footprints…

  8. Anonymous says:

    So you mean there’s now a CD-R lying around with the Flash 9 Linux player on it?Eeeexcellent. *reaches for phone* I warn you now, the tall men in the black coats will be very nice to you if you do exactly what they say.

  9. anti says:

    The “Good Instructions” would be here: have spared you time, if you’d bothered to search for “livecd” in the Ubuntu Wiki. Always a good source for anything ubuntu-related.

  10. r says:

    also googling “cusomizing livecd” would have gotten you this link

  11. ArmEagle says:

    You should auction that CD and donate the value to charity! πŸ™‚ Maybe not really send it till we get to play with a beta?I am wondering what people think about sites that actively check for plugins using javascript. Personally i find that very annoying, since some sites at least still work partially on Flash 7. And most such checks often only work for Windows. And then there are the FF extensions that temporarily take the place of the plugins themselves.

  12. Haney says:

    Mr. Penguin.SWF, why don’t you try the newest SabayonLinux 3.0 distro?

  13. Christopher Lees says:

    lol at some of the previous comments :-)Rather than do all that customisation work yourself, you could have used Reconstructor ( then, that wouldn’t have been half as fun, would it? πŸ™‚

  14. Mazin Tamimi says:

    Alternatively, you can open the .iso in file-roller without having to mount it first (read-only however).Incidentally, I think I’ve found the perfect analog to today’s blog post: πŸ™‚ (Warning: strong language)All jokes aside, I want to let you know that I really appreciate the work you do, and I’m glad Adobe hired you to develop the Linux version of the Flash plugin. I’ve been checking this blog almost daily since it began, and while there were some rough times in the beginning, with you at the helm it seems to be advancing far faster than it has in the past. Thank You.

  15. Dave Mears says:

    Perl’s there’s more than one way to do it is pretty much the philosophy behind most of the development oriented parts of the Linux community.

  16. n3ldan says:

    *cough*please post torrent*cough*And/or ebay it a week or two before the release and give profits to charity πŸ™‚

  17. Juan Pablo Santos says:

    I’ll give you 50 for that disc!

  18. D. Tiggerous says:

    Honestly. You’d think people who knew to prefer Linux over Windows would maybe have a bit more class.Oh, well. At least you fellows handle the attention well. For my own part, I shall wait for the culmination of your efforts with bated breath. Keep up the good work!

  19. sugar says:

    Did you see the Gentoo LiveCD howto?

  20. Nate says:

    You can make a gentoo livecd from scratch if you liked, check out dev-util/catalyst. It’s used by the gentoo releng people to build the handy-dandy gentoo install and livecds. But as I’ve found out working with catalyst is not easy :/Although, you could probably do the same thing you did to the 2006.1 install livecd.

  21. Freshubuntu says:

    Wow,Ubuntu with Flash!!!! do you mean I might actually be able to see Digg “stack” and “swarm” work? Good work, I am truly impressed.

  22. Excellent stuff. Although am a little miffed the management have got you messing around with demos instead of doing any “real” work. :)On a positive note: Am glad you shared how to do your LiveCD. Thanks. That photo is very tantalising to Linux people. Don’t be suprised if you wake up to geeks rummaging through your bins. πŸ™‚

  23. David says:

    Nice handwriting πŸ˜€

  24. Anonymous says:

    Just wondering out of curiousity, will flash 9 linux have a graphical installer or will it be command line based?I’d like to see more of the binary programs come with graphical installers, which makes new users comfortable.

  25. Chris says:

    On my Fedora systems, I just copied the relevant files to the /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins directory and everything works. No need for an installer. I hope Flash 9 is just that simple too.

  26. If you ever need help with advanced live DVD customization or Ubuntu packaging, we’d be glad to help for free — anything to get flash 9 sooner. We just helped a large library switch to Linux and flash 9 is the only sore point. If you have any sort of private betas requiring NDAs or whatever, we’d be interested.Thanks.

  27. JJ says:

    Let me just say one thing: Adobe should be ashamed by the way Flash for GNU/Linux is being developed.

  28. >Let me just say one thing: Adobe should be ashamed by the way Flash for GNU/Linux is being developed.Technically, it should have been Macromedia that was ashamed how flash for linux was developed…From where this dude started, its pretty clear that they had done nothing for linux, and I appreciate adobe for having done this much this (relatively) quickly.

  29. JJ says:

    OK then, ex-Macromedia people working now at Adobe should be ashamed by the way Flash for Linux has been developed until now.Anyway, when you buy another company, you buy the good things and the bad things.In the same way that now who gets the money when people buy Flash designer is Adobe, who gets blamed when Flash doesn’t work well is also Adobe.If you buy, you get the whole pack.

  30. Rob H. says:

    Hey JJ, you might be interested to know that Sun Microsystems was the big push to develop the Linux Flash Player 7. Just to a search on Google if you need verification.

  31. JJ says:

    Well Rob H. if that’s true it’d mean that Adobe/Macromedia commitment with Linux is even worse.

  32. Jeff B says:

    Calm Down JJ. Linux is a platform that we should be happy that Abobe is putting time and money into. Commercial Software Companies typically ignore Linux all together because the FOSS advocates make a Linux a Hostile environment for Companies that want to “sell” software. It seems that wanting to make money to feed your kids is a bad thing.

  33. Bob says:

    Eesh! Some people do things the hard way

  34. Anonymous says:

    I’m just wondering wether the will be -fPIC safe?Some of us run hardened kernels ya know.

  35. That Guy says:

    This is why we created the wonderful term “Macrodobe”While it recognizes that Adobe is now pulling the strings, it still points the topic towards the Macromedia side of things.Macrodobe: It sounds better than Admedia :)Linux is currently 2 versions behind the more… accepted operating systems. It’s great that Mike and his crew are putting in the work to bring us up to speed. Sure it would have gone faster had they opened it up to the community, but that’s not what they wanted to do. One of the previous posts asked for guidance in statically linking, and got lots of (hopefully) helpful responses. If this is as close as we are going to get to building a flash player, then I say that’s ok. It’s a step in the right direction.

  36. Losing Faith says:

    I am slowing losing faith in this linux flash player stuff.Unfortunately it seems a lot of companies have been buying and developing on Flash 8/9. I would say about 40% of all the sites I visit lock me out for having a lower flash version.I was happy to go along with the wait until now, when several of the major manufactures in my industry have added Flash 8 detection / redirects for their damn menu systems (which by no means need flash 8!).PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do something to help us out, we are basically screwed now thanks to Macrodobe.Could you maybe re-release the existing player with an 8 / 9 version number so we can still use sites that actually have no Flash8/9 features but just have really dumb developers who wont let us use their sites?

  37. grackel says:

    Can you spell monopoly? When a flash alternative comes along, I’ll be jumping on that bandwagon. I’m sick of this site and I’m sick of Adobe!P.S. The new update is crap!

  38. Wolfgang says:

    >Could you maybe re-release the existing player with an 8 / 9 version number so we can still use sites that actually have no Flash8/9 features but just have really dumb developers who wont let us use their sites?That is simple.Open your browser. Type ‘about:pluins’. Search for the version of the Flash-Player (mine is 7.0 r68). Open ‘’ in your plugin-folder with a hexeditor (under KDE you can use khexedit). Make a copy of the file before.Search for the string (eg. 7.0 r68), and replace the 7.0 with 8.0 or 9.0. Save the file. Restart your browser. Volia!you have a Flash-Player 8.0. But itΒ΄s a fake.

  39. Segin says:

    Hmm… cool. Say, where’s that CD kept? I’ll sneak in all Solid Snake style and use my mad stealth skills to steal that CD…Also, be careful about any odd-looking cardboard boxes lying around your office. I could be hiding underneath one.Ohh, any chance that we’ll see the source to the long-since-dead versions of Flash Player? I mean like 4.x and eariler. That would actually be useful and you’d lose no profitability or profitable IP (intellectual property)

  40. Metacarpal says:

    Hi – No new posts in over a week and a half… and you just teased us with the quasi-existence of a beta?Please, please, please tell us what the current status is, and if you have any intention of putting that beta out there. We know, it’s buggier than a college student’s apartment. Give it to us, and we’ll bug-hunt for you.Please? I’m tired of being unable to use sites because of this version discrepancy.

  41. klichota says:

    For remastering Ubuntu live CDs it is much easier to use Ubuntu Customization Kit (webpage).You can prepare script which adds Flash and build CD using one command.It will save you a lot of work.HTH

  42. Penguin Pete says:

    Sorry, too late to make it up to me. A buggy beta one year after you provided for Windows which still can’t be fixed (closed source) still has no one-click installer (like other Firefox plug-ins), and dispensed while spitting on me for being a Linux user isn’t going to get a w00t out of me. I’ll go on using Gnash, and hope for a Flash EDITOR on Linux to come into it’s own (f4l is showing promise), where I bother with Flash at all.

  43. Sam Tilston says:

    Is there an online repository somewhere for these modd’d installs?