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Spinning a Fedora Linux Live CD

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Want to build your own live CD? Christopher Negus describes how you can use the Fedora Project's livecd-creator to draw from thousands of Fedora software packages, making the exact live CD you want.

What’s a "Live CD"?

A live CD provides a means of putting an entire computer operating system, applications, and data (music, documents, video, or anything else) on a single, bootable disc. That live CD can be a specialized desktop, a gaming CD, or a fully functioning web server. And although it’s usually called a "live CD," the same basic procedure can be used to produce an ISO image that can be used on a "live" DVD, USB flash drive, or other bootable media.

If you want to spin your own Linux live CD, the Fedora project is one of the best places to start. With Fedora’s livecd-creator, you can build a live ISO image with these characteristics:

  • Tailored to include the exact packages you want from the Fedora software repository, plus any other third-party or personal yum software repositories you can access.
  • Created from a Fedora kickstart file, so you can easily modify and rebuild an image.
  • Includes personal settings such as the keyboard, time zone, firewall, video card, network, and active services. (You can even tack on specialized desktop settings and any data you like.)
  • Used to install the contents of the ISO image to hard drive, for a permanent desktop or server install.

The livecd-creator command is packaged in the livecd-tools package, along with more than a dozen sample kickstart files. These kickstart files can be used to build your own specialized live CD immediately, including a GNOME desktop, KDE desktop, developer workstation, electronic lab workstation, gaming desktop, or a minimal Fedora system.

I used Fedora 8 on an i386 platform to create the examples shown in this article. However, livecd-creator also should work on other platforms that run Fedora 8, such as PPC and x86_64 architectures. Although livecd-creator is being developed in Fedora, other groups are working on ways to get it working on Red Hat Enterprise Linux and CentOS as well.

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