LiveCD, Now Developed by Team Unity Linux
The main tools used by developers for many LiveCD distributions was facing stagnation in 2008. Unity Linux has taken up the torch for bringing this great tool into the 21st century.
What is liveCD?
From berlios.de project page:
The LiveCD project is dedicated to providing you with tools to create your own LiveCD from a currently installed Linux distribution. It can be used to create your own distribution, specialised CD, or to put together a demo disk to show off the power of our favourite OS. The LiveCD project is dedicated to providing you with tools to create your own LiveCD from a currently installed Linux distribution. It can be used to create your own distribution, specialised CD, or to put together a demo disk to show off the power of our favourite OS.
The last activity on the development mailing lists was on December 2008.
Livecd, PCLinuxOS, and Unity Linux
LiveCD, the core project behind the remasterme and mklivecd functions for many distributions, was maintained by mostly people from Mandriva and then later, PCLinuxOS. The project was maintained until 2007 by some people you may know of like : Buchan Milne, Pierre-Henri RAMBOZ, Paul Grinberg, Ivan Kerekes, Jaco Greeff, ocilent1, Tom Kelly, Jeremiah Summers, and Texstar.
When Unity looked to move forward with LiveCD, we found that project was not dead but it was lagging woefully behind current kernel versions and features. LiveCD had one maintainer in Pierre-Henri RAMBOZ (didouph) in 2008 and no new version of PCLinuxOS to test things in. Texstar had taken a leave of absence and thus OS integration wasn’t being tested with committed code. Something needed to happen or LiveCD would go inactive which, subsequently, would lock PCLinuxOS (and thus Unity Linux) at lower kernel versions and any pushes to the future they might make.
In early 2009, Didouph and Paul Grinberg helped us form the Unity Linux team. With a team of over 25 developers, we felt that we could contribute back to LiveCD and in the process help out other distributions that use the code base…we realized quickly that in order to get past the 2.6.28 kernels, we’d need to heavily alter the code. While making this improvement we decided to make a bunch of others and since we were actively working on these changes and are actively working on other changes right now, it makes sense for us to heavily contribute and maintain it.
So What Have You Done With LiveCD So Far?
Glad you asked. We’ve been VERY busy with making sure it works for us well into the future. A full list of changes are linked at the bottom of this article.
- Support for kernels greater than 2.6.28
This is a major stopping point for any of the distributions currently using LiveCD for their projects. We recognized this problem right away and have been working on fixing and testing vs. getting a release out the door. We wanted the benefits of later kernels (wireless and support for more hardware) so working on this aspect of LiveCD took precedence over everything when we first began with the project.
- Increased Hardware Detection
The old LiveCD project used hwdetect to scan and detect hardware. This did a good job in the past but we wanted to give LiveCD the ability to scale for the future. We ported hardware detection over to harddrake from Mandriva. This not only does a better job with detection, it also works properly with later kernels as well as liveCD operation (mounting, etc). This was also a major stoppage for us…once we moved to the new kernels and udev the old method didn’t work. This was changed purely out of necessity because we really didn’t want to change it as it worked well on PCLinuxOS and also worked well on initial builds of Unity Linux.
- 64-bit Support
Our developers have added in support for 64-bit support for LiveCD. That means you’ll be able to have a 64-bit liveCD and the ability to remaster 64-bit versions. We’ve worked hard on this because Unity Linux needs the ability to be a core…and that core may not be limited to the desktop only and 64-bit is definitely a plus for a server distribution. We’re pretty sure this won’t make anyone angry :) 64-bit support has not been committed to SVN for LiveCD as of the writing of this news article but will be shortly.
- il8n compliance
Team Unity has many members that speak languages other than English. We’ve been committed to making sure Unity is available in many languages…after all, a core shouldn’t be only an English speaking core right? Gianvacca worked hard on making this a reality:
mkremaster and liveusb scripts are now i18n-compliant. I rearranged the directory tree to better separate the files needed for mklivecd localisation and the files needed for liveusb localisation. To easily provide translation of the desktop files too, these are not created within the spec file, but generated by intltool taking the information contained in the po files. The only supported languages at the moment are Italian and Hungarian (2 languages our developers speak) . However the po files need to be updated for some refreshed Unity-specific strings.
So the foundation has been laid to provide support and open doors for LiveCD in many other countries for users speaking many different languages.
- LiveCD Image Editing
Imagine a developer making an ISO file and then suddenly realizing they forgot to make some last minute changes. With LiveCD image editing, they could open up the ISO file and make changes to it…they wouldn’t have to rebuild it. Unity Linux developer Onkel Ho is currently working out this ability for LiveCD.
- Lzma Compression Support
Sam-Nico of SAM Linux has been helping out in various areas with Unity Linux as well and he has added in Lzma support for LiveCD. In the past, compression for LiveCD uses gzip. Lzma was patched previously but wasnt’ fully integrated into LiveCD. We’ve worked on making it integrated. By switching to lzma, developers will be able to cram more things into an ISO for everyone. The only downside to lzma compression is that it uses a bit more memory when booting up. Team Unity felt this was a good trade off for most developers…please note that gzip compression has not been removed so distributions like TinyME will still be able to use it.
So, Where’s LiveCD Code?
Anything we work on is available for everyone to see at our corde repository.
Why Didn’t You Just Keep SVN Where it Was at Berlios?
We thought about doing that but it was easier to get all our devs working on things by using our own SVN and not having to setup more user accounts and worry about access. We have plans to setup an external SVN and move the code there ASAP. External could be anywhere…if you have suggestions, please get involved (read below)!
So How Can I Get Involved With Development?
Join the Unity Linux Developers Google Group and let everyone know you want to help out! Currently, our SVN is limited (only commits by Unity Linux developers) but as we move forward with LiveCD development, we’ll be trying to move to an external repository so that more people can work independent from Unity Linux on it. In the meantime, anyone, and we mean anyone (We’re looking at you PCLinuxOS guys and gals!) can join up and help out or even just lurk and give us your opinion on current features, future plans, etc. Thanks for your interest on LiveCD!