Tiny Core Linux
where yyy is the subdirectory name.
This gives you a really fast basic desktop, which is fine for everyday use. But, what if you want to adjust the distribution for some special case? To figure out how you can personalize it, let's take a step back and look at how Tiny Core is put together and how it works. Then you'll see how to change the system to suit your application.
The core part of the system is stored in a compressed filesystem that gets copied to RAM. Any extra applications are mounted from wherever they are stored as loopback devices, by default. They can be selected to be actually copied to RAM along with the core system, if you prefer. The advantage of this “run from RAM” system is that once the system has finished booting, you can remove the storage media.
In the first case, let's assume you have the system booting from a USB device that you don't need to remove. Then, you have two options on how to set up the system. The first, mount mode, is to create a directory called tce on the USB device. In this directory, you can dump packages for all the applications you want to have available. These then are mounted as loopback devices. You can use a utility called appsaudit to maintain those packages. You have the choice of having those packages mounted at boot time, or you can have them mounted “on demand” (Figure 4). The other option is called copy mode. In copy mode, Tiny Core actually takes the contents of the package files and copies them all into RAM. This costs a bit more in boot time, but then the entire system is, again, running from RAM, so you get the expected speed-up once everything boots. You actually can control which packages are copied into RAM on an individual basis through the configuration file copy2fs.lst. The system can use this file to decide what is copied and what is mounted.
These aren't the only methods available if you want to make a tailored distribution. Because Tiny Core is under the GPL, you can grab the source code and mess around as much as you please. You actually can just remaster the ISO to add in any extra packages you need for your application. In the ISO, there is a gzipped cpio archive named tinycore.gz. This file contains the core filesystem that is mounted in RAM when Tiny Core boots. You can do this work on any Linux box or even from within Tiny Core. If you want to do it in Tiny Core, you need to install a few extra packages before you start: advcomp.tcz and mkisofs-tools.tcz. Once you have all the tools you'll need, you can mount the ISO image:
sudo mount tinycore.iso /mnt -o loop,ro
where /mnt is the directory to which you want to mount. You also need a directory into which you can extract the Tiny Core filesystem, which for this piece, let's call it /temp/extract. To get the files, you need to execute the following:
cp -a /mnt/boot /temp cd /temp/extract zcat /temp/boot/tinycore.gz | sudo cpio -i -H newc -d
Once this command is done, you can go ahead and change files, add new ones or delete others. This way, you can add extra binaries (such as for a point-of-sale application) directly as part of the system. If you want to be able to handle special hardware, where you'll need a new kernel module, you can add it to the filesystem. But, then you'll need to run this:
sudo depmod -b /temp/extract 18.104.22.168-tinycore
You also may need to add new shared libraries to provide support for any new binaries you install. If you do, run this:
sudo ldconfig -r /temp/extract
Once you've finished creating a personalized filesystem for Tiny Core, you need to get it ready to use. The first step is to pack the filesystem back up into a gzipped cpio archive. Run the commands:
cd /temp/extract find | sudo cpio -o -H newc | ↪gzip -2 > /temp/tinycore.gz cd .. advdef -z4 tinycore.gz
This will give you a brand-spanking-new core file. If you are using a system other than a CD from which to boot (like some form of hard drive), you simply need to copy tinycore.gz and the kernel to that device.
If you want to create a new ISO image that you can use over and over again, execute the following commands:
cd /temp mv tinycore.gz boot mkdir newiso mv boot newiso mkisofs -l -J -R -V TC-custom -no-emul-boot \ -boot-load-size 4 -boot-info-table \ -b boot/isolinux/isolinux.bin \ -c boot/isolinux/boot.cat -o TC-remastered.iso newiso rm -rf newiso
You now have a nice new ISO that you can put to work.
This kind of task happens often enough that the Tiny Core team has put together a GUI application that helps simplify these steps called ezremaster. Install it using the AppBrowser. This way, all the required dependencies also will be installed. You also need either to have the ISO available or a CD mounted. Once you've done all of these steps, open up a terminal and run ezremaster from the command line, and you should see what's shown in Figure 5. Here you can point it to the locations it needs, and you should end up with what's shown in Figure 6. From there, you can set all kinds of options to customize your ISO image. The sections available are:
Display settings and mydata.tgz backup.
Security settings and users.
Which services would you like enabled?
Window manager, core elements and Xorg settings.
ISOLINUX settings and 64-bit kernel.
Startup and shutdown scripts.
Once you have finished all of these steps, move on to “Remaster step #1”, where the filesystem for the new ISO is created. Once that step is done, move on to the last step, “Remaster step #2”, where the actual ISO image is created. It ends up in the temporary directory you defined in the first screen. Now you're ready to deploy your awesome customized Linux on the world.
Be sure to check out the Tiny Core Web site and Wiki for more information (www.tinycorelinux.com). There is also a very active forum at the main site where people always are happy to answer questions. Hopefully, this project can give you a quick start for generating your own custom distributions for your smaller projects.
When Joey Bernard isn't debugging scientific code or sorting out problems on the clusters at the university, he's working on refinishing furniture or playing with his boys in the backyard. He might call himself a renaissance man, but that sounds a little too presumptuous. Just call him a well-rounded geek.
Joey Bernard has a background in both physics and computer science. This serves him well in his day job as a computational research consultant at the University of New Brunswick. He also teaches computational physics and parallel programming.
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