Building Your Own Live CD
The CD-ROM is read-only, and a ramdisk goes away when the power is turned off. People want to save their files, though, or even have access to the files they've created already on existing hard disks or on removable devices, including USB keychains and Zip drives. Again, most of the hard work has been done for us; this time hotplug and autofs are our saviours.
Hotplug listens for new devices being added or removed. When it sees a new USB storage device, it loads any necessary modules and creates an emulated SCSI host. We still need to know what devices are available and mount them, and that's where autofs comes in.
autofs mounts and unmounts filesystems on demand. Using a program map, we can have a Perl script run whenever the user asks for /media/list; it creates a directory with links named after the attached devices. These links point to more autofs mount points to access the filesystems. In the tarball, look at target/etc/auto.master and target/usr/local/sbin/autofs-device-list.
We use basically the same kernel configuration as Knoppix (look at /usr/src/linux/.config in a running Knoppix system, or kernel-config in our tarball), but we remove support for a few obviously unused things, such as ZISOFS. The standard Debian make-kpkg tool patches, builds and installs the kernel. This is a Debian dependency on the host system (you need the cloop-src package), and as it's probably the only nontrivial such dependency, it might be worth moving into the chroot in a later version.
Most of a UNIX filesystem is happy mounted read-only, but we do need to write files in some places. For example, the X server configuration file needs to be written at boot time according to the hardware in use, the debconf database must be updated and there are various log and lock files too.
We use the tmpfs filesystem to create a RAM-based filesystem. The system is arranged to use this ramdisk for root and expect the cloop image on /ro. Then for read-only directories, we create symlinks, for example, from /usr to /ro/usr.
We keep a list of read-only directories, and we check it twice. First, we create a tarball of the system that excludes all these directories, replacing them with appropriate symlinks. This tarball then is copied into the root filesystem of the running system. Second, when we're writing out the ISO9660 image to be cloop-compressed, this is the list of directories to include.
Before the system proper starts up, there are two important things we must do. First, we need to mount the cloop image, load whatever modules the CD-ROM needs, then find and mount the CD. Next, we install the cloop device and mount the inner filesystem on it. Second, we create a ramdisk for the root filesystem and copy the root_fs.tgz image from the CD into it.
We use the initrd (initial ramdisk) support to create a mini root filesystem that the kernel mounts and runs before the real init starts. This is a gzipped filesystem. When a kernel with initrd support is booted with the command line initrd=filename, it loads the contents of that filename and creates a ramdisk out of it. It then starts running the /linuxrc file in that ramdisk.
When linuxrc has finished, it uses the pivot_root call to change onto the real root directory, which was /ramdisk, and executes the real init.
The initrd and the kernel together need to be small enough to fit in 1.44MB of RAM with all the other files on the boot image. This is not a lot of space, as GNU libc alone is about 1,200K, we're going to have to be pretty creative.
Even if you've never wanted a Linux PDA or an in-car MP3 jukebox, you now have a reason to be grateful to embedded Linux hackers. We're going to use Busybox and dietlibc to get our quart into the proverbial pint pot. Busybox is a small shell that can be configured at build time to include many common utilities as built-ins, and dietlibc is an alternative C library optimized for small size. By happy coincidence there turns out to be a Busybox applet for everything we need on the initrd, and by statically linking with dietlibc we can get all this into about 100K. For comparison, the same Busybox options statically linked against glibc get a 500K executable.
Applets for Busybox are enabled using #defines in its Config.h file (in the tarball). Some of the disabled options may seem rather arbitrary, but when you already have a choice of echo * and tar cvf /dev/null to list the current directory, ls really is a luxury.
We create the initrd using genext2fs, avoiding the need for a loopback mount. This generates an ext2 filesystem from a directory tree, which we gzip and copy into the boot floppy image (Figure 1).
|Updates from LinuxCon and ContainerCon, Toronto, August 2016||Aug 23, 2016|
|NVMe over Fabrics Support Coming to the Linux 4.8 Kernel||Aug 22, 2016|
|What I Wish I’d Known When I Was an Embedded Linux Newbie||Aug 18, 2016|
|Pandas||Aug 17, 2016|
|Juniper Systems' Geode||Aug 16, 2016|
|Analyzing Data||Aug 15, 2016|
- Updates from LinuxCon and ContainerCon, Toronto, August 2016
- What I Wish I’d Known When I Was an Embedded Linux Newbie
- NVMe over Fabrics Support Coming to the Linux 4.8 Kernel
- Download "Linux Management with Red Hat Satellite: Measuring Business Impact and ROI"
- New Version of GParted
- All about printf
- Tor 0.2.8.6 Is Released
- Returning Values from Bash Functions
- Better Cloud Storage with ownCloud 9.1
With all the industry talk about the benefits of Linux on Power and all the performance advantages offered by its open architecture, you may be considering a move in that direction. If you are thinking about analytics, big data and cloud computing, you would be right to evaluate Power. The idea of using commodity x86 hardware and replacing it every three years is an outdated cost model. It doesn’t consider the total cost of ownership, and it doesn’t consider the advantage of real processing power, high-availability and multithreading like a demon.
This ebook takes a look at some of the practical applications of the Linux on Power platform and ways you might bring all the performance power of this open architecture to bear for your organization. There are no smoke and mirrors here—just hard, cold, empirical evidence provided by independent sources. I also consider some innovative ways Linux on Power will be used in the future.Get the Guide