Billix: a Sysadmin's Swiss Army Knife
It's relatively easy to expand Billix to support other Linux distributions, such as Knoppix or the Ubuntu live CDs. Copy the contents of the Billix USB tarball to a directory on your hard disk, and download the distro you want. Copy the necessary kernel and initrd to the directory where you put the contents of the USB tarball, taking care to rename any files if there are files in that directory with the same name. Copy any compressed filesystems that your new distro may use to the USB drive (for example, Knoppix has the KNOPPIX directory, and Puppy Linux uses PUP_XXX.SFS). Then, look at the boot configuration for that distro (it should be in isolinux.cfg). Take the necessary lines out of that file, and put them in the Billix syslinux.cfg file, changing filenames as necessary. Optionally, you can add a menu item to the boot.msg file. Finally, run syslinux -s <device>, and reboot your system to test out your newly expanded Billix.
I have a 2GB USB drive that has a “Super-Billix” installation that includes Knoppix and Ubuntu 8.04. An added bonus of having the entire Ubuntu live CD in your pocket is that, thanks to the speed of USB 2.0, you can install Ubuntu in less than ten minutes, which would be really useful at an installfest. There is good information on creating Ubuntu-bootable USB drives available at the Pendrive Linux Web site.
Alternatively, a really neat thing to do (but way beyond the scope of this article) is to convert Billix into a network-boot (via Pre-Execution Environment, or PXE) environment. I've actually got a VMware virtual machine running Billix as a PXE boot server.
In closing, Billix may not make you coffee in the morning or eradicate Windows from the face of the earth, but having a USB key in your pocket that offers you the functionality to do all of those tasks quickly and easily can make the life of a system administrator (or any Linux-oriented person) much easier.
Billix Project Page: sourceforge.net/projects/billix
Damn Small Linux: www.damnsmalllinux.org
DBAN Project Page: dban.sourceforge.net
Pendrive Linux: www.pendrivelinux.com
U3 Removal Software: www.u3.com/uninstall
Bill Childers is an IT Manager in Silicon Valley, where he lives with his wife and two children. He enjoys Linux far too much, and probably should get more sun from time to time. In his spare time, he does work with the Gilroy Garlic Festival, but he does not smell like garlic.
Bill Childers is the Virtual Editor for Linux Journal. No one really knows what that means.
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