Reconstructor: When You Lose Your Restore CD

I have an original Asus EeePC 701 4G. I've talked about it and written about it before. I tend to like a full operating system on the Eee, and have had several different Linux distributions installed on it. I'm constantly looking for the best mix of form and function. It turns out, however, that my kids really like the original Xandros based operating system that comes with the EeePC. Unfortunately, I lost my original restore DVD that came with the computer. Since it's Linux, you wouldn't think that would be a problem. Unfortunately, it is.

I'm sure Asus has their reasons for not allowing a download of the restore ISO. Perhaps they are under some legal obligation to keep it off the digital shelves. Sadly, I think they've lost one of the more powerful aspects of incorporating a free operating system on their computers. Why not provide an ISO image of the OS installer for download? As it stands now, I can't put Xandros back onto my EeePC. Thankfully, there are alternatives.

One interesting option is to create a custom Ubuntu based distribution. Reconstructor, a project on SourceForge, allows you to start with Ubuntu, and then create a customized operating system that you can install, or even redistribute if you like. (Assuming you don't customize it by adding software that is illegal to redistribute. For those, you'd want to make a script to install them post-install anyway. I suspect if Asus did something like that, they would be able to redistribute their restore CD.)

Some of the things you can customize with reconstructor are:

  • Change the boot image
  • Create a custom Gnome splash screen
  • Change the default desktop background
  • Customize icons on the desktop (like adding a script to install things that can't be redistributed)
  • Enter a chroot environment, to change system settings for the installed base
  • Customized installed packages

Those are some powerful changes, albeit for the most part they're rather superficial. Reconstructor goes even further, however, and gives you a powerful module mechanism so that other users can contribute pre-scripted code to make customization even easier. As of this writing, there are 134 modules available that others have contributed. Some simply add a package to the default install, and others make significant changes to the underlying installable OS.

So if you're like me, and tend to install operating systems all the time, you might want to consider creating a pre-configured Ubuntu distribution. You can customize it to reflect the way you use a computer, and always have a restore CD available. Even if you lose the one that comes with your laptop, like I did.

Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.

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