Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

Ubuntu 8.04 W2L edition is getting there

While writing the book “Probleemloos overstappen op Linux” last year, we build a custom version of Ubuntu 7.04 (and later Ubuntu 7.10). The tool of choice was Reconstructor and I was looking forward to using it again for Ubuntu 8.04. Unfortunately, the development of Reconstructor hasn’t progressed enough to support Hardy Heron. What alternatives are
available?

One solution was provided by TheeMahn, the builder of Ubuntu Ultimate Edition. It’s pretty neat and it’s worth looking into. One other tool is UCK, the Ubuntu Customization Kit. It’s a GUI tool, but the interface allows for minimal customization only.

The main problem I have with creating the W2L edition is the fact that installing kubuntu-desktop, edubuntu-desktop, xubuntu-desktop and the ubuntustudio-desktop seriously messes up the interface. In the end I want the vanilla Ubuntu desktop. And it would be nice to clean up the menu, because with all the applications you tend loose sight of what is available.

Enter Remastersys. First off, Remastersys wasn’t created to allow the building of custom Ubuntu disks. The developer is quite adamant about it in the forum, so I’d better mention it here as well. It’s a backup utility with the option to create a distributable version of your desktop, without the personal information.

So, I started with a clean Ubuntu 8.04 install, modified the software repositories to my needs and started installing the packages for the W2L edition. As expected, the UbuntuStudio desktop took over, but it took about ten minutes to re-create the vanilla desktop (I got some coffee during that time as well).

The next problem was the list of kernels. UbuntuStudio comes with the rt-kernel which doesn’t allow for a live boot. I don’t need it for the W2L edition, so out it went. The generic kernel was updated and Remastersys doesn’t seem to like two kernel. The old one had to go as well.

Problem 3 was making sure the changes to the interface would stick. Without intervention Remastersys would build a dvd with the UbuntuStudio desktop as default. The solution was to copy the configuration folders and files to the /etc/skel/ folder. I saw a passing reference to it and dugg a bit deeper. As far as I understand now, the /etc/skel/ folder contains all files and folders that you want for every new user. And it works!

With the look and feel problem out of the way, I am left with a few things. One, Remastersys creates a dvd with it’s own boot screen (GRUB) and not the vanilla Ubuntu option with which you can select your language and keyboard. Second, I now have a dvd without the wubi installer. This needs to be added to the iso. I need to check all the copied files in /etc/skel/ to make sure no personal information is there, but -as far as I can see- that was only minor now.

So, give or take a few days, I should be able to finish Ubuntu 8.04 W2L edition in the first week of July. 😉

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