Roll Your Own Linux

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2006-08-29 Email Print this article Print

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eWEEK Labs has found two ways for both individuals and enterprises to easily create their own customized Linux distribution.

So you want a Linux that's set up with just the applications you want—no more, no less. What do you do? Well, an expert Linux user does it himself. But not everyone's a Linux legend. For the rest of us, there are two good choices.

There's a low-end personal option:'s free service, SystemDesigner. There's also a high-end corporate choice: rPath's rBuilder.


At, you can create installation disks for CentOS 4.3, Debian 3.1 and 3.2, Red Hat Fedora Core versions 3 through 5, Novell SUSE 9.3 and 10, and Canonical's Ubuntu and Kubuntu 5.10. It doesn't, as you may have noticed, support the latest openSUSE 10.1 or the new Dapper Dan members of the Ubuntu family.

The free, online program lets you design your own Linux system profile. For example, if you want a KDE interface, but not GNOME, for Fedora, you can build it. Once this is done, SystemDesigner creates a network install ISO file. Next, you download and burn this boot image to a CD.

When you boot a system with the CD, the image automatically starts downloading the required files from the Net. And, depending on what options you choose and your Net connection speed, you should have a customized Linux up and running within an hour or two.

As eWEEK Labs found out in its tests, Instalinux can be darn useful.

On the other hand, it only gives you limited control over your build. If you want to get down and dirty with your build. If you want the right mix of virtualization tools, the right libraries for your development team, and your own customized programs all in one perfect fit of a distribution, you want to talk with rPath.

Read the full story on DIY Linux, the Easy Way

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor of's Linux & Open Source Center and Ziff Davis Channel Zone. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.


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