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(?) The Answer Guy (!)

By James T. Dennis, tag@lists.linuxgazette.net
LinuxCare, http://www.linuxcare.com/

(?) How to Create a New Linux Distribution: Why?

From Cesar A. K. Grossmann on Tue, 09 Mar 1999

Hi James, it's me again...

A friend asked me how to build a new Linux CD-based distribuition, but I have only some clues, can you help me?

I have identified some major tasks a future Linux distributor must deal:

  1. Decide how the distribuition will be and what it will have (BSD or SYSV, complete or desktop/server versions, KDE?, GNOME?, NONE?, etc.);
  2. Create a installer/configure script/programm according the first step;
  3. Create the boot/root/rescue disk(s) for the install;
  4. Create the CD structure and image;
  5. Make it work (make/"burn" the disks and test, repeat steps 2 to 5 until it works)!
  6. Create documentation to help installing, and make some money with support;
  7. Endless work, endless happiness...

Did I missed something (or: is this the "New CD Based Linux Distribution HOWTO")? There are any documents at the Internet that can help anyone who wants to make a new Linux CD based distribution?

(!) There is no "HOWTO Create New Distributions" that I know of. That is good.
The most important step that you seem to have missed is to ask: "Why?"
.. Why create a new distribution? Why are the current crop of distributions inadequate to your task? ..
This leads to other logical questions:
What other distributions are out there? What are their weaknesses for your purposes? Could any of them be modified to your needs?
Someone wanted Red Hat Linux with KDE. So we have Mandrake. Someone wanted Slackware with support for RPMs so we have S.u.S.E. Some people didn't want to use RPMs so we have Debian. (Actually the roots and histories of these distributions is far more colorful and involved than I'm implying; but I'm trying to make a point).
Keep in mind that you could start with an existing distribution and create a "installation profile" (S.u.S.E. even allows you to store these on floppy and use them for future installations). With Red Hat's distribution you can create a "KickStart" script which is effectively an installation profile (and installation automation tool).
With Debian you'd have to do more scripting on your own. However it could certainly be done.
Incidentally, you missed one of the chief differences among distributions in your list:
Pick a Package Format
... personally I don't like the Linux penchant for re-inventing wheels. The FreeBSD "ports" (NetBSD "packages") system is rather nice in that it's basically a huge set of Makefiles. These get the "canonical" version of a package and do whatever is necessary to unpack, patch, build and install it. Naturally 'make' handles dependencies.
So, if you really want to make a new distribution and you don't have an over-riding vision for "why" --- think about creating one around this concept.
However, I think we've got enough variations of this wheel for now.

Copyright © 1999, James T. Dennis
Published in The Linux Gazette Issue 39 April 1999

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