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I need a linux distribution which is modular and configurable. For instance I need a kernel with special touch screen support. Other than that there are only a few apps which should be installed. Therefore I want to be able to configure which packages are to be installed. Gnome as the standard desktop environment would be a bonus. It should be able to start from an USB stick and have a installation tool which I could use to install it to the harddrive. I want to be able to run the build of the distro unattended.

Is there a distro which fullfills all those requirements?

The only (life) distribution I have experience with is Knoppix, but remastering is very time-consuming, not unattended, and not quite modular.

Update: Maybe I should be a bit clearer. I need a customizable distribution. I want to be able to, lets say check a few boxes which software should be installed, click a button and 15 min later I have my image which I could copy on a USB stick.

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In regards to your update, I don't really think such a distribution exists (where you just check a few boxes and you get everything you want). And the ones that do won't give you the customizability you want. So just like a few people have said, spending some time with something like archlinux will give you the most bang for the buck. –  thebrokencube Jul 8 '09 at 7:04

9 Answers 9

up vote 2 down vote accepted

You could have a look at rPath Linux. There's this rBuilder service which allows for building custom distros. It sounds like they are mainly presenting themselves as a virtual appliance building platform, but you may be able to use the result on real hardware as well.

I haven't had a chance to work with rPath myself, but perhaps it will suit your needs.

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This is very much in the line what I was looking for, although I was looking for a free alternative. –  Mauli Oct 13 '09 at 8:24

Gentoo Linux is the best solution in this case

  • both easy GUI (using Gentoo LiveCD) and manual installation (using almost any Linux live CD with kernel 2.6.xx) are available
  • many configuration tools have GUI frontends (profuse ufed)
  • official installation disk is Live CD by itself, but you can create your own anyway
  • it can be installed on flashdrive
  • you can use it with generic kernel or configure kernel how ever do you want
  • it available on almost all platforms
  • it doesn't depends on gnome or kde (but they can be dependencies anyway (if you want konqueror for example) :)
  • you can take advantage of your latest CPU or use it with legacy hardware just by modifying CFLAGS to athlon-xp or Pentium or whatever do you have. (It worked on my Pentium 155 this year (With jwm as window manager) and now works no Duron 600 with latest Open Office which runs prety smoothly. And it will use features of latest CPUs)

So you do not depend on any window manager or desktop environment like with Ubuntu Kubuntu and other wateveruntu

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Just in case some folks are very new to Linux, all of these features can be found in all versions of Linux. Gentoo prides itself on forming the local installation around the exact host (CFLAGS for instance). I just want to get the word out that there's MANY worthy products for this. Excellent write up Bolotov. –  bobby Jun 5 '09 at 18:49

I want to be able to, lets say check a few boxes which software should be installed, click a button and 15 min later I have my image which I could copy on a USB stick.

Slax. The build-a-distribution feature you desire is the third icon along on the project's main web page.

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If you want massive flexibility (but time consuming) I'd recommend you use a distro such as Arch or Gentoo. I'm not 100% sure, but I can't see any reason you couldnt run these from a USB drive.

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Arch Linux will be less time consuming than Gentoo. Don't get me wrong, I like them both, but Arch is usually less hassle than Gentoo. Please note: Arch is only for i686 or x86_64, if you want other architectures, go with Gentoo. –  Gert M May 5 '09 at 10:10

"only a few apps" and "Gnome" is a contradiction in terms. Also, installing extra software doesn't really mean modular. Pretty much any distro can do what you want, sounds like a better question would be which distro is the easiest to do that.

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Not true. Gnome-light only contains the Desktop Environment, window mangleageger and maybe Natuilus. –  Kent Fredric May 8 '09 at 7:48

Archlinux is the closest to what you are looking for.

However you will need to do more than just "tick a few boxes", but the build will be relatively painless, very lightweight and easy to script for repeatability.

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It sounds like you're over thinking Linux. Any Linux distribution allows for a customized kernel, that's the point (and one of many powerful features) of Linux. You should install any of the big name Linux distros with a package system and be good to go. For instance in Fedora ( http://www.fedoraproject.org ) you can simply select Add/Remove Software and select a "collection" like Developer Libraries and it installs the proper packages.

If you want specialized support, you have it at your fingertips!

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Maybe Suse Studio is something for you. You can modificate distro's online, and download the image when you're done. Link to Suse Studio

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SLAX is exactly as you describe. It's based on Slackware Linux

This is what you want. You build your own custom open source operating system by scrolling or searching through the site for the modules you want...check the box next to the ones you want and when you've finished your selection select "BUILD"(choose your boot platform,ie. Live Cd or Live USB) and your done. The basic system without extra modules is very small...less than 100mb. Two others are similar...Puppy Linux and Damn Small Linux(DSL for short). These two can be very small distros'...some people report a complete operating system with KDE or even Gnome under 50mb. I have built several of these from Slax, Puppy and DSL where each was customized for the computer at hand.

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