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Thread: Project: Merging Knoppix and Debian Live to get 64 bit Knoppix derivative?

  1. #1
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    Project: Merging Knoppix and Debian Live to get 64 bit Knoppix derivative?

    Some years ago, I merged Knoppix 6.4.4 and Debian Live to get a pure 64 bit Knoppix version. It was done by a lot of handwork and some guesswork, and 64 bit busybox then had kind of persistent bug preventing it from working quite correctly in 64 bit Knoppix init, but the result worked fine in practice. When I later looked into upgrading this merger, I found that Knoppix and Debian Live had then grown apart, so the perspective was doing an increasing amount of handwork over and over again with each release. For my needs, it has been easier to use standard Knoppix w/64 bit kernel, and on demand occasionally run a pure 64 bit distro.

    Looking into the Debian live init at that time, I simply thought Klaus K's approach was so much better. Therefore, there was never a question for me about the starting point: Standard Knoppix was to be updated with 64 bits Debian. It worked quite well, but it became too hard to repeat.

    Debian Live has moved very far since then, and today I wonder if a better approach might be to "knoppify" Debian Live, swapping its init with a Knoppix derivative. I already routinely use squashfs in Knoppix instead of cloop in remastering, so adapting to the Debian Live environment should be no great problem today.

    Any views on this?

    With an upcoming major Knoppix update, quite a few of us will probably work with remastering, modifying init etc anyway. Therefore, I think it may be worthwhile to consider a 64 bit version at the same time. Unless Klaus K surprises us all with a 64 bit Knoppix version. But I haven't seen any hints of that.

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    Greetings, Capricorny.

    I, for one, would love to see derivative Knoppix material presented
    as part of this forum. I would expect KK himself might be very interested
    in discussions of alternative approaches.

    I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for your
    contributions to this forum's wiki material. I was late in recognizing
    relatively recent contributions to the wiki by Werner & yourself.

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    Would this be a one-off or would you maintain and improve a separate distro? Would you take each successive Knoppix and Debiam Live release and "Re-Knoppify" it or will you do that once and fork off of Knoppix?

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    Quote Originally Posted by dwstarke View Post
    Would this be a one-off or would you maintain and improve a separate distro? Would you take each successive Knoppix and Debiam Live release and "Re-Knoppify" it or will you do that once and fork off of Knoppix?
    I really don't know what may turn out to be practical. If the modifications are mostly made in the init, it should be possible to adapt to new Debian releases fairly simply, as long as they don't make huge changes to the default init setup. In Knoppix, quite a few users have routinely patched the init for different purposes, like using squashfs, and there has usually not been a lot of new challenges with a new release. So, "Re-Knoppification" could at best reduce to a few patches. In which case it can be routinely carried out and patches posted. But it could also involve a lot of work, in which case it might be too much work to carry out with every new release. For me, even, say, a 64 bit "Knoppification" every third release would help a lot, as one can (in many cases) easily run more updated OS versions in VMs. I wouldn't call it a fork in any case, just a modest Knoppix-inspired derivative of Debian Live.

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    First impressions of Debian Live

    After having worked with Debian Live (7.6) LXDE for a short while, I have some initial observations:

    * CD++ sized starting point is much more practical than I thought. A 900 MB squashfs image contains basic system, LibreOffice, Gimp and Iceweasel, in standard Debian versions (that's the basic philosophy) + a few accessories. No bloat, but quite useful out of the box.

    * System setup is awkward, but usable. You can use the "iso/hybrid" image, which can be bare-bones copied onto USB media cp <iso.image> /dev/sdb. Then a read-only iso file system is created, so there is no direct configuration possible. But you can use e.g. gparted to create a partition on the rest of the stick, and set up a persistence loop file, live-rw, there. With boot parameter persistence, this loop image will be union-mounted and used just like knoppix-data.img in Knoppix. You may also use a separate home image.

    * While I have been using and reastering Knoppix for years without an ordinary hard disk install, the methods are geared towards working from such an install. Which is no big deal to make, I use a 12 GB partition, it's more than enough. I ran qemu-kvm from that to setup the USB stick, using apt-get and synaptic in the VM.

    * 64 bits and nobloat makes a bit of a difference - not very much, but it just feels more right. (And I need it for R, Oracle XEand VMware Workstation)

    Debian Live work is very much geared towards making tools, so a partial Knoppification may not be that hard. First step for me will be setting up a complete system, then trying to remaster it.

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    Greetings, Capricorny.

    I was favorably impressed by Debian Live and its CD++ size as noted in
    my prior blurb at:
    http://knoppix.net/forum/threads/310...Debian-LiveUSB
    But, I find Debian Live documentation very obtuse. I don't think I
    would have a clue if it weren't for its similarity to Knoppix.

    As you know, I'm fond of Klaus K's init that allows 'stacking' some
    read-only images (at your own peril, of course). Debian Live doesn't
    have that. If it had the absence of systemd, I might defect to it.
    I don't recall if Debian Live's init is bash-readable like Knoppix;
    I doubt that it is.

    And, I'm not sure any of my apps are 64-bit, except maybe for UEFI
    when using my win8 machine.

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    Yes, utu, I think there is little reason to discuss whether the Knoppix init and overall setup is better than current Debian Live. It's miles ahead. And I don't really understand why the Live guys haven't bothered to pick up more tricks from Klaus K.

    That said, I think Klaus K could do a few things differently, too. First and foremost, it is the bloat problem. When it was difficult or impossible to do extensive new installs and changes on a Knoppix system, the package selection was all-important, and should be as broad as possible. But nowadays, good sized permanent storage and easy standard Debian program installs and updates makes customizations and program-wise updates a breeze, so for lots of serious users, the package selection of Debian Live would be a better starting point for customizations.

    There is also a need for "Debianization" of the Knoppix customizations. I think I know why Klaus K hasn't done much of this, but it would surely make Knoppix less of a one-man venture. I also think it would make debugging life quite a lot easier for Klaus K himself.

    With the very smart 32/64 kernel hybrid solution, Knoppix with the 64 bits kernel in several respects behaves as a 64 bit system, so for instance, with 16 GB RAM, I can run a bunch of virtual machines simultaneously. Therefore, pure 64 bits is mostly for specialized use. But today, that may include image processing, like video editing, RAW photo image development etc. Which can greatly benefit from "pure" 64 bits. So I think Klaus K could support 3(4) versions with relatively little extra work. (Which he also surely could get help with):

    1. Pure 32 bit CD. Every now and then. For backwards compatibility etc. Here standard packages may have to be trimmed down to fit.
    2. Debian Live package selection, 32 and 64 bit. <1000 MB ISO image with LXDE. Bare-bones, explicitly with little support to expect. In fact, I think we may adapt the Debian Live tools for this - that's the 'Knoppification' hopefully to come.
    3. The usual 32 bit hybrid DVD version of today.

    I don't think we should talk about "defection" as long as we must go elsewhere to do things not supported in Knoppix. The question is whether we will come back. I surely hope so.
    Last edited by Capricorny; 11-22-2014 at 11:40 AM.

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    Report of (some kind of) progress with Debian Live

    I am quite a bit relieved to report that I have managed to coerce Debian Live into working quite similarly to a Knoppix Poor Man's Install.
    Which means that I can use it with some degree of efficiency.
    I byte-copied the ISO image onto a USB stick, created an ext2 partition on the rest of that stick, and created a live-rw file image there with an ext2 file system on it. Did some installs on it, it worked quite fine under qemu-kvm (necessarily 64 bit version).

    So far, so good, but what about Poor Man's installs? I copied the /live directory from the ISO file onto a FAT32 partition (/dev/sda1), and the live-rw file onto an ext3 partition (/dev/sda8 ). Then I created a /boot/deb760_live directory on my boot partition (here /dev/sda6), copied vmlinuz and initrd.img from the live-directory there, and modified old legacy grub's menu.lst with an entry for Debian Live:
    Code:
    title Debian 7.6 64 bits live sda1
    root(hd0,5) 
    kernel  (hd0,5)/boot/deb760_live/vmlinuz boot=live config quiet splash  initrd=(hd0,5)/boot/deb760_live/initrd.img persistence  keyboard-layouts=no
    initrd (hd0,5)/boot/deb760_live/initrd.img
    And it worked! Debian complained it didn't find the persistence file at /dev/sda2 as it expected, but got around to mounting it from /dev/sda8 anyway. It passed by a file with the same name at /dev/sda1 - that's fine with me. Documentation says that several such files may be mounted, provided they are in separate directories and have different, compatible, mount points defined.

    One of the great attractions with Knoppix is that you can always do a remastering from the version you use. Debian Live takes an almost diametrically opposite approach, making the creation of new images extremely simple, but with little interest in using them and remastering them - it seems to be more designed as a vehicle for Debian installs. We'll see how this works out.

    The iso-hybrid image doesn't work on USB in many BIOSes, and unetbootin which is recommended as an alternative for creating bootable sticks, crashed for me. So I'll rather work around that, using Knoppix methods, I think.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Capricorny View Post
    One of the great attractions with Knoppix is that you can always do a remastering from the version you use. Debian Live takes an almost diametrically opposite approach, making the creation of new images extremely simple, but with little interest in using them and remastering them - it seems to be more designed as a vehicle for Debian installs.
    I concur in this assessment. Another feature of Knoppix that is unique & valuable, not to be lost in adapting to Debian-Live.

  10. #10
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    Is an iso available? TIA

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