Debootstrap (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source, Science, and Nature.

Sun, 06 Apr 2008

Debootstrap

Some time ago, I wished for a simple Linux "Tarball installer", something that could install a minimal install of a Linux distribution onto an existing partition or directory, skipping all the flaky and error-prone hardware-guessing that installers do.

It turns out Debian (and therefore also Ubuntu) has had this for years, and it's totally cool. It's called debootstrap.

Some folks on the #ubuntu+1 channel told me about it, and I found a nice clear howto article on how to use it for Debian. It works just the same for Ubuntu.

First, get the .deb package for the debootstrap you want to use. Here's debootstrap for Ubuntu Hardy Heron. Install it with dpkg -i. Then run it, giving it the name of the system you want to install and the directory (or mounted partition) where you want to install it. Like this: debootstrap hardy /mnt/hda3

That's all! It fetches the files it needs from the online repositories. It takes no time at all -- this really is a minimal system.

Then you need to do some fiddling to turn it into a bootable system. That includes (all paths relative to the newly installed filesystem unless otherwise stated):

Now you're read to reboot into the new system. Of course, since this is a very minimal system, you have a lot more work to do. Hardly anything is installed, and nothing has been configured for you. Some things may be challenging (for example, as I write this, X is installed but most of the fonts aren't showing up properly, which may be a bug in Hardy).

Anyway, you can get a good start by mounting your old system's root directory and copying some starter files from there, starting with these:

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[ 12:54 Apr 06, 2008    More linux/install | permalink to this entry ]