Distributing systems

To distribute your systems, we will create a directory /my/disk containing:

  • your system (in a ramdisk)

  • the Linux kernel

  • the boot-loader files (including its configuration)

A boot-loader is needed as it loads Linux and the ramdisk containing your system. We use Syslinux boot-loader but you can use others such as GRUB. Note that you don’t need a boot-loader when you test your system with QEMU because QEMU acts as a boot-loader itself.

To distribute your systems, you can install the boot-loader on a device (e.g., USB stick) and copy the files in the /my/disk directory on it. Or you can also create a .iso image to burn on a CD-ROM (or to distribute online).

Downloading Syslinux

You first need to download and unpack the Syslinux boot-loader:

wget http://www.kernel.org/pub/linux/utils/boot/syslinux/syslinux-6.03.tar.xz
tar xf syslinux-6.03.tar.xz

Creating the disk directory

You need to execute the following steps to create your disk directory:

Create some directories:

mkdir -p /my/disk/boot/syslinux

Copy Syslinux:

find syslinux-6.03/bios *.c32 -exec cp {} /my/disk/boot/syslinux ;
cp syslinux-6.03/bios/core/isolinux.bin /my/disk/boot/syslinux/

Copy the Linux kernel:

cp linux-4.9.8.bin /my/disk/boot/

Copy the system ramdisk:

cp myimage.img /my/disk/boot/

Finally, we need to configure the boot-loader by creating a file /my/disk/boot/syslinux/syslinux.cfg containing:

UI vesamenu.c32

LABEL main
LINUX  /boot/linux-4.9.8.bin
INITRD /boot/myimage.img
APPEND rdinit="/my/system"

Replace /my/system with the path of your system in the myimage.img ramdisk.

Creating a bootable device

To create a bootable device (e.g., bootable USB stick), you have to know its device path (e.g., /dev/XXX) and the partition that will contain the boot files (e.g., /dev/XXX_N).

You can use fdisk and mkfs.ext3 to create an appropriate partition.

You have to install Syslinux MBR:

sudo dd bs=440 if=syslinux-6.03/bios/mbr/mbr.bin of=/dev/XXX

Then you have to copy the contents of the disk directory on the partition and configure it to be bootable:

sudo mount /dev/XXX_N /mnt/SOMEWHERE
sudo cp -rf /my/disk/* /mnt/SOMEWHERE
sudo syslinux-6.03/bios/extlinux/extlinux --install /mnt/SOMEWHERE/boot/syslinux
sudo umount /mnt/SOMEWHERE

Now your device should be bootable with your system!

Creating a bootable ISO

To create a bootable CD-ROM, you first need to create a .iso disk image with the xorriso utility:

xorriso -as mkisofs
   -R -J                            # use Rock-Ridge/Joliet extensions
   -o mydisk.iso                    # output ISO file
   -c boot/syslinux/boot.cat        # create boot catalog
   -b boot/syslinux/isolinux.bin    # bootable binary file
   -no-emul-boot                    # does not use legacy floppy emulation
   -boot-info-table                 # write additional Boot Info Table (required by SysLinux)
   -boot-load-size 4
   -isohybrid-mbr syslinux-6.03/bios/mbr/isohdpfx_c.bin  # hybrid ISO

It should create a mydisk.iso file that you can burn on a CD or distribute online.