March 23, 2006

Multiple live CDs in one DVD

Author: Mayank Sharma

Live CDs do a great job of advertising Linux distributions. In addition to general-purpose live CD distributions, there are lots of task-oriented live CDs. Wouldn't it be great if you could carry multiple live CDs on one DVD disc? has put up a script that you can use to make a custom DVD to boot multiple live CDs.

The Nautopia script currently supports Knoppix, Kanotix, Kurumin, Livux, MEPIS, ProMEPIS, Slax, Aurox, BerryLinux, Basilisk, Adios, PCLinuxOS, MandrakeMove, Gnoppix, RiP, SystemRescueCD, Ultimate Boot CD, and INSERT distributions. Grab a couple of live CDs of any of the above listed distributions, download the script, and let's get started.

Exploding the zip archive reveals a shell script named dvd_iso and a directory named dvd wherein lies all the magic. Let's put MandrakeMove, Knoppix, and SystemRescueCD in the DVD. All we need to do is copy the boot-related files, such as initrd.gz, vmlinuz, and isolinux*, into the respective distributions' /dvd/boot/ directories. The rest of the distros' files sits under the /dvd directory or in its own directory under /dvd.

From the MandrakeMove live CD copy the contents of the isolinux directory into the target /dvd/boot/mdkmove. Then copy the rest of the CD to /dvd. Moving on to Knoppix, copy the contents of /isolinux into /dvd/boot/knoppix. Then create a KNOPPIX/ directory under /dvd and copy the contents of the /KNOPPIX directory from the live CD into the newly created /dvd/KNOPPIX. Finally, with SystemRescueCD, copy the contents of /isolinux to /dvd/boot/sysrescd/ and copy the sysrcd.dat file to /dvd.

Once the directories have been prepared, execute the dvd_iso shell script, which simply creates a bootable ISO image, dvd_boot.iso, using mkisofs, and places it in the same directory as the script itself. To test the ISO image you can either burn it onto a DVD or run it through QEMU, a free and fast processor emulator. You can apt-get install qemu, download precompiled packages, or compile it from source.

Upon bootup you will be greeted by a GRUB menu that lists all the distributions supported. Selecting one will take you to that distribution's GRUB menu. Make a selection in this menu and you're off.

Right now the options file of all the distributions are in the developer's native language, Spanish. If you run into any problems or want a little help placing the files in the DVD, refer to the developer's article in Spanish. The author promises an English version soon. Until then, use Google's translation tools.

When you are done playing with one distro, simply restart the computer and select another one from the DVD's GRUB menu.


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