Live Remastering

The primary purpose of live remastering is to make it as safe, easy, and convenient as possible for users to make their own customized version of antiX. The idea is that you use a LiveUSB or a LiveHD (a frugal install to a hard drive partition) as the development and testing environment. Add or subtract packages and then when you are ready to remaster, use use a simple remaster script or GUI to do the remaster and then reboot. If something goes horribly wrong, simply reboot again with the rollback option and you will boot into the previous environment.

If you are using a LiveUSB then the LiveUSB is your target system. You can use it to install your customized version of antiX on other systems. If you are using a LiveHD then you will need to create a LiveUSB or a LiveCD from the LiveHD in order to install elsewhere.

Note for Developers

There is a need for easy GUI programs to do the live remastering and to create a LiveCD image from a remastered LiveHD/USB.

System Requirements

There are three simple and straightforward system requirements that are needed to perform live remastering:

  • The boot device must be writable

  • The boot device must have enough free space to create a new linuxfs file

  • The development system must have been created using a "frugal install", not a fromiso install

In other words, the development system must be booted using a linuxfs file that is on a writable device that has enough free space to create a new linuxfs file.

How it Works

In order to perform a live remaster, you just need to create the new linuxfs file in the same directory as the existing linuxfs file with the ".new" extension added. On the next boot, before the linuxfs file is mounted, the following commands are (in essence) performed in the directory containing the linuxfs file:

# mv linuxfs linuxfs.old
# mv linuxfs

If the new linuxfs file makes the system unbootable then the rollback boot code should be used. It can either be added manually by the user or their can be another Grub menu entry that contains the rollback option. In this case the following two commands are (in essence) performed in the directory containing the linuxfs file:

# mv linuxfs linuxfs.bad
# mv linuxfs.old linuxfs

This reverse the previous actions except the file that was originally called is now called linuxfs.bad. If you use the sqname or sqext options to change the name of the linuxfs file then these names are used instead of linuxfs. For example if you boot with sqext=e16 then we look for a file called etc.

Remastering Plus Persistence

A persistent home or a persistent can useful if you are doing remastering. A persistent home is a handy place to hold your development environment if you don’t want that environment to end up in your remaster. A persistent root is a handy way to save changes between reboots without having to go to the bother of doing a full remaster. In a mountain climbing analogy, you can think of the persistent root as a piton (or a spring loaded camming device) while remastering is setting up a new campsite or bivouac.

Live Remaster Boot Options

There are only two live remaster boot option because live remastering is almost entirely handled by a script or GUI. The only two option are to prevent live remastering and to rollback live remastering in case something goes horribly wrong.


don’t remaster even when a file is found


return to previous version after a failed remaster

Details for Developers

At its core, live remastering can be done with a single, simple command:

# mklinuxfs /aufs -e tmp var/tmp var/log

Almost all of the work is in the details of using the right linuxfs file in the right directory on the right device, making sure that device is mounted and is writable, and finally, making sure there is enough free space on the device to create the new linuxfs files.

The Devil’s in the Details

To make writing live remaster programs as easy as possible, the linuxrc script generates a remaster.conf file in the /live-config directory whenever remastering is possible. This usually means that the boot device is writable and we didn’t boot fromiso. In addition, this file contains all the details you need to do a live remaster. Here is an example:

Example /live-config/remaster.conf file



Here is a bare-bones shell script to do remastering. It is not intended to be used (although it should work), it is meant as a simple example to demonstrate the required steps, namely:

  • read config file or exit if file does not exit

  • mount the boot device unless it is already mounted

  • remount it read-write if it is not already

  • create the new linuxfs file

In practice, more error checking should be performed, more verbose output should be available and devices that were mounted should be unmounted, etc. Programs should probably ask if the user wants to reboot after the new linuxfs file was created.



#--- Read variables from conf_file
[-f $conf_file ] || exit
source $conf_file

#--- Mount device holding linuxfs if needed
mountpoint -q $BOOT_MP || mount $BOOT_DEV $BOOT_MP

#--- remount read-write if needed
mnt_opts=$(grep "^$BOOT_DEV " /proc/mounts | cut -d" " -f4)
case ",$mnt_opts," in
    ,rw,) ;;
       *) mount -o remount,rw $BOOT_MP;;

#--- create the new linuxfs file
mklinuxfs $AUFS_MP $ -e tmp var/tmp var/log

Remastering Plus Persistence Redux

What follows is not yet implemented.

There is a potential problem when combining remastering with root persistence: the rootfs needs to be cleared when a remastered linuxfs is used and if the linuxfs is rolled back then the rootfs file system needs to be restored. Therefore, if root persistence is enabled when a linuxfs remastering takes place then we also:

# mv rootfs rootfs.old
# mv rootfs

If no file exists, then we make an empty file called rootfs. Likewise, if root persistence is enabled when a rollback happens then we:

# mv rootfs rootfs.old
# mv rootfs.old rootfs
Note for Developers

If persist root is enabled when you make a for remastering then you should also make a containing an empty file system. This will ensure root persistence continuity.

Rolling Back and Version Management

The linuxrc script offers crude emergency rollback option but that doesn’t mean the remastering script can’t do rollbacks as well. It’s best to think of the remaster script as being in control and the linuxrc script offering a service: to replace the linuxfs file with If the linuxrc script has just performed a remaster or a rollback, this will be reported in the /live-config/remaster.conf file. But that is not 100% reliable since it is possible that another reboot as occurred before the remaster script has been run. What is reliable (or at least much more reliable) is the existence of the files: linuxfs.old or linuxfs.bad.

Generally, a full-featured live-remaster program will use the existence of one of these files as an indication of either a successful remaster or a rollback. The script should then "do something" with these files so that it does not keep thinking a remaster or rollback just occurred.

If a user performs several remasters with or without rollbacks, it will be very easy to lose track of which version is which. An easy way around this problem is to use symlinks for all the linuxfs files, possibly including the first. When creating a new LiveUSB, you can name the linuxfs file linuxfs.00 and create a linuxfs symlink that points to it:

    linuxfs --> linuxfs.00

When it is time to do the first remaster, the new linuxfs file can be called linuxfs.01 with a symlink pointing to it called --> linuxfs.01

You can easily tell which version of linuxfs is being used by looking at the extension of the file the linuxfs symlink points to. For example:

$  basename $(readlink -f $SQFILE_FULL) | sed 's/.*\.\([0-9]\+\)$/\1/'

Interactions with Persistent Root

Estimating the Size of a New Linuxfs File

Since making a new linuxfs file can consume time and resources it is important to not start the process when we know there is not enough room on the device to complete it. In other words, we need to estimate how much the file system will get compressed. If past performance is indicative of future results then we can look at the compression ratios for the linuxfs files distribution in the standard antiX ISO files:

antiX System

Linuxfs Size

Actual Size


12 core




12 base




12 full




The ratios are all within 10% of 0.41. I’d suggest using a safety margin of 10 Meg + 10% but even this might not suffice if, for example, a lot of compressed media files or large amounts of pseudo-random data are stored. For those cases the compression ratio will be close to 1.0 and might even exceed 1.0 due to overhead.

You can get an accurate measure of home much space the uncompressed file system takes up with the du command applied to the AUFS mount point:

# du -sm /aufs | cut -f1

This says the file system takes up 892 Meg. The estimate for the linuxfs file would be 892 * .45 + 10 = 407 Meg.

It should be much faster to just look at the size of what is used in the RAM part of the AUFS and then add this to the size of the existing linuxfs file:

# du -sm /aufs-ram | cut -f1
# du -sm /boot-dev/antiX-12/linuxfs | cut -f1

This is faster and it is also provides a more conservative estimate. For example, if the user has deleted a bunch of packages then the size of the new linuxfs file will be smaller than the size of the orignal but this estimate will always say the new linuxfs file will be larger than the original.

In the example above the RAM part of the AUFS file system takes up 23 Meg and the original linuxfs file takes 354 Meg. The estimate for the size of the new linuxfs file is 354 + 23 * .45 + 10 = 374. This is smaller than the previous estimate because of the safety margins. If you remove those then the two estimates agree with within 1%.