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grml-live - build framework based on FAI for generating a Grml and Debian based
Linux Live system (CD/ISO)
grml-live [-a <architecture>] [-c <classe[s]>] [-C <configfile>] [
-e <extract_iso_name>] [-g <grml_name>] [-i <iso_name>] [
-o <output_directory>] [-r <release_name>] [-s <suite>] [
-t <template_directory>] [-v <version_number>] [-U <username>] [
grml-live provides the build system for creating a Grml and Debian based Linux
Live-CD. The build system is based on
link:[FAI] (Fully Automatic
Installation). grml-live uses the "fai dirinstall" feature to generate a chroot
system based on the class concept of FAI (see later sections for further
details) and provides the framework to be able to generate a full-featured ISO.
It does not use all the FAI features by default though and you don't have to
know FAI to be able to use it.
The use of FAI gives you the flexibility to choose the packages you would like
to include on your very own Linux Live-CD without having to deal with all the
details of a build process.
CAUTION: grml-live does **not** use /etc/fai for configuration but instead
provides and uses ${GRML_FAI_CONFIG} which is pointing to /etc/grml/fai by default
(unless overridden using the ''-D'' option). This ensures that it does not clash
with default FAI configuration and packages, so you can use grml-live and FAI
completely independent at the same time!
Please notice that you should have a fast network connection as all the Debian
packages will be downloaded and installed via network. If you want to use a
local mirror (strongly recommended if you plan to use grml-live more than once)
checkout mkdebmirror (see /usr/share/doc/grml-live/examples/mkdebmirror),
debmirror(1), reprepro(1) (see /usr/share/doc/grml-live/examples/reprepro/ for a
sample configuration), apt-cacher(1) and approx(8). To avoid downloading the
base system again and again check out <<create-a-base-tgz,the base tar.gz
Clean up all output directories before running the build process. After finishing,
clean up the Chroot target and Build target directories.
Use the specified architecture instead of the currently running one. This
allows building a 32bit system on a 64bit host (though you can't build a 64bit
system on a 32bit system/kernel of course). Please notice that real
crosscompiling (like building a ppc system on x86) isn't possible due to the
nature and the need of working in a chroot. Currently supported values: i386
and amd64.
Build the ISO without updating the chroot via FAI. This option is useful for
example when working on stable releases: if you have a working base
system/chroot and do not want to execute any further updates (via "-u" option)
but intend to only build the ISO.
Build the ISO without touching the chroot at all. This option is useful if
you modified anything that FAI or grml-live might adjust via Grml's FAI
scripts. It's like the '-b' option but even more advanced. Use only if you
really know that you do not want to update the chroot.
-c **CLASSES**::
Specify the CLASSES to be used for building the ISO via FAI. By default only
the classes GRMLBASE, GRML_FULL and I386/AMD64 (depending on system
architecture) are assumed, resulting in a base system of about 350MB
total ISO size. If using a non-I386 system (like AMD64) you should specify the
appropriate architecture as well. Additionally you can specify a class providing
a grml-kernel (see <<classes,the 'CLASSES' section in this document>> for
details about available classes). So instead of GRML_FULL you can also use
All class names should be written in uppercase letters. Do not use a dash, use
an underscore. So do not use "amd64" but "AMD64", do not use "FOO BAR" but
The specified file is used as configuration file for grml-live. By default
/etc/grml/grml-live.conf is used as default configuration. If a file named
/etc/grml/grml-live.local exists it is used as well (sourced after reading
/etc/grml/grml-live.conf meant as main file for local configuration). As a last
option the specified configuration file is sourced so it is possible to override
settings of /etc/grml/grml-live.conf as well as of /etc/grml/grml-live.local.
Please notice that all configuration files have to be adjusted during execution
of grml-live, so please make sure you use /etc/grml/grml-live.conf as a base for
your own configuration file (usually /etc/grml/grml-live.local). Please also
notice that the configuration file specified via this option is **not** (yet)
supported inside the scripts/hooks/classes at ${GRML_FAI_CONFIG}/config. Instead use
/etc/grml/grml-live.local for configuration stuff used inside
-d **DATE**::
Use specified date as build date information on the ISO instead of the default.
The default is the date when grml-live is being executed (retrieved via
executing 'date +%Y-%m-%d'). The information is stored inside the file
/GRML/grml-version on the ISO, /etc/grml_version in the squashfs file and in all
the bootsplash related files. This option is useful if you want to provide an
ISO with release information for a specific date but have to build it in
advance. Usage example: '-d 2009-10-30'
The specified directory is used as configuration directory for grml-live and its
FAI. By default /etc/grml/fai is used as default configuration directory. If
you want to have different configuration scripts, package definitions, etc. with
without messing with the global configuration under /etc/grml/fai provided by
grml-live this option provides you the option to use your own configuration
directory. This directory is what's being referred to as ${GRML_FAI_CONFIG}
throughout this documentation.
The squashfs inside the specified ISO will be extracted and used as the chroot.
This option is useful for remastering, in combination with -A and -b or -u.
Force execution and do not prompt for acknowledgment of configuration.
-g **GRML_NAME**::
Set the grml flavour name. Common usage examples: grml, grml-small, grml64.
Please do NOT use blanks and any special characters like '/', ';' inside
GRML_NAME, otherwise you might notice problems while booting.
Display short usage information and exit.
-i **ISO_NAME**::
Specify name of ISO which will be available inside $OUTPUT_DIRECTORY/grml_isos
by default.
Specify name of source directory which provides files that should become part of
the chroot/ISO. Not enabled by default. Note: the files are installed under '/'
in the chroot so you have to create the rootfs structure on your own.
Skip creation of the ISO file. This option is useful if you want to build/update
the chroot and/or recreate the squashfs file without building an ISO file.
Bootstrap the chroot without building bootloader, squashfs, or finalizing the
ISO. Use this option if installation of some packages fails, you want to run
custom commands or similar.
The main use of this option is to save time by skipping stages which aren't
necessary for bootstrapping the chroot and which would get executed more than
once when iterating through the initial bootstrapping.
Alternatively, use this option as a test run of grml-live. Once you are
satisfied with the state of your grml_chroot, use grml-live **-u** to build the
remaining stages and finalize the ISO.
Main output directory of the build process of FAI. Some directories are created
inside this target directory, being: grml_cd (where the files for creating the
ISO are located, including the compressed squashfs file), grml_chroot (the
chroot system) and grml_isos (where the resulting ISO is stored).
Build the ISO without (re-)creating the squashfs compressed file using mksquashfs.
This option is useful if you just want to update parts outside the chroot in the ISO.
Consider combining this option with the build-only option '-b'.
Build the ISO without generating a netboot package.
Specify name of the release.
-s **SUITE**::
Specify the Debian suite you want to use for your live-system. If unset defaults
to "testing". Supported values are: stable, testing, unstable (or their
corresponding release names like "jessie"). Please be aware that recent Debian
suites might require a recent base.tgz
(${GRML_FAI_CONFIG}/config/basefiles/$CLASSNAME.tar.gz) or a recent version of
Specify place of the templates used for building the ISO. By default
(and if not manually specified) this is /usr/share/grml-live/templates/.
Update existing chroot instead of rebuilding it from scratch. This option is
based on the softupdate feature of FAI.
Sets ownership of all build output files to specified username before exiting.
Specify version number of the release.
Increase verbosity in the build process.
Use ZLIB instead of LZMA/XZ compression in mksquashfs part of the build process.
Usage examples
To get a Debian-stable and Grml-based Live-CD using /grml/grml-live
as build and output directory just run:
# grml-live
To get a 64bit Debian-testing and grml-small based Live-CD using /srv/grml-live
as build and output directory use the following command line on your amd64
# grml-live -s testing -c GRMLBASE,GRML_SMALL,AMD64 -o /srv/grml-live
If you have enough RAM, just run "mount -t tmpfs none /media/ramdisk" to get a
tmpfs ("RAMDISK"), and use /media/ramdisk as build and output directory - this
results in a very fast build process. Note that these files will be gone when
Main features of grml-live
* create a Grml-/Debian-based Linux Live-CD with one single command
* class based concept, providing a maximum of flexibility
* supports integration of own hooks, scripts and configuration
* supports use and integration of own Software and/or Kernels via simple use of
Debian repositories
* native support of FAI features
The class concept
grml-live uses FAI and its class based concept for adjusting configuration and
setup according to your needs. This gives you flexibility and strength without
losing the simplicity in the build process.
The main and base class provided by grml-live is named GRMLBASE. It's strongly
recommended to **always** use the class GRMLBASE when building an ISO using
grml-live, as well as the architecture dependent class which provides the kernel
(being 'I386' for x86_32 and 'AMD64' for x86_64) and a GRML_* class (like
GRML_SMALL or GRML_FULL). The following files and directories are
relevant for class GRMLBASE by default:
Take a look at the next section for information about the concept of those
If you want to use your own configuration, extend an existing configuration
and/or add additional packages to your ISO just invent a new class (or extend an
existing one). For example if you want to use your own class named "FOOBAR" just
set CLASSES="GRMLBASE,GRML_SMALL,AMD64,FOOBAR" inside /etc/grml/grml-live.local
or invoke grml-live using the classes option: "grml-live -c
More details regarding the class concept can be found in the documentation of
FAI itself (being available at /usr/share/doc/fai-doc/).
Available classes
The package selection part of the classes can be found in
${GRML_FAI_CONFIG}/config/package_config whereas some further classes are defined for
example in ${GRML_FAI_CONFIG}/config/scripts/ so specific feature sets can be
selected. The following classes are predefined:
* DEBORPHAN: get rid of all packages listed in output of deborphan
* FRESHCLAM: execute freshclam (if it's present) to update clamav definitions
(increases resulting ISO size ~70MB). By default it's skipped to avoid bigger
ISO size.
* GRMLBASE: the main class responsible for getting a minimal subset of what's
defining a Grml system. Important parts of the buildprocess are specified in
this class as well, so unless you have a really good reason you should always
use this class.
* GRML_FULL: full featured Grml, also known as the "normal", full grml as
introduced in December 2011 (~460MB ISO size).
* GRML_SMALL: minimum sized Grml version, known as grml-small (~230MB ISO
* LATEX: LaTeX(-related) packages like auctex, texlive,...
(which used to be shipped by grml before the LaTeX removal)
* LATEX_CLEANUP: get rid of several very large LaTeX directories
(like some /usr/share/doc/texlive-*, /usr/share/doc/texmf,...)
* LOCALES: use full featured locales setup (see /etc/locale.gen.grml). This
avoids to get rid of /usr/share/locale - which happens by default otherwise - as
* NO_ONLINE: do not run scripts during the chroot build process which require a
network connection
* RELEASE: run some specific scripts and commands to provide the workflow for an
official grml release
* REMOVE_DOCS: get rid of documentation directories (like /usr/share/doc,
/usr/share/man/, /usr/share/info,...)
* SOURCES: retrieve Debian source packages after installation. Files will be
placed in the output directory under grml_sources.
* XORG: providing important packages for use with a base grml-featured
Notice that grml-live ships FAI configuration files that do not use the same
namespace as the FAI packages itself. This ensures that grml-live does not clash
with your usual FAI configuration, so instead of /etc/fai/fai.conf (package
fai-client) grml uses ${GRML_FAI_CONFIG}/fai.conf instead. For more details see
below. To get an idea how another configuration or example files could look like
check out /usr/share/doc/fai-doc/examples/simple/ (provided by Debian package
fai-doc). Furthermore /usr/share/doc/fai-doc/fai-guide.html/ch-config.html
provides documentation regarding configuration possibilities.
Script for the main build process. Requires root permissions for execution.
Main configuration file for grml-live which should be considered as a reference
configuration file only. Please use /etc/grml/grml-live.local for local
configuration instead.
All the local configuration should go to this file. This file overrides any
defaults of grml-live. Configurations via /etc/grml/grml-live.local are preferred
over the ones from /etc/grml/grml-live.conf. If you want to override settings
from /etc/grml/grml-live.local as well you have to specify them on the grml-live
Main configuration file for FAI which specifies where all the configuration
files and scripts for FAI/grml-live can be found. By default the configuration
variables are FAI_CONFIG_SRC=file:///etc/grml/fai/config and
GRML_FAI_CONFIG=/etc/grml/fai/config - both pointing to a directory shipped by
grml-live out-of-the-box so you shouldn't have to configure anything in this
The main directory for configuration of FAI/grml-live. More details below.
This directory contains files which specify main configuration variables for the
FAI classes.
This directory provides the files for preseeding/configuration of debconf
through files.
This directory provides files for customising the build process through hooks.
Hooks are user defined programs or scripts, which are called during the
installation process.
Directory with lists of software packages to be installed or removed. The
different classes describe what should find its way to your ISO. When running
"grml-live -c GRMLBASE,GRML_SMALL,AMD64 ..." only the configuration of GRMLBASE,
GRML_SMALL and and AMD64 will be taken. If you use 'grml-live -c
AMD64 **plus** the files from FOOBAR will be taken. So just create a new class to
adjust the package selection according to your needs. Please notice that the
directory GRMLBASE contains a package list defining a minimum but still
reasonable package configuration.
Scripts for customising the ISO within the build process.
This directory provides the files used for building the initramfs/initrd via
Available log files
Starting with grml-live version 0.17.0 you should find log files in a directory
named 'grml_logs' in the output directory (next to grml_isos, grml_chroot,...).
grml-live versions before 0.17.0 used to log into /var/log/grml-live.log
and /var/log/fai/grml.
Requirements for the build system
* any Debian based system should be sufficient (if it doesn't work it's a bug,
please send us a bug report then). Check out <<deploy-on-debian,How do I deploy
grml-live on a plain Debian installation>> for details how to set up grml-live
on a plain, original Debian system.
* enough free disk space; at least 800MB are required for a minimal grml-live
run (\~400MB for the chroot [$CHROOT_OUTPUT], \~150MB for the build target
[$BUILD_OUTPUT] and \~150MB for the resulting ISO [$ISO_OUTPUT] plus some
temporary files), if you plan to use GRML_FULL you should have at least 4GB of
total free disk space
* fast network access for retrieving the Debian packages used for creating the
chroot (check out "local mirror" to workaround this problem as far as possible)
For further information see next section.
Current state of grml-live with squashfs-tools and kernel
Use squashfs-tools >=4.2-1 (available from Grml repositories as well as from
Debian) to build Grml (based) ISOs featuring kernel version 2.6.38-grml[64] or
How do I deploy grml-live on a plain Debian installation?
The easiest way to get a running grml-live setup is to just use Grml.
Of course using grml-live on a plain, original Debian installation is supported
as well. So there we go.
What we have: plain, original Debian jessie (8.x).
What we want: build a Grml ISO based on Debian/jessie for the amd64 architecture
using grml-live.
# adjust sources.list:
cat >> /etc/apt/sources.list << EOF
# grml stable repository:
deb grml-stable main
# deb-src grml-stable main
# grml testing/development repository:
deb grml-testing main
# deb-src grml-testing main
# get keyring for apt:
apt-get update
apt-get --allow-unauthenticated install grml-debian-keyring
# optionally(!) install basefile so we don't have to build basic
# chroot from scratch, grab from
# mkdir -p /etc/grml/fai/config/basefiles/
# mv I386.tar.gz /etc/grml/fai/config/basefiles/
# mv AMD64.tar.gz /etc/grml/fai/config/basefiles/
# install relevant tools
apt-get --no-install-recommends install grml-live
# adjust grml-live configuration for our needs:
cat > /etc/grml/grml-live.local << EOF
## want a faster build process and don't need smaller ISOs?
## if so use zlib compression
# SQUASHFS_OPTIONS="-comp gzip -b 256k"
## want to use a specific squashfs binary?
# SQUASHFS_BINARY='/usr/bin/mksquashfs'
## install local files into the chroot
# CHROOT_INSTALL="/etc/grml/fai/chroot_install"
## adjust if necessary (defaults to /grml/grml-live):
## OUTPUT="/srv/grml-live"
# ARCH="amd64"
# just optional(!) - upgrade FAI to latest available version:
cat >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/fai.list << EOF
deb fai main
deb-src fai main
# get gpg key of FAI repos and install current FAI version:
wget -O - | sudo apt-key add -
apt-get update
apt-get install fai-client fai-server fai-doc
That's it. Now invoking 'grml-live -V' should build the ISO. If everything
worked as expected the last line of the shell output should look like:
[*] Successfully finished execution of grml-live [running 687 seconds]
and the ISO can be found inside /grml-live/grml-live/grml_isos/ then.
The variable '$GRML_FAI_CONFIG' is pointing to the directory /etc/grml/fai by
default. To provide you a maximum of flexibility you can set up your own
configuration directory (e.g. based on /etc/grml/fai) and use this directory
running grml-live with the '-D <config_dir>' option. Now '$GRML_FAI_CONFIG'
points to the specified directory instead of using /etc/grml/fai and all the
configuration files, scripts and hooks will be taken from your
'$GRML_FAI_CONFIG' directory.
I've problems with the build process. How to start debugging?
Check out the logs inside the directory 'grml_logs' next to your grml_chroot,
grml_isos,... directories.
If you need help with grml-live or would like to see new features as part of
grml-live you can get commercial support via
link:[Grml Solutions].
How do I install further files into the chroot/ISO?
Just point the configuration variable CHROOT_INSTALL to the directory which
provides the files you would like to install. Note that the files are installed
under '/' in the chroot - so you have to create the rootfs structure on your
own. Usage example:
echo "CHROOT_INSTALL=\$GRML_FAI_CONFIG/chroot_install" >> /etc/grml/grml-live.local
mkdir -p /etc/grml/fai/chroot_install/usr/src/
mv foo.tar.gz /etc/grml/fai/chroot_install/usr/src/
grml-live ...
Can I use my own (local) Debian mirror?
Yes. Set up an according sources.list configuration as class file in
${GRML_FAI_CONFIG}/config/files/etc/apt/sources.list.d/ and adjust the variable
FAI_DEBOOTSTRAP (if not already using a base.tgz) inside
/etc/grml/grml-live.conf[.local]. If you're setting up your own class file don't
forget to include the class name in the class list (grml-live -c ...).
If you want to use a local (for example NFS mount) mirror additionally then
adjust MIRROR_DIRECTORY in /etc/grml/grml-live.conf[.local] as well.
If you want to use a HTTP Proxy (like apt-cacher-ng), set APT_PROXY. Example:
How do I add additional Debian package(s) to my CD/ISO?
Just create a new class (using the package_config directory):
# cat > /etc/grml/fai/config/package_config/MIKA << EOF
PACKAGES aptitude
and specify it when invoking grml-live then:
I fscked up my grml-live configuration. How do I reset it to the defaults?
Notice: this deletes all your grml-live configuration files. If that's really
what you are searching for just run:
rm -rf /etc/grml/fai /etc/grml/grml-live.conf
dpkg -i --force-confnew --force-confmiss /path/to/grml-live_..._all.deb
How do I create a base.tgz?
First of all create the chroot using debootstrap:
debootstrap jessie "$BASECHROOT"
tar -C "$BASECHROOT" --exclude='var/cache/apt/archives/*.deb' -zcf base.tar.gz ./
By default debootstrap builds a chroot matching the architecture of the running
host system. If you're using an amd64 system and want to build an i386 base.tgz
then invoke debootstrap using the '--arch i386' option. Disclaimer: building an
AMD64 base.tgz won't work if you are using a 32bit kernel system of course.
Then move the base.tar.gz to /etc/grml/fai/config/basefiles/$CLASSNAME.tar.gz.
Use e.g. I386 as $CLASSNAME for i386 chroots and AMD64 for amd64 chroots.
Now executing grml-live should use this file as base system instead of executing
debootstrap. Check out the output for something like:
ftar: extracting //etc/grml/fai/config/basefiles///AMD64.tar.gz to /srv/grml64_testing/grml_chroot//
Existing base.tgz can be found at
Set up apt-cacher-ng for use with grml-live
Make sure /etc/grml/grml-live.local provides according APT_PROXY and
# cat /etc/grml/grml-live.local
FAI_DEBOOTSTRAP="jessie http://localhost:3142/ jessie main contrib non-free"
Make sure apt-cacher-ng is running ('/etc/init.d/apt-cacher-ng restart').
That's it. All downloaded files will be cached in /var/cache/apt-cacher-ng then.
How do I revert the manifold feature from an ISO?
The so called manifold feature Grml ISOs use by default allows one to use the same
ISO for CD boot and USB boot. If you notice any problems when booting just
revert the manifold feature running:
% dd if=/dev/zero of=grml.iso bs=512 count=1 conv=notrunc
To switch from manifold to isohybrid mode (an alternative approach provided by
syslinux) then just execute:
% isohybrid grml.iso
How do I create a base tar.gz (I386.tar.gz or AMD64.tar.gz)
Execute the following commands (requires root):
ARCH='amd64' # replace with i386 if necessary
SUITE='jessie' # using the current stable release should always work
debootstrap --arch "$ARCH" --exclude=info,tasksel,tasksel-data "$SUITE" "$ARCH"
cd "$ARCH"
rm var/cache/apt/archives/*.deb
tar zcf ../"${ARCH}".tar.gz *
And finally place the generated tarball in /etc/grml/fai/config/basefiles/ (note
that it needs to be uppercase letters matching the class names, so: AMD64.tar.gz
for amd64 and I386.tar.gz for i386).
How to use your own local repository
Let's assume you have Debian package(s) in your filesystem inside
`/home/foobar/local-packages` and want to include that in your grml-live build.
Make sure to create an according sources.list configuration file, e.g. using
your own class name `CUSTOM`:
# cat > /etc/grml/fai/config/files/etc/apt/sources.list.d/local-packages.list/CUSTOM << EOF
deb file:///home/foobar/local-packages ./
Add the according MIRROR_DIRECTORY configuration to your grml-live configuration:
# echo "MIRROR_DIRECTORY='/home/foobar/packages'" >> /etc/grml/grml-live.local
Make sure the local directory looks like a mirror:
% cd /home/foobar/packages && /usr/bin/dpkg-scanpackages . /dev/null > ./Packages
Finally invoke grml-live with your class name (`CUSTOM` in this example) added
to the list of classes (see grml-live option `-c`).
Download / install grml-live as a Debian package
Debian packages are available through the grml-repository at
link:[]. If you want to
build a Debian package on your own (using for example a specific version or the
current development tree), just execute:
git clone git://
cd grml-live
debuild -us -uc
The source of grml-live is available at
Please report feedback, link:[bugreports] and wishes
link:[to the Grml team]!
The most recent grml-live documentation is available online at and for offline reading also available
in different formats:
Michael Prokop <>
// vim:ai tw=80 ft=asciidoc expandtab
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