After having worked through Linux From Scratch, I get the eerie feeling that in practice, this is not how new distros are built.

How do I search for tools that other distributions are built with? Is Debian really built from scratch? Googling "Linux distro build tools" have not been very fruitful.

The following are some questions that I have not been able to find on either LFS or Google:

  • What tools are used to build Debian?
  • What are some popular tools people use to automate the compilation process?
  • Is it possible for me to simply build the entire system from precompiled binaries?
  • How do I create a live iso of my working system? What about an automated installer? Are there automation tools for making live iso and installer?
  • If I wanted to use another distro as a base, where would I start? Are there specialized tools for branching from existing distros?

LFS is cool, but it doesn't answer many practical questions that I have. Where can I find more information? In particular, what key words can I use in my google searches to find information on tools I can use to build a linux distro? Is there a book like LFS that focuses more on branching an existing distro rather than learning the build process?


I have come across SUSE studio, and the like, but those tools require you to be locked in to that particular distribution, and can only offer as much flexibility as the program will allow. How did people branch from SUSE linux before SUSE studio?

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    This is far too many questions rolls into one "question" package to get any decent atttention on any of the issues. Can you edit this down to one question at a time and ask separatly for each subsequent question? For example the ones about Debian, the precompiled binaries question, the live-cd of a running system question the SUSE historical question, etc. This simply can't be covered all at once. – Caleb Feb 15 '12 at 5:48
  • @Caleb: Agreed. A complete answer to everything asked in this question would be a small book. But general answers like this aren't necesarily bad as long as they are broken down into small specific pieces - they could be reference material. Perhaps community wiki? – Faheem Mitha Feb 15 '12 at 6:04
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    @FaheemMitha Does such a book exist? I had intended for the question to be more of a reference request, though it has occurred to that I haven't seen that many reference requests on this site. Are such questions discouraged? – math4tots Feb 15 '12 at 7:49
  • @math4tots: No, no such book exists to my knowledge. I don't think people object to reference requests per se (I personally think they can be very useful), but perhaps the point is that this site is not really designed or suitable for lengthy essays - and few people are going to write them anyway. I think the most you can expect it that people will point you to individual resources elsewhere. – Faheem Mitha Feb 15 '12 at 9:28
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    @Caleb Are you requesting that I split up my question into several different posts or reorganize the current post? – math4tots Feb 15 '12 at 10:19

Debian is built from scratch in the sense that each package maintainer builds his package from the source, so that you don't have to. Most distros work that way (exceptions are for example Gentoo or LFS). So the "tools" to build the software are depending on each component, and the packaging into a .deb or .rpm is often handled by a distro specific tool.

To branch an existing distro, you would have to set up a repository, and start filling that with packages. Let the package manager point to your repository, and the one of the base distro. Then you can start one by one replacing the base packages with your patched ones.

  • Someone had to write the first package manager. A supernatural being didn't write the first package manager, unlike who made the first blacksmith's tongs (you need tongs to make tongs). – Bruce Ediger Feb 15 '12 at 15:01
  • @BruceEdiger Did I claim that the packager manager spontaneously appeared out of a cloud of smoke? If he based his new distribution on an existing one, he would inherit their package manager. – Psirus Feb 15 '12 at 15:29

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