Next Generation Linux live distributions concepts

A live operating system allows booting from a removable medium, such a USB key, without the need of being installed to the hard drive.

Why liveng

None of the existing ISO9660-based live operating systems provide a kernel update feature: the kernel and the initrd are the only components that a live operating system cannot update, because they lay outside of the data persistence partition and the system partition is ISO9660-formatted, so not writeable - which is the best option for a live, because of its strength against data corruption.

This will soon lead to an outdated operating system, particularly unsafe if used as a desktop-replacement or for security-critical activities.

More features

Once written onto a USB key, a common live operating system is usually made up of one ISO9660 partition, containing the kernel, the initrd, the compressed filesystem.squashfs image and the second stage bootloader, usually isolinux (the boot sector code linking the second stage bootloader is contained within the MBR of the key). Modern lives also add a UEFI partition (some add a “fake” one).

If you need a live system which does data persistence, you will find (or need to create) another partition, usually an EXT4 one. This is pretty common as well.

There are only a few live distibutions which support the UEFI Secure Boot (Debian lives do not), and, as stated before, no distribution is capable of updating the kernel maintaining a ISO9660 filesystem.

The full aim of the liveng project is to give the Community a set of best practices in order to turn a common Debian Linux live into a live(ng) operating system which features:

  • native encrypted persistence;
  • kernel update (on a live ISO 9660 filesystem);
  • UEFI, with UEFI Secure Boot compatibility, with a real efi partition.

As the base of liveng we have chosen the Debian Stretch live distribution.

liveng is a LumIT Labs project.