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How to build OS images without kiwi

December 26th, 2016 by

kiwi has long been the one standard way of building images in openSUSE, but even though there exist extensive writings on how to use it, for many it is still an arcane thing better left to the Great Magicians.

Thus, I started to use a simpler alternative image building method, named altimagebuild when I built our first working Raspberry Pi images in 2013 and now I re-used that to build x86_64 VM images at
https://build.opensuse.org/package/show/home:bmwiedemann/altimagebuild
after I found out that it even works in OBS, including publishing the result to our mirror infrastructure.
It is still in rpm format because of how it is produced, so you have to use unrpm to get to the image file.

This method uses 3 parts.

  • a .spec file that lists packages to be pulled into the image
  • a mkrootfs.sh that converts the build system into the future root filesystem you want
  • a mkimage.sh that converts the rootfs into a filesystem image

The good thing about it is that you do not need specialized external tools, because everything is hard-coded in the scripts.
And the bad thing about it is that everything is hard-coded in the scripts, so it is hard to share general improvements over a wider range of images.

In the current version, it builds cloud-enabled partitionless images (which is nice for VMs because you can just use resize2fs to get a larger filesystem and if you later want to access your VM’s data from outside, you simply use mount -o loop)
But it can build anything you want.

To make your own build, do osc checkout home:bmwiedemann/altimagebuild && cd $_ && osc build openSUSE_Leap_42.2

So what images would you want to build?

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