11 Sept 2012

Build Your Own Personal Linux Distro using Lubuntu

If your like me, no Linux distribution or desktop environment suites you just right. I always seem to have to work around something or with something that just doesn't suit me.

Well this is how to have Linux your way.

This is my Light-Weight Distro!
This is my Light-Weight Distro

Of course, you can use the Psychorat's approach and install Ubuntu his way.

For me, I prefer a different way. Let me show you how I made it.

First, I start off with a fresh install of Lubuntu 12.04. I use Lubuntu because, first, it gives us great access to the Ubuntu repositories, and secondly, because it comes with the LXDE desktop environment. LXDE is one of the most customizable and easiest configurable desktops Linux has to offer.

OK, I recommend practicing this on a virtual pc, like VMware or Virtualbox. That way if you accidently break it, your main computer is still functional.

So, let's go. The first thing to do after installing Lubuntu, is to open a terminal and type:

# sudo apt-get update

Now let's remove the Lubuntu packages:

# sudo apt-get purge lubuntu*

# sudo apt-get purge lightdm*

# sudo apt-get remove notification-daemon

Now let's install the LXDE metapackage and the lxdm display manager:

# sudo apt-get install lxde lxdm notify-osd

Let's clean up:

# sudo apt-get autoremove

Okay now let's reboot the computer:

# sudo shutdown now -r

To log in, select "other", then type in your credentials and password. Now you should see a "Lubuntu Session not found" error. Letэs eliminate that error. Open the Lxterminal and type the following:

# rm ./.dmrc

For a simple log-in open lxterminal and type the following:

# sudo leafpad /etc/lxdm/lxdm.conf

Scroll down to "userlist" section and change disable=0 to disable=1, now save and close Leafpad.

Okay, let's check our work. Let's log out and back in. If all goes well the "Lubuntu not found" error will disappear and you will have a simple log-in.

Now it is time to make this your own personal distro.

Using Synaptic, install all your favorite software packages and uninstall the ones you might want to get rid of. But be careful because some installed packages are part of LXDE and can't be removed without removing the whole LXDE package. This would not be good.

Now you can make some backgrounds and icons like I did, using LibreOffice Draw and GIMP to really personalize your LXDE desktop.

I first created a Menu icon, which I made to be about 200 x200 pixels. Then I made a horizontal and vertical rectangle using gradients and colors about 80 pixels x 300 pixels to be used for my lxpanel background. I exported them from LibreOffice Draw in .png format. Then I opened them in GIMP and cropped them to their exact shape about 80 x 300 pixels and 200x200 pixels, respectively.

Now just right click on the menu button on the panel and select menu settings. Click browse, and navigate to your saved menu icon and select it. Click OK and close and now you should have a personalized menu button.

Now do the same with the panel. Right click the panel, select panel settings, and then the appearance tab. Select the drop down box beside image, and navigate to your saved panel backgrounds. Click open, then close. Now you have a customized. lxpanel.

Hint: Sometimes your background isn't the right size for your panel size, so use GIMP to scale your background.png file up or down until it renders correctly.

As you can see from the panel settings, you can pretty well customize your panel for any size, location, auto-hide, and add new additional panels. Moreover, from here you can add and remove panel applets.

Now, download some nice wallpaper, right click the desktop, select desktop preferences, click the wallpaper drop down box, navigate to your wallpaper, click close and now it's even more yours!

Hint: If you want a lightwieght composite manager, do this in lxterminal:
# sudo apt-get install xcompmgr

There are many more ways to customize LXDE than I have room to mention here. But my favorite personal distribution I have built contains Emerald, Compiz and Cairo Dock. This combination adds beauty, special effects, and added functionality to LXDE. I even disabled the LXDE panel since I was using Cairo Dock.

Here is my Distro running Emerald, Compiz and Cairo Dock!
Here is my Distro running
Emerald, Compiz and Cairo Dock!
Finally, use Remastersys to create your own live cd!

Believe me! It is really possible to have Linux your way!


This is a guest post by Randy Fry


  1. Also of interest, if Remastersys doesn't work, is Refracta snapshot and installer (both GUI apps).


    I use this for a live iso of my Debian Wheezy/Sid installation. ;)

    To boot from USB-HDD (thumbdrive) simply:
    dd if=path/image_name.iso of=/dev/sd(x)

    sd(x)= Your thumbdrive.

  2. Thanks. I appreciate the work, but I'm basically wondering what's going on here.

    I see that the display manager gets replaced, or I think I do, but I don't get the rest.

    In other words, we're shown the "how", but not told what is happening or why.

    I typically remove a lot of packages, some to dump and some to replace. It seems that this is going on here, but as far as the rest of the process, I'm clueless. Couldn't someone install Distribution X, and then simply add or remove packages?

    I guess you can tell I don't do this kind of thing for fun, in my sleep, at least twice a week. If I was that kind of person I wouldn't have read this post, so it must have been written for people like me.

    But people like me end up where I started: I'm basically wondering what's going on here.

    Would a followup post be in the works?

  3. Hahahahaha customized buntu distro, what a joke. If you want to customize your system use arch

    1. If you want to customize your system, use LFS. This is to start with.

      Second, fancy writing your own guide re Arch system build for your own taste? The blog is open for other opinions too.

  4. From my personal experience the best linux/unix/windows or any OS for that matter of all time is..... *drums*
    Sibux!!! It comes out of a group of very talented developers in Sibera. Great OS! Simply a pleasure to work with. Puts everything else to shame.

    Search for "Red OS Sibux" on google to find it.


    1. Never heard about them. Please provide a link. I can't find in Google.

  5. I am with you on wanting to customise Ubuntu as no version has what I want. (I wouldn't use LFS or Arch as I have a life and want to keep it ;0) ). I use Bodhi Linux as that is 'Buntu based but is far more stripped down than even Lubuntu. This way I can get a great system in one evening. Bodhi also comes with remastersys installed so it is easy to make a live CD.

  6. Hallo Dark Duck/Randy
    The tutorial works well,Lubuntu is now Lxde-ubuntu,but I got
    a lot of problems.Menu/Menu-edit is not working correct,I got a lot of shit x11 in others-menu,and all edited menu-entries are send to the others-menu and deleted in the original menu-entry.Have I doe something wrong,or is this an Lxde-problem? Greetings

  7. I personally love LXDE too :) But it's maybe faster to start from an already very fast distro = WattOS. Less work and with the same result. For the rest : keep up the good distro reviews !

  8. I have a very slow and unreliable internet connection, so the distro I want is the minimum download that will install under a GUI, and give me a graphical desktop. I like lxpanel so the obvious distro is Lubuntu without all the apps. This seems to be what you are suggesting, although it could do with a bit more detail about what apps have those dependencies that you can't get rid of.

    I have used remastersys and it does indeed do what it says. But the fundamental flaw is that then it becomes MY distro, and who's to say that I haven't slipped some keylogger or other spyware into it? The distro HAS TO come from Lubuntu/Ubuntu/Launchpad/whatever for it to have integrity.

    The question is why don't they offer that ?

    Other questions: I accept that all languages should be supported, but why do *I* have to have them all, when I only speak English ? Why do I have to have the whole CUPS sub-system when I don't have a printer ? Likewise Bluetooth ? Why 24 different themes, 10 icon libraries and 20 desktop pictures and 50 screensavers, when 1 will do?

    The answer seems to be that we get whatever will fit on a CD - 700 MB, but that is sheer torture for my internet connection, especially when I still have to download Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenJDK and LibreOffice Calc.

    1. If you want to have a distro without any excessive packages, then maybe Psychorat's approach could suit you.

  9. Im also Using Lubntu for my school project: a system to heal/critically wound windows =). . . couple of months ago im using the "core" tech, trying to remaster a linux distro of my own, from the ground up. 12mb to start with. unfortunately my laptop got stolen (somebody breached into our room). All those floors of my "dreamed distro skyscraper building" LOST. =( I dont want to be at the "foundations" again. Im, lets say: "50 floors of remastering" by default with this distro. Lubuntu out of the box gives me pretty much of what i need. . . noob needs that is =). cool distro. \m/ROCKIN\m/

  10. Dear DarkDuck, & all others who has commented on this post, I did all the same but with an Ubuntu Precise (12.04) as the base system. I purged unity, installed lxde lxdem and some packages I need. But after the remastersys finishes its job, it takes into a unity login screen when I install it to another vm. Is that a config mistake, or simpl should I use Lubuntu or something else. Please help.