Dustin Ingram



I recently (as recent as this post) acquired a Macbook Pro 7,1. Unfortunately, this bug in Ubuntu, involving the latest (2.6.32-22) Linux kernel’s inability to handle the new MCP89 chipset–specifically, the SATA drivers–has prevented me from immediately installing Linux.

While the bug hasn’t been fixed yet, I received this notification from a developer asking users who had the correct hardware to test out a patched kernel with some debugging added.

Since this process involved a number of tasks I had no previous experience with, and because I couldn’t find any comprehensive documentation for what I needed to do, I’ll outline the process here for my own sanity, as well as for other’s benefit.

The Process

To generalize, the process for patching a LiveCD’s kernel is essentially this:

  1. Write/acquire the patches (*.patch files)
  2. Create a binary package(s) to install (*.deb files)
  3. Create the LiveCD (*.iso file)

Since the developer already had created the *.debs for me, I didn’t delve into number 2, however if you need to, I’d recommend taking a look at this How-To Forge tutorial.


This guide lends heavily on this how-to for building a custom LiveCD. I also used this Ubuntu how-to for a few other things.

Preparing the Host

We need the squashfs tools to rebuild the LiveCD’s filesystem:

$ sudo apt-get install squashfs-tools

Assuming you’ve already downloaded the default LiveCD .iso and it’s on your desktop:

$ mkdir /tmp/livecd
$ sudo mount -o loop ~/Desktop/ubuntu-10.04-desktop-amd64.iso /tmp/livecd

Sync the .iso locally, but exclude the squasfs:

$ mkdir -p ~/livecd/{cd,squashfs,custom}
$ rsync --exclude=/casper/filesystem.squashfs -a /tmp/livecd/ ~/livecd/cd

Copy over some networking preferences so we can use the network within the image:

$ mkdir ~/livecd/custom/etc
$ sudo cp /etc/resolv.conf /etc/hosts ~/livecd/custom/etc/

Finally, mount and copy the squashfs:

$ sudo modprobe squashfs
$ sudo mount -t squashfs -o loop /tmp/livecd/casper/filesystem.squashfs ~/livecd/squashfs/
$ sudo cp -a ~/livecd/squashfs/* ~/livecd/custom

Go get a cup of coffee, that’ll take a bit.

Customizing the LiveCD

Now we’ll make some changes from within the custom image. To get in, we’ll use chroot:

$ sudo chroot ~/livecd/custom

The first time we access the image, we’ll want to set up the following:

$ mount -t proc none /proc/
$ mount -t sysfs none /sys/
$ export HOME=/root

To make sure we have room for the image to fit on a CD, it’s a good idea to remove some unnecessary packages:

$ apt-get remove --purge gnome-games*
$ apt-get remove --purge `dpkg-query -W --showformat='${Package}\n' | grep language-pack | egrep -v '\-en'`
$ apt-get clean

Patching the Kernel

As I said before, in my case the developer had provided the .deb files, so all I needed to do was to download them within the image:

$ cd /tmp
$ wget http://some.example.com/.../files.deb

Install them:

$ dpkg -i *.deb

And clean up the .debs when dpkg is done:

$ rm -rf /tmp/*

Getting Back to the Host

Getting back to the host is as simple as unmounting and exiting the shell:

$ umount /proc/
$ umount /sys/
$ exit

Building the Image

The first thing I needed to do, since I had patched the kernel, was copy the affected files from the custom CD to the final image, overwriting the existing files

$ sudo cp ~/livecd/custom/boot/vmlinuz-2.6.32-22-generic ~/livecd/cd/casper/vmlinuz
$ sudo cp ~/livecd/custom/boot/initrd.img-2.6.32-22-generic ~/livecd/cd/casper/initrd.gz

Then, recreate the system’s manifest:

$ chmod +w ~/livecd/cd/casper/filesystem.manifest
$ sudo chroot ~/livecd/custom dpkg-query -W --showformat='${Package} ${Version}\n' > ~/livecd/cd/casper/filesystem.manifest
$ sudo cp ~/livecd/cd/casper/filesystem.manifest ~/livecd/cd/casper/filesystem.manifest-desktop

Next, recreate the squashfs file:

$ sudo mksquashfs ~/livecd/custom ~/livecd/cd/casper/filesystem.squashfs

And recreate the md5sums:

$ sudo rm ~/livecd/cd/md5sum.txt
$ sudo -s
$ (cd ~/livecd/cd && find . -type f -print0 | xargs -0 md5sum > md5sum.txt)
$ exit

Finally, you can create the .iso file:

$ cd ~/livecd/cd
$ sudo mkisofs -r -V "Ubuntu-Custom-LiveCD" -b isolinux/isolinux.bin -c isolinux/boot.cat -cache-inodes -J -l -no-emul-boot -boot-load-size 4 -boot-info-table -o ~/Desktop/Ubuntu-Custom-LiveCD.iso .

Burn that sucker to a CD and you’re done!


For me, the goal of this was to be able to get some additional information off of a laptop that wouldn’t boot, so the next step was getting output from the initramfs early userspace.