AntiX Live System

From antiX Linux fan

One of the things that makes antiX Linux stand out from other Linux based operating systems is the live-usb experience. It has been refined during the years until developing such a solid live-usb technology that they even claim to have the most extensive Live-usb experience on the planet[1].

From the live boot screen to the persistence options, including the remastering technology and the frugal install, it has made it possible for many users around the world to use antiX Linux without the need for partitioning the disk, installing the system and changing the Bootloader, some of the reasons that have many shaking in fear of trying Linux.

Why use antiX Live[edit | edit source]

Many big and famous Linux distributions also have a "try the distro live" option, but the impression it gives of Linux is that it is slow, sluggish and even buggy, where sometimes it cannot even boot on the machine. And then, when the installation window comes up, the user finds they have no idea how the "partition management" works, and decide to not risk breaking their system and losing their precious data.

With antiX, you can have a fully working Linux Operating System running directly on the USB pen drive, no installation needed. Save your changes instantly (reading and writing directly from/to the USB device as if it was a Hard Drive) or loading dynamically with RAM (experiment and break the system without any real consequences to your machine). Decide if you want to keep the changes on your USB or discard them. You are able to bring with you your Operating System in your pocket and load it on any computer, so you are not limited by only one machine. No need for disabling Secure Boot in your system, for formatting any partitions. No fear of accidentally breaking your boot or destroying the data in your computer. You only need to know how to boot your computer from a USB device.

There is even the option to perform a "frugal install", which adds all the live system to a local folder in your computer without having to partition anything. It will work exactly the same as a live system but directly from your Hard Drive. The only limitation is you having to boot the frugal install from a live antiX USB or CD/DVD, or to manually edit some entries in your boot loader (if you know how to), no risk of wiping your system clean.

If you only want to test it on a CD/DVD, you can also load it to RAM (only recommended if you have at least 2 GBs of RAM) and have a taste of a full Linux OS not limited by the Read speed of your CD/DVD reader.

Live Bootloaders[edit | edit source]

The antiX Linux Live experience starts at the Live Boot screen. It includes legacy, 64-bit UEFI and 32-bit UEFI live bootloaders[2]. The menu's appearance will depend on the system (if using UEFI or legacy-BIOS).

At the moment of writing this, the most complete menu is only available in (legacy-)BIOS mode, but almost all options can be found in both bootloaders.

Common Boot options[edit | edit source]

To select any of the menu entries, navigate using the arrow keys of your keyboard and press Enter to select the menu option.

Some of the common menu entries available in both BIOS (syslinux/isolinux) and UEFI (grub) bootloaders are:

antiX-VERSION (DATE): The first menu option lets you boot directly to the antiX Linux system (with default options).
Custom (DATE): If this is not the first time you use the antiX system and you have already saved your boot changes, there will be a Custom option that will remember your last saved changes, so there will be no need for you to select and configure the different options again.
Safe Video Mode: Disables KMS (kernel mode set) video drivers and forces the use of the vesa video driver. Try this option if the system seems to boot into a terminal (no graphical environment), or if it is loading the incorrect video driver.
Virtual Box Video if the live system detects that you are running the live system in VirtualBox, it will give you this option, which should rescale the resolution for VirtualBox.
Failsafe Boot: In addition to forcing safe video, this option will also load all drivers early in the boot process. Try this option if the system does not boot at all or if it gets stuck at any point of the booting process.
Boot from Hard Disk: This will attempt a legacy (BIOS) boot with the first internal hard drive. Windows 8 and above use UEFI instead of BIOS, so this entry won't be able to boot them.
Test Memory: This option will test the system memory without booting into any operating system. Good for diagnosing a RAM problem.

NOTE: If your system's hardware is very new (less than 3 years old), you may need to boot using a newer kernel that is compatible with your very new hardware.

For more advanced booting option, there is a bast collection of Boot Parameters available for changing how you want your antiX Linux system to boot. Most of them you will not need, but some may be of interest to you.

BIOS Bootloader[edit | edit source]

The BIOS bootloader, based on isolinux and syslinux, has the most user friendly menu. It provides Fn menus to configure and set the system as you want it before trying to boot.

F1 keyboard key will display a HELP window explaining the most important live options for each category and how to change them.
F2 keyboard key will display a selection of languages. Selecting a language will translate all the menus, load the selected language for the antiX system on your next boot, change your keyboard layout and also decide your timezone.
F3 keyboard key will let you select the timezone from a list of options. The cities listed represent different time-zones, and their order is related to their position on the globe, from west to east of the Greenwich meridian.
F4 keyboard key will list Miscellaneous options.
checkmd5 and checkfs will check the integrity of the install media, and the integrity of the Live USB and persistent file systems respectively.
toram will copy the compressed file system (the whole live system) to RAM.
from=usb and nousb2, one sets the default booting device to a Live USB and the other disables usb-2 devices.
automount and noautomount enables or disables automounting (respectively) of external drives when connected to your machine.
acpi=off will disable acpi. This helps booting on some older laptops.
i915_invert and no_invert changes the state of the intel graphics driver i915 (or reverts it to previous configuration), which may help some old computers, like the lenovo s210e, to not boot to a black screen.
hwclock=[ask, utc, local] will [ask] let the system determine the clock setting automatically, [utc] set the hardware clock to UTC (usually used by Linux-based systems), or [local] set the hardware clock to use localtime (used mostly by Windows based systems).
password option will let you change the default demo and root user passwords before booting, for increased security.
vcard=[on, off, menu] will [on] detect and enable the dedicated graphic card (and disable the integrated graphic card), will [off] disable video card detection (generally only using the integrated graphic card), or [menu] show the video card options and select the one you want to boot with.
conwidth=off disables the previously selected change for the console width.
bootchart will create a chart with boot related time and information and save it in /var/log/bootchart.tgz, so you can see how long each step of the boot process takes (for troubleshooting purposes).
live_swap=off option will disable swap for the live system.
F5 keyboard key will display all available persist options, also including frugal options.
F6 keyboard key will list the different Desktop session options, and also (since antiX 19) the new Light and Dark theme options, which change the color scheme of all desktop programs. Additionally, you can set a different font-size for the graphical environment (related to DPI).
F7 key will let you select console resolution (deprecated).
F8 keyboard key will save (or reset) your selected changes so next time you boot the Custom menu entry in the boot screen, it will remember your selected changes and boot using them.

More [Boot Parameters] can be added to the Boot Options bar for more control of the antiX boot process.

New since antiX 19[3], there are more menu options available if you select to Switch to Grub Bootloader menu entry, that has a similar structure to the UEFI Bootloader in a somewhat "uglier" appearance. To return to the previous Bootloader menu, select the Switch to Syslinux menu entry.

If you don't want to continue the live USB booting process, pressing the Escape key will promp a small window giving the option to Reboot and Power Off your machine.

UEFI Bootloader[edit | edit source]

Selecting options from the UEFI bootloader (based on grub) isn't as intuitive as the menus used in the BIOS bootloader. You either have to hit the 'e' key of your keyboard and add the Boot Parameters in the third line (after linux /antiX/vmlinuz) and press the F10 key to boot with the new boot parameters added, or you need to go through the text menus menu entry. The GRUB menus cannot be translated to other languages (for now), but the text menus option will translate to the language you select after the first option.

The menu entries not available in the BIOS bootloader are:

antiX-VERSION Customize Boot (text menus), when selected, will start displaying different options and selections in a terminal way. To select an option, you must input the number corresponding to your selected option and hit the Enter key.
Language selection is the first option available. After selecting the language, in the same way as in the BIOS bootloader option, it will set the antiX system language, the keyboard layout and the timezone. Also, all the consecutive menu options and texts will be displayed in the selected language.
Console columns selection. The bigger the number, the smaller you will see the text in console. Select a smaller option than 120 if you can barely see the text.
Timezone Selection will let you select your correct timezone by selecting the closest city that shares your timezone (same as in BIOS Bootloader).
Miscellaneous options selection, contains some of the same options as stated previously for the BIOS bootloader, except for:
from=hd option will continue booting antiX from the hard drive instead of the usb/cd.
dostore and nostore will enable or disable (respectively) the LiveUSB-Storage feature.
savestate and nosavestate options will enable or disable the option for saving some files across reboots (like ALSA sound configuration, network configuration including passwords, etc.).
Mounting option selection will let you choose if you want or don't want connected drives to automount. It is enabled by default.
Persistence options will let you select what persistence or frugal option you want. It will immediately prompt for you to select size of the persistent files and to configure them as explained in the Persistence or Frugal#Installation articles. By default, no persistence option will be selected.
Font size selection will let you scale the fonts in the Graphical environment (related to DPI, but only for text). The bigger the number, the bigger the text will be. Very useful for HiDPI displays.
Desktop Selection, will let you select any of the available Desktops in antiX, and (since antiX 19) change between a Light and Dark theme.
>>> Advanced Options for antiX-VERSION <<<, when selected, will display a new menu with some of the Common Boot options (failsafe, bootchart, virtual Box resolution), and some other option (displayed below). To exit the menu, hit the Escape key.
Power Off will shutdown your machine
Reboot will reboot your machine, so you can select a different boot option (or boot normally to your system)
Help will display a window with some small help information about the antiX Live system (users and passwords), the important menu entries, the advanced options and some Boot Parameters. The Enter key will exit the text window.
Boot Rescue Menus, new since antiX 19[3], gives new advanced menu options to the antiX Live system. It can help the user boot into systems that have a broken Boot manager or alternatively boot into the BIOS/UEFI configuration screen of your motherboard. To exit this screen, press the Escape key.
Find EFI bootloaders will search for all EFI bootloaders in the EFI partition for all hard drives available and display them (if any were found). You can then select one and try to boot into that system.
Find GRUB menus to find and boot into Linux based operating systems (and other systems that use Grub as boot manager).
Find Windows bootloaders, as before, to find and search all Windows systems (boot loaders) from all available Hard Drives. Very useful for when you want to boot into Windows after replacing (accidentally) the Master Boot Record (or EFI order) of your machine (and then restore it from windows if so desired).
Reboot into BIOS/UEFI Setup is a very useful option (for those who don't know the key combination to access their BIOS or cannot do it with any other method) to access your BIOS Settings directly from the antiX Live Bootloader.

Most of these options and menus are also available from the BIOS Bootloader, by selecting the Switch to Grub Bootloader menu entry.

You can check what boot parameters are used for each boot menu by pressing the 'e' key of your keyboard (use Escape to exit this window). You can even add other advanced boot parameters in the third line (after linux /antiX/vmlinuz) and boot antiX with your changes by pressing the F10 key. You can save those boot options for the future using the bootsave boot parameter.

Default users and passwords[edit | edit source]

The antiX live system has a user named demo, that is the default user for the live system. The superuser (root), is also set with a password on the live system. If not changed with the password boot parameter, or selecting a persistence option, the default passwords for each user will be[4][5]:

User Password
root root
demo demo

Saving live changes[edit | edit source]

There are various ways to save the changes done to a Live USB system, depending on the purpose the user has for the live system. Some possible reason for you to use the live system are:

  • If you enjoy a system that deletes all information after each session (for privacy/security reasons or to reduce clutter), use the Live System as is.
  • If, at some point, you want a particular change to be kept for future sessions (like installing a particular program, or updating the system after a few weeks of use), the best option is to remaster the system only when you want that change to be saved.
  • If you want to save changes done (during) each session, the ideal option is to use persistence. If you are afraid of losing any data, use static persistence. If you want faster live systems (for examples on USB 2.0 ports which have slow read/write speeds), you can use dynamic persistence (that loads and save changes in RAM) and save at the end of each session.
  • If you are pressed for space on your USB device and want to save your changes, use a small persistence file. When you are close to fill the persistent file, try remastering and removing the old linuxfs and persistent files to recover your USB free space.
  • If you would prefer antiX Linux to run directly from your hard drive (and save changes there) but without installing (and risking deleting thing on your machine), frugal installation will be the best option for you.

Remaster[edit | edit source]

Remastering will save all changes in the live system to a new linuxfs file (a compressed filesystem that will contain all the antiX Linux live system files). It doesn't matter if you are using persistence, installed or removed programs, downloaded files or simply tweaked your appearance, an exact state of your antiX live system will be saved.

Remastering is slow but very effective. Worst case scenario is not being able to boot back to that remastered system. Simply deleting it and restoring the previous live system (renaming linuxfs.old to linuxfs) will restore your system to before saving the remastered changes.

Persistence[edit | edit source]

One of the many Persistence options will let you save changes to a separate file (a compressed filesystem, as the linuxfs used in remaster) than the main live antiX system. It will save all user changes to a homefs file (if home persistence is active), and system changes will be saved to a rootfs file (if any root persistence has been selected). You can have both or only one of them, or even save everything in the same rootfs file.

You can also set it so that these compressed filesystems load to RAM for faster live experience (dynamic persistence) or to continuously save all changes to the USB drive (static persistence). You can also set it to save all changes automatically or only when you want them to be stored.

The advantage of keeping your changes in a separate file is that, if something happens to your system and you can no longer boot to it, you can disable, remove or replace the persistence files and you will be able to boot again to your system.

Frugal[edit | edit source]

Frugal is a very special option. It lets you install antiX in a hard drive (no matter what that hard drive has, it won’t delete any data) but it will still act as a live system, so you should also be able to boot into your frugal install without disabling UEFI Secure Boot. A frugal install goes onto an existing partition and can co-exist with other frugal installs, with installed Linux or installed Windows. The major benefit is you get to take advantage of the speed and size of an internal drive, up to literally ten times faster compared to livebooting from CD/DVD.

video: Setting up an antiX frugal install

The easiest way is to boot to it from the live USB/CD system, but you can also set it up to boot from a customized boot manager[6][7] on your Hard Drive. If using Grub to manage your boot selection, you can even add the frugal boot option there[8].

As with any other antiX Live System, persistence can be set up for frugal (both static and dynamic work). The frugal system can be remastered (depending on the partition format) and the compressed filesystems can be accessed from other machines. The only disadvantage is that it isn't as portable as having a system in a live USB.

Accessing the Live system files[edit | edit source]

note: This section contains nuts-n-bolts details. The following is seldom necessary during typical use.

linuxfs, rootfs and homefs are all compressed filesystems used by the antiX live system (some as the main system, some as persistence complements). You can access any of them (if experiencing trouble or wanting to recover particular files) by mounting them from a separate (live or installed) antiX (or other Linux) system.

1 Navigate to the folder containing the file system and, in a terminal, create a mountpoint folder (in this example, creating a folder named mnt).

$ mkdir mnt

2 Check the file information for the desired filesystem (in this example, it is a rootfs file that is being checked).

$ file rootfs
rootfs: Linux rev 1.0 ext4 filesystem data, UUID=f8b826be-ffb4-47c5-9f95-747ac9a1a0c0 (extents) (64bit) (large files) (huge files)

3 Mount the filesystem to the mountpoint created in step 1 (in this example, the same rootfs file)

$ sudo mount rootfs mnt

If it doesn't mount properly, you can try with a more specific mount command:

$ sudo mount -o ro,loop rootfs mnt

If you suspect that the live compressed filesystem is corrupted, you can diagnose it, checking for more information with (continuing with the rootfs example)[9]:

$ dumpe2fs rootfs


$ debugfs freefrag rootfs

And try to repair it with:

$ e2fsck rootfs

note: Our rootfs file is an ext4 filesystem. The e2fsck command can autodetect and check any of the ext2/ext3/ext4 family of file systems.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. [1], The Most Extensive Live-usb on the Planet!
  3. 3.0 3.1 antiX 19 release announcement
  4. [2], default passwords
  5. [3], antiX Linux Boot HELP
  6. [4], christophe's guide to using extlinux boot for multiple frugal installations
  7. [5], christophe's guide to boot frugal from special grub in UEFI systems
  8. [6], dolphin_oracle's video on frugal
  9. [7], forum post about accessing and repairing a rootfs filesystem