How to make a Phoenix live CD from a Debian installation

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See this page to learn how to make a Phoenix live CD from a Debian installation.

Phoenix Debian live CD v0.0.9 ready


I had been busy with making the Phoenix Debian live CD, for the past four days. It was a job that totally absorbed you. Just when you think that everything is alright, and you are ready to make version 0.1.0 (to be named “version 1” it requires the kernel driver for the parallel port version of Phoenix), some issue would pop up. When most of the problems which required immediate attention were solved, Ajith sir said we would start again on a fresh Debian installation, so that we could verify and note down all the steps involved. The second time, we made a script to run all the steps, mainly installing the packages required. There again, we found some steps we had forgotted to document, and corrected some of them, and for the time being, made a Phoenix Debian version 0.0.9. It was installed to one of the machines and I’m doing the experiments to be documented, from it.

Since I was so busy with the live CD work, the experiment documentation work had come to a complete standstill. Yesterday, Ajith sir and I stayed till 9 at night, to try and complete the live CD work, because if we didn’t finish it off, we’d be working on it forever. I resumed the experiments today afternoon. Will write more about that when we finish documenting it.

The highlight of today’s events was that Ajith sir introduced me to Prof. G.K.Mehta, who is a retired former director of IUAC, and continues to work here. He came to see the gravity experiment being done, and gave his invaluable suggestions. He even offered to go through the documentation when it is ready!

Phoenix Debian Live CD


Successfully created a live cd of Debian etch yesterday! It runs on the kernel 2.6.18-6-686, and successfully booted on different architectures- amd, intel celeron, P4. While booting, it takes some time to load the filesystem, but after booting, it’s quite fast to use. And the shutdown is ultra fast!

The ISO file came to around 300 MB, compressed from around 900MB on the installation. It now contains all the basic stuff to run Phoenix. What more, we were able to install it successfully to the hard disk using Ajith sir’s slax installation script in Python(with a minor modification to copy initrd.gz, which is absent in slax, as well) on the first trial itself! Some more work to be done to make it stable like the slax version…

Working on Phoenix


I have been working here at the IUAC for three days now. It is an invaluable experience to be in such an environment.

I started my work by documenting the experiment in which you find the value of acceleration due to gravity by measuring the time of fall of a metal ball (initially held by a solenoid and released by software) through a known distance. Ajith sir and Parmanand, the junior engineer in this lab, got together a make shift apparatus for performing the experiment. I took detailed readings of the ball’s free fall (every 5 cm from 10cm to 95cm, with 10 readings on each point) , and got a decent enough result on performing a curve fit. But Ajith sir was not satisfied with the accuracy of the setup, as a more careful scrutiny revealed that the readings on the extremities contained much more error than the ones in the middle. So he has asked Jimpson sir of the Machine Shop to make a special apparatus for the experiment.

We started working on another experiment, in the meantime. Determination of dielectric constant of a liquid by measuring the capacitance of an air variable capacitor dipped in it. First we tried de-ionised water, but the capacitor somehow started conducting when dipped in it. Today we tried with transformer oil. It gave a dielectric constant of 2 at room temperature, but on heating, it too started conducting, and at 120 degree Celsius, it charged upto only less than 4 V, when it should have charged up to 5V! On cooling, it again regained its dielectric properties. Strange…

Documenting the work gave me my first experience of using lyx. I am still in the process of getting used to it. I’m having to refresh a lot of stuff, especially python, as I haven’t done any coding for a long time. At the same time, I have also installed Debian on another machine, to try to make a new Phoenix live CD. I’m using this howto for the purpose. Upon Ajith sir’s instruction, I installed a bare minimum Debian system, and then added X and icewm. Got to work on that now.

At IUAC, New Delhi


I reached the Inter University Accelerator Centre, New Delhi, today at 4 pm. I’ll be here for a month and a half, to work on the Phoenix project, as a sort of summer internship, under Ajith sir. I checked in at my hostel room, and then Ajith sir took me to the labs, and particle accelerator control rooms. It’s almost as if I am inside a science fiction dream! I have got a room mate called Rohit Sandal, most probably a PhD student, but he hasn’t shown up yet.

After dinner, I walked around the beautiful campus for a while. It’s alive and bustling with energy at 9 pm, with children playing football, riding bicycles, chasing each other… people doing their evening walks…

By the way, today’s journey was my first ever, by air. It was an incomparable experience. To fly above the clouds, through the heavens, it is the stuff of dreams…

The labs here are open round the clock, and I’m going to spend some time here before I go to bed. That’s it for now…

Munnar Trip

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Day One-14 May

We started from home around eight in the morning, and stopped at Kaladi, to visit the Sri Sankara Keerthi Sthambha, and the temple built on the birthplace of Sankaracharya. From Kaladi, I drove the car upto Munnar. We stopped on the way to see Cheeyappara waterfall.

cheeyappara waterfall

We reached Munnar around two in the afternoon, and rested for a while. In the evening, we went to see the hydel park. I had gone there during the excursion from school three years ago, and it was a place worth seeing back then, but now some renovation work was going on, so most of the park was nothing but mud and sand.hydel park, munnar

After that we went to see the vegetable market, only to find that most of the shops were closed. On asking a native, we learnt that in Munnar, Wednesday is a holiday for most enterprises, while Sunday is a working day!

Day Two-15 May

We set off in the morning to see the “Tea Museum” at Nallathunni, which is nothing but a mini tea factory of the Kannan Devan Hills Plantations Company Ltd. (erstwhile Tata Tea Ltd.). An interesting feature of the company is that 69% of its shares are owned by its 12,500 employees! When we reached there, we were told that the museum would open only at 10 am, so we had to wait for a while. That gave me ample time to walk around and take some photographs.

tea museumtea museumtea museum

It was a great experience to see how tea is being manufactured. Actually, on my last visit, I had the fortune to see a real tea factory, as one of Achan’s friends was a supervisor in one of the tea factories. But now they don’t allow visitors any more, and have set up this museum- which is a very good move- because all tourists can learn how tea is made. Besides the tea manufacture, we were also shown a 30 minute documentary on Munnar’s history, which is closely associated with the history of tea plantations.

After that we went to the Eravikulam National Park, home of the endangered Nilgiri Tahr. Last time I went there, unfortunately we didn’t see a single Tahr, but this time we were luckier. A forest department bus takes you from a check point to the entrance of the National Park. From there, you have to walk around one and a half kilometres to the top.

nilgiri tahr

nilgiri tahrnilgiri tahr

The Nilgiri Tahr is not at all afraid of human beings, and come very close. This is one of the reasons it is endangered. I was enraged to see people prodding and poking the gentle beasts. Instructions are written all over the park forbidding people from touching the tahr, but I wonder how many pay attention to that. The forest officials are doing a good job, but they can’t walk around and tell each and every person, can they? Tourists ought to have common sense and responsibility.

In the afternoon, we visited the Madupetty dam, and went on for a few more kilometres to the Echo Point, which is a spot in the catchment area of the dam. From there you have a picturesque view of the river meandering down the hills.


In the evening, we visited the Munnar market. It is a place bustling with activity. Most of the shops sell vegetables, fresh from the garden. You’ll never see such vegetables in Thrissur, or any of the towns. One thing I noticed, while roaming around Munnar, is the absence of beggars. Everyone seems to be involved in some work. It is a busy community.

Day Three-16 May

We set off for Kodaikkanal after breakfast. Our route was through the Marayoor forest, famous for sandalwood, and the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. We were told that we could see bisons if we left early in the morning, but it was broad daylight by the time we reached there, and didn’t see any. But we were fortunate to see spotted deer.

It was four in the afternoon, by the time we reached Kodaikkanal. We went for a walk around the lake, which comes to around five kilometres. We rested at the Bryant Park, and returned to the hotel.

Day Four-17 May

We went boating in the lake, in the morning.

lakecoaker's walkpine forest

Afterwards, we walked along the Coaker’s Walk, which is a path on the side of the mountain, from where you have a great view of the hillside. Next up we decided to go to the Guna Caves, but it was not to be. On the way, there was a huge traffic block, like the ones you see in Bangalore! The whole world seemed to be headed for the caves! We stopped by a pine forest on the way. The fuel in our car was running out, and we decided to head back without stopping anymore.

Day Five-18 May

Homeward bound! It was a long drive home- 240 kms. Achan and I shared the distance between us. Since Amma and Ashwini were affected by food poisoning (I was affected too, but only mildly), we started only by noon. The route was Kodaikkanal – Pazhani – Udumalpet – Pollachi – Kozhinjampara – Chittur – Alathur – Pazhayannur – Thrissur. An interesting sight on the way back, was the vast wind energy farm between Pazhani and Udumalpet. Reached home around seven in the evening, and was thoroughly exhausted by the long car ride.

Off to Munnar

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Achan, Amma, Ashwini and I are going on holiday to Munnar tomorrow. We’ll be back only on Sunday, as we are also going to Kodaikkanal. Will write in detail about the trip after I come back!

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