tw Tailwind - Live : Manual html rev: 2013-Jan-21


Introduction FAQ   (top)

What is Tailwind-Live ?

Tailwind-Live is a Linux distro based on Debian and built using Live-Helper.

What makes Tailwind-Live different from other distro's ?

Most live distro's are designed to introduce a user to a particular way of packaging Linux (i.e. Debian, Ubuntu, Redhat Fedora etc.) with the hope that the user would then install the distribution onto a hard disk.

Once you've installed your live distro (either directly from the live CD or by downloading the installable Cd's), you then start customizing to tailor Linux to your particular needs by adding tools, adding users/passwords, fixing issues with media packages, fonts etc. Eventually you have what you want and you pray you don't have to do it again because you can't quite remember 'how you did it'.

The goal of Tailwind-Live is to give you everything you need and have it all working together as a Live distribution .. so you don't have to customize anything .. it just works.

Isn't this a pretty tall order?

Well yes, of course it is .. so 'my' solution is to simply replicate 'my' working environment and hope that you like it!

This is something like what you do when you invite someone to your home for dinner. You are given two choices .. you can try to guess what your guest will like and compromise your dinner by making food you are not that happy with OR you can simply make what you like and assume the user will like it too!

I prefer the latter approach because it at least ensures one person is happy!

Isn't it a pain to boot all the time from a CD drive .. isn't it slow?

In fact, the way I use this environment is to boot everything from hard drive.

With today's fast processors and large memory configurations, this results in a surprisingly fast computing environment.

What are the other advantages of using a live distro boot from hard disk?

Who am I?

Harold Blount .. pleased to meet you!

contact: hb at tailwind-live dot org

What is in this DVD?   (top)





Scripting and languages:



Text Editors:


What's NOT on this DVD:

The directories /usr/share/zoneinfo, /usr/share/locale and /usr/share/doc take up about 100Meg (compressed) space on the filesystem.squashfs image (i.e. grows from 840Meg to 940Meg). To keep the size down, Tailwind-Live prunes these directories down to a size of around 25Meg.

See also Package Lists for a list of Debian packages typically found in Tailwind-live.

If you are running Tailwind-live right now, this file is found at the root and is called 'package.list'. You could open it with:

kwrite /package.list

in a shell. It will only list Debian packages of course and not the binary installed programs included in Tailwind-live.

How to boot Tailwind-Live from a faster media   (top)

One of the annoying things about CD-ROM/DVD Live Distros is that they respond slowly to user input because it takes time for the drive to spin up to speed to read data.

You can remove this 'hesitation' delay by installing Tailwind-Live on your hard drive.

To do this, boot into your default operating system and copy the directory called 'live' from the Tailwind-Live DVD to the root of your hard drive. (i.e. in Windows it might look something like: C:\live when you are finished).

This works with virtually any partition type including NTFS, FAT32 or some other Linux partition.

Next time you boot Tailwind-Live from DVD, it will find your live directory on your hard drive and finish booting from there for a marked speed improvement with the added benefit of freeing up your CD-ROM/DVD drive for other uses.

If at any time you want to remove Tailwind-Live from your hard drive, simply delete this live directory.

NOTE that if you are putting Tailwind-Live on an NTFS directory, you have to do it from Windows as described above as Linux can not write to an NTFS partition.

Networking and Wireless issues   (top)

Wired Networks:

To connect to a wired network, simply plug your computer's network adapter into your network and then boot Tailwind-Live.

If this fails, open the Wicd Network Manager from the Xfce menu (under Network) and try to connect to your wired Network with the Connect button.

NOTE: In some cases it seems that you may be connected to the network but the Wicd Network Manager does not seem to know and does not report the correct status.

Wireless Networks:

If you are lucky, you may find that your wireless just 'works' and you can connect using the Wicd Network Manager. In this case you are using the default kernel wireless drivers which is fine.


Tailwind-Live has a firewall pre-configured to start automatically when a network is connected and to shut-down once the network connection goes down.

The firewall is generally configured to allow the following ports access: 22 (ssh), 515 (lpd), 631 (cups) and 80 (www). Only port 22 (ssh) will allow access beyond the network gateway. See the Tailwind-Live script for details.



Obviously a web browser is a good place to start to see if you are connected (firefox is an unbranded version firefox).

Another way to look at your network is to open a Command Prompt (X terminal Emulator) and try the ping command on something like

You can also run the ifconfig command as user root and you should see the status of your network interface (usually eth0 or wlan0) and look for the inet addr: line to see if you have an ip address.

Some wireless network cards come up as wlan0 and others as ath0. Tailwind-Live tries to figure this out for you and configure wicd correctly. It is possible that your wireless card (or even wired card) is something stranger and you may have to change the settings in wicd accordingly. A useful console command to figure this out is ifconfig -a (as root user) which will list all (configured and not configured) network devices.

How to save WICD settings for next boot

The WICD configuration files are in /etc/wicd and can be saved to your twl_setup_dir with the savesettings-wicd script in /usr/share/tailwind-live/scripts.

The assumption here is that twl_setup_dir is NOT in ram but rather on a hard disk or flash as configured in If twl_setup_dir IS in ram, then copy changes in this directory over to your /live/image/live/twl_setup_dir so on next boot the ram version has your changes. Of course, you will have to do this in multiple steps since /live/image is mounted as read-only when Tailwind-Live is booted.

Multi-media (video and music) in Tailwind-Live   (top)

Creating mpeg movies from a webcam

The simplest way to grab video and audio from your webcam seems to be with ffmpeg.

Here is what I do:

ffmpeg  -r 25 -sameq -f video4linux2 -s 800x600 -i /dev/video0 -f alsa -i hw:1,0 mymovie.mpeg

To get a list of audio devices:

arecord -l

To checkout your webcam before recording:

vlc v4l2:///dev/video0:width=600:height=480

There is a way to record with vlc while monitoring input but I find it crashes after a few minutes.

And of course to play back your movie:

vlc mymovie.mpeg
Tailwind-Live usernames, passwords and persistent disk storage   (top)

There are a few approaches you can take to creating a working Tailwind-Live environment that runs just like a 'non-live' installed operating system.

The first way is around a Dual-boot Windows/Linux System where you share common files on a FAT32 partition and you have Linux partitions for Linux and NTFS partitions for Windows.

The second approach is a One-boot Linux System which only uses Linux partitions. If you understand how to setup a Tailwind-Live One-boot Linux System, you will find it easier to configure a Dual-boot Windows/Linux System and better understand what trade-offs you are willing to make creating the dual-boot.

One-boot Linux System:

The assumption here is that you are starting with a empty hard disk that you are going to re-format and DESTROY ANY EXISTING DATA ON THAT HARD DISK.

You should now be able to boot your Tailwind-live computer without the DVD and it should come up and ask you for a password for your new username. If you did not change the username in menu.lst, then the password is 'bylot'.

To change the root password, open a shell and remove the file /data/twl_setup_dir/root.md5 and reboot. Tailwind-Live will ask you for a new root password when booting.

NOTE: The /dev/SDX2 partition can be used to switch to a new revision of Tailwind-Live. Don't forget to include your changes to when creating /dev/SDX2 .. then change the default value to '1' in menu.lst and reboot!

Graphics Cards and Video Drivers   (top)


In an earlier incarnation of Tailwind-live (FreeWRL) , the intent was to support accelerated graphics on as many video cards as possible. This is especially useful for opengl x3d/vmrl direct rendering (dri).

Presently the focus is now on MyPlace and Pushbutton Linux and so the requirement for opengl has now diminished and the only driver supported is the NVIDIA GeForce driver along with Intel.

Intel - no cursor

Wouldn't you know it - I found an old laptop that boots up fine with this version of Tailwind-Live except the cursor does not appear! So the solution is to use the Frame Buffer Graphics driver (called fbdev).

Intel and early ATI Video Drivers

The default xserve-xorg video driver library that is included in Debian supports Intel and many of the earlier ATI chip sets automatically and the user should not need to specify an NVIDIA or ATI driver if this is the case.

Enabling NVIDIA or Intel Frame Buffer

To enable the automatic loading of NVIDIA Drivers by Tailwind-Live, add the following flag to the boot parameters in your grub menu.lst file:


.. and for the Intel Frame Buffer driver:

Acer Aspire One   (top)

How to boot Tailwind-live on an Acer Aspire One

To boot Tailwind-live on an Acer Aspire One, select the Aspire One menu item in the grub menu and this will tell Tailwind-live to use xorg.conf.aspireone which adjusts the font size.

NOTE that this simply adds the aspireone flag to twlflags boot parameter.

Bugs and things to watch for

I've tried letting the machine crash when the power dries up and it re-boots ok since just about everything is ram-based and the Tailwind-live boot files are all mounted as read-only. You won't want to do that too often if you have an SD flash mounted as writable and are working on a document!

See for more info on card readers and fonts. The large font fix works great.

Time and Date issues with live distros   (top)

The Problem Defined:

Windows systems like to set the computers hardware clock to local time but Linux systems prefer UTC (GMT) time because ntp (network time protocol) servers that Linux can interface with work (only?) with a UTC system clock.

This means that when you boot Tailwind-Live from a computer that runs Windows, the time may be incorrect.


What is NOAH and how can I use it in Tailwind-Live   (top)

The Nordicwind Document Management System (NOAH) is a server-based documentation system that manages document revisions in a central repository.

NOAH's Web browser interface makes it easy for a user to create, update, lock, search and manage revisions of a family of documents for access by multiple users across many geographical sites.

NOAH is installed by default in Tailwind-Live and auto configures itself to store data in the directory /var/lib/noah.


To store data permanently with Tailwind-Live, adjust your /live/ script to mount the correct hard disk and create a link in /var/lib so that noah points to the correct directory on your hard disk.


  #  mkdir /data
  #  mount /dev/SDX4 /data
  #  mkdir -p /data/noah
  #  ln -s /data/noah /var/lib/noah

To access NOAH go to http://localhost/cgi-bin/noah/

To approve new usernames and passwords, log in as user 'admin' with password 'blizzard' and go to 'manage users/groups'.

Don't forget to change your admin password to something more secure!

.. and read the Help and FAQs for NOAH (upper right corner of most NOAH pages or on-line at

NOTE: that NOAH is access on port 80 (www) and that the firewall in Tailwind-Live limits access of port 80 to the local network and denies access beyond the GATEWAY.


How do I install Skype? .. or some other package?   (top)

It is inevitable that you will find Debian packages that you would like to include with Tailwind-Live and so here is how you go about doing just that!

webcan drivers

In the latest releases of Tailwind-live, the latest v4l-dvb drivers are included with the new kernel build.

How do I access Tailwind-Live remotely?   (top)

There are two ways:

Method #1: SSH - Secure Shell using openssl

Tailwind-Live comes with an ssh server which is started on boot-up if the GRUB kernel parameter twlflags has the ssh flag present (i.e. twlflags=ssh). This is generally the default GRUB configuration, but check if in doubt.

When the ssh server is started, it uses the pre-generated openssl keys that come with Tailwind-Live.

This is mostly a convenience because if Tailwind-Live generated a new set of keys on every boot, you would be forever getting 'Man-in-the-Middle' attack warnings from the ssh client on your other machines.

In some cases you may want to generate new ssh keys on boot up and so add genkeys to the twlflags kernel parameter option. It might look like twlflags=ssh:genkeys.

Looking for a ssh shell?

If you are on a Windows system, then try something like 'Putty' (google). On a Linux OS, the usual approach is to open a shell window (sometimes called a command prompt) and use the ssh command .. something like:

 ssh freewrl@

Method #2: VNC - remote display of desktops

Another way to connect to your Tailwind-Live computer is through VNC.

The VNC client installed in Tailwind-Live is xtightvnc and it is capable of tunneling through the ssh server on a Tailwind-Live computer.

For example, if you have one Tailwind-Live computer wanting to remotely display the desktop of another Tailwind-Live computer, open a shell and type the following command:

xtightvncviewer -via baffin@ localhost

Notice the IP Address of the target Tailwind-Live machine .. it could also be a hostname if available.

Of course if the username is different, change that as well.

You will now be able to view the existing desktop and move the mouse and generally control that machine including shutting it down etc.

For Windows machines, look at ssvnc at sourceforge:

Method #3: VNC - reverse connection

This method requires the user on the TARGET machine to know what IP address it wants to invite a VNC connection from .. and requires the user at the INVITED end (i.e. the user that wants to access the TARGET machine) to be running VNC in 'listen' mode.

This is what you do at the TARGET machine:

x11vnc -display :0 -solid grey -noxdamage -connect_or_exit IP -passwd PWD -norc -timeout 2

# where IP is the IP address that you are inviting to your desktop
# and PWD is the password that you want that person to use to log in to
# your machine.

The beauty of this approach is you don't have to worry about opening the firewall ports on the TARGET network. Ofcourse the downside is the OTHER computer (the invited) needs port 5500 open and mapped.

VNC and SSH Tips

IP Address:

If you are not sure of your IP Address, then the wicd tool may tell you (but not always .. there is a status/IP Address display bug that shows up on some computers).

The other sure way is to open a shell and login to root (su - ... password:windy) and run the command ifconfig and you should see your IP Address in the line 'inet addr' on your interface (usually eth0 if wired, wlan0 or ath0 if wireless)

Firewall issues:

Tailwind-Live has a firewall setup using iptables. See the firewall script at /usr/share/tailwind-live/scripts/ and search for ssh.

If the Tailwind-Live firewall has been modified or does not suite your requirements, this is where you make fixes and then put the script in the /live/twl_setup_dir/scripts_custom directory.

Starting and stopping your network connection will start and stop the firewall.

You can see the firewall rules with the command:

iptables -L -n 

(Use -n option for numeric so the domain names do not have to be resolved .. which can be slow)

X refusing VNC connection:

The one thing that can cause a rejection of your xtightvncviewer connection is if the network address changes (perhaps you changed the IP Address associated with that computer, or switch from wired to wireless).

The simple solution to this is to log out of your X windows session and log back in. (If you are 'autologin', then you will first go to a command console and then after a small delay, the X Window System will restart). You should now be able to connect.

.x11vnc and VNC_VIA_CMD:

When xtightvncviewer connects to a remote Tailwind-Live desktop, it does it by tunneling through ssh and starting x11vnc on the remote machine.

On the client side, its the environment variable VNC_VIA_CMD that xtightvncviewer uses to start x11vnc on the remote machine. This variable is defined in /etc/profile and looks like:

VNC_VIA_CMD="ssh -f -t -L %L:%H:%R %G x11vnc; sleep 5"
export VNC_VIA_CMD

On the remote machine that xtightvncviewer is connecting to, x11vnc gets it's settings from the .x11vnc configuration file that it expects to see in the target users home directory.

-rfbport 5900
-display :0
-solid grey
-timeout 60

The -noxdamage option is to improve behaviour for openGL.

Give me a run-down on system admin!   (top)

Let's summarize some info you may need .. depending on what you are doing:

Inside Tailwind-Live and how to customize   (top)

How does Tailwind-Live boot-up?

The Tailwind-Live boot-up deviates from the standard Linux and Live-Debian boot-up to make customization of many user and machine specific features easier.

The boot process goes like this:

Note: for more details, see the /usr/local/share/tailwind-live/scripts/ script for more details .. it is well documented!

Tailwind-Live Script man pages   (top)

(content yet to be written)

How to get latest Tailwind-Live DVD   (top)

You can download a Tailwind-Live Make CD-ROM image here that's 85Meg in size and then make your own super-sized DVD of Tailwind-Live.

GRUB help files - language and keyboard options   (top)

When booting Tailwind-Live from DVD or CD-ROM, the GRUB boot loader is the first thing you see.

Here is a link to the help files accessible from the menus in the GRUB boot loader.

The GRUB kernel option: twlflags

To simplify enabling some of the Tailwind-Live boot options, a kernel option twlflags is used where each option is separated with a ':'.

For example, if you want to set the ssh and utc options, it would look as follows:


Here is a summary of the currently used twlflags parameters:

Language and Keyboard Options

Graphical Language/keyboard Selector

New for v0.8.5 is a graphical language/keyboard tool which is accessible on the bottom toolbar once you have booted into Tailwind-Live. Look for the icon!

The language/keyboard mapping is controlled by the file lancodes.txt which is located in the directory /usr/local/etc. If you want to alter this file for different language selection, edit it and place it in SETUP_DIR and Tailwind-live will see it on boot-up and install it for you.

NOTE that this graphical language/keyboard tool is available in xdm if you choose to disable autologin.

GRUB Language/keyboard Control

If you would rather control language and keyboard through GRUB, you will need to set the locale and keyb boot parameters to your keyboard/language of choice.

Some examples:
locale=de_DE.utf8 keyb=de for German (quertz keyboard)
locale=fr_FR.utf8 keyb=fr for French
locale=sv_SE.utf8 keyb=se for Sweden

How do you change a GRUB kernel option?

When the grub menu comes up, hit 'e' to edit and scroll down one line to the kernel line and hit 'e' and add locale=de_DE.utf8 keyb=de to the end of the line and hit RETURN and b for boot.

You should boot into a german keyboard (qwertz) and various locale-enabled windows will be in german. I see that firefox does not show german :( but many other tools do.

In the future, the plan is to add a better way to select keyboard/language preferences on bootup through a more 'intellegent' GRUB menu.

Licenses   (top)

Tailwind-Live, like many Linux Distros, is a compilation of many programs and applications.

In general, most of this software is free to download and use and in many cases it is also free and unrestricted for users to modify and redistribute the modified code.

Tailwind-Live is based on the Debian Linux distribution which prides itself in producing 'free' Linux distros. See

That said, there is code in Tailwind-Live that is 'non-free' by Debians definition and thus there are some licenses in this Tailwind-Live distro that you may want to be aware of.

ls /usr/share/doc/*/copyright

Search ... in Tailwind-live Documentation   (top)

The Tailwind-live documentation is concentrated in one file called manual.html ... which is THIS html page.

To conduct a search in THIS document, use the search function in your browser which is usually accessed with the Ctrl-F key combination (opens search window at bottom of the Iceweasel browser). The Ctrl-G key combination repeats a search.

In Firefox/Iceweasel/Mozilla products, the forward slash (/) opens a temporary 'quick' search window (a vi carry-over).

You may also find the Sitemap useful.

html Revision History (this document)   (top)

2013-Jan-21: hb

2010-Nov-05: hb

2010-Sep-10: hb

2009-May-9 : hb

2009-May-7 : hb

2009-May-3 : hb

2009-Jan-26 : hb

2009-Jan-24 : hb

2008-Nov-14 : hb

2008-Nov 5 : hb

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