Ubuntu installer slideshow customization, with pictures!

I have escaped the perilous grasp of Perl, and I bring news:

If you make a localized Ubuntu ISO like the Italian CD, you can customize the installer slideshow, with translated screenshots and more!

How? Follow me!

First, you need to be running Ubuntu 12.10 with the latest version of the Ubuntu defaults builder — 0.35. I assume you already know about the defaults builder, since you are making a localized ISO. If you do not, start with this explanation about localized images. Don’t worry: the defaults builder is a great tool that makes this very easy!

The defaults builder template has been updated to include a “ubiquity-slideshow” folder. Let’s open a terminal and create a new defaults package to play around:

ubuntu-defaults-template ubuntuway-defaults

That will create a fresh defaults source package in a folder named “ubuntuway-defaults”. Open that, then open “ubiquity-slideshow”.

Of course, you can always add ubiquity-slideshow to an existing defaults package.

As you might have guessed, you get to customize the slides! Open “slides.”

Yay, an empty screen, glimmering with potential!

We put slides in this folder, in almost exactly the way they are organized with ubiquity-slideshow itself. Now would be a good time to install ubiquity-slideshow-ubuntu so you can use the base files as reference. Make sure you have at least version 61, because things have changed since Ubuntu 12.04.

With the defaults package, you get to extend /usr/share/ubiquity-slideshow/slides/l10n.

In the ubiquity-slideshow package, each folder contains slides for a particular locale. Note that each folders’ contents look a lot like /usr/share/ubiquity-slideshow/slides.

Back in our defaults package, let’s start by adding some locales. We are going to add translated text and screenshots for en@piglatin. To start, we create a new folder: “en@piglatin.”

On this topic, there should actually be a pig latin option in the locale chooser. It would be sooo cool.

The way this works is the slideshow will search the extra locale folder for a language and, if a particular file is available for that language, it will use it instead of the default. For example, we could replace welcome.jpg for the “it” locale, so when someone installs in Italian that picture will appear instead of the original welcome.jpg.

Let’s replace welcome.jpg for the en@piglatin locale! To replace a file, the easiest thing is to copy where it is in /usr/share/ubiquity-slideshow/slides. You can see there’s a screenshots folder there, with a bunch of screenshots. So, in our own “en@piglatin” folder, we’ll add a screenshots folder. Of course, what you would normally do is look at the original welcome.jpg and create something similar that works for your locale and your disk image, making sure to keep the same dimensions. I’m going to cheat a little.

Custom screenshots folder for en@piglatin, with a custom (colour-shifted) welcome.jpg

One problem with the slideshow is that the screenshots are always in English. Now, you can include translated screenshots. As with anything else here, these go on top of the other files. An Ubuntu install in your language will show the translated screenshots, while an install in English (or any other language) will show the original English screenshots. There isn’t an actual Pig Latin Ubuntu for some reason, so I will translate a screenshot into French for an example.

Some rules of thumb for taking screenshots, if you don’t want to (or it isn’t practical to) do the same thing as the original:

  • Do something practical, like search for a photo or read a web page: don’t open every menu in an application to demonstrate its features.
  • You probably don’t want to have all your own stuff there for the world to see, but if you have some time try to invent a person. It’s just a little more fun than showing a blank photo manager with “Guest” at the top right of the screen.
  • Use the defaults! Create a fresh user account and make sure you don’t touch the font size or the background picture.
  • Make it look good, and if following the above rules makes it bad then please disregard them :)

I went ahead and created a translated screenshot to replace usc.jpg. I took a screenshot of the entire screen, then I opened it in GIMP and scaled to 60% with interpolation set to “Sinc (Lanczos3)”. (You are welcome to choose whatever interpolation works well for the job at hand, of course). After scaling, I used the crop tool, setting a fixed size of 448×304 pixels and leaving a 10×10 border around the application’s main window. (Just line up the box from the crop tool with the top left of the window, then add “-10” to each of the Position number fields).

Cropping a screenshot of Ubuntu Software Centre in French. Yes, it’s also easy to subtract 10 in your head, but OMG cool GIMP feature!

I saved the picture as usc.jpg and added it to the screenshots folder, right beside welcome.jpg. You may add screenshots for as many languages as you want, as long as they fit on the CD, but please keep in mind there is a high maintenance cost.

Now we can try this thing! Open a terminal: we’re going to build a defaults package and see what happens.

cd ubuntuway-defaults

A package file should appear in the parent directory, called ubuntuway-defaults_0.1_all.deb. Just double click the file and choose Install. To see this in action, you also need to install ubiquity-slideshow-ubuntu and download the slideshow testing tool (Slideshow.py). Sorry, just a little more terminal stuff ahead.

Open a terminal pointed to wherever you downloaded Slideshow.py.

chmod +x Slideshow.py 
./Slideshow.py --path=/usr/share/ubiquity-slideshow --locale='en@piglatin'

Now, about that text…

We’re going to add some information that we know will be useful for people who receive this disk image, and we will translate some stuff into Pig Latin as an example. The files we need to replace are called welcome.html and gethelp.html, and they’re html files, so if you know HTML it will be a piece of cake.

Again, the easiest thing is to find the files we need from the base ubiquity-slideshow and copy them. In this case, we’ll copy and paste the files and then edit them with our changes. But before you do that, remember that the slideshow is very likely to be available in your language. Before you copy slides from /usr/share/ubiquity-slideshow/slides, look for them under your locale at /usr/share/ubiquity-slideshow/slides/l10n.

With this example, there is (of course) no Pig Latin translation to base on, so we will just add some new stuff on top of the English slideshow. In theory, we could actually translate all the slides to Pig Latin here, but that would make a very poor example because it shouldn’t be necessary: the best practice for this part is to do translations in the ubiquity-slideshow project, and then just tweak those translations in the defaults package.

welcome.html and gethelp.html copied from the base locale at /usr/share/ubiquity-slideshow/slides

Open welcome.html in your favourite text editor, look for the content, and do what you want. Be careful, though: a syntax error can cause all sorts of problems.

Writing some helpful targeted content for gethelp.html

To see the changes we need to build the package again.

cd ubuntuway-defaults
sudo dpkg -i ../ubuntuway-defaults_0.1_all.deb
./Slideshow.py --path=/usr/share/ubiquity-slideshow --locale='en@piglatin'
The installer slideshow with our localized gethelp.html

Now that we have the defaults package figured out, we can go one step further: build a disk image!

mkdir image-builder-tmp
cd image-builder-tmp
ubuntu-defaults-image --package=../ubuntuway-defaults_0.1_all.deb

This will take a while. When it’s done, it will spit out a file called livecd.ubuntu.iso. Just load that in VirtualBox or something of the sort. When you install, it should look exactly like the preview. (Assuming you use a language that can be selected in Ubiquity, and that language has been selected).

I really upset the live CD trying to make the Pig Latin example show up, so that’s why there are no window titles, but it works, right?

That should get you started. I hope you like it! Go ahead and download the ubuntuway-defaults source package to explore, and please share how it goes.

5 Replies to “Ubuntu installer slideshow customization, with pictures!”

  1. Quick Q&A time!

    What if I want to change the CSS, or add more slides?

    Sounds like you want a whole new slideshow. This feature is intended for filling in gaps in localization and making small tweaks. If you want to do something very different, take a look at http://code.launchpad.net/ubiquity-slideshow-ubuntu as a starting point from which to build your own slideshow package.

    What was that about high maintenance costs?

    When you do this, please take a close look whenever there’s a new Ubuntu release. The reason it’s important is because the slides and images are replaced in a very clumsy fashion. As the original slideshow changes, your content can become outdated, or even broken. Generally, you should expect to revise it every six months. With that said, if you’re doing something very elaborate, see the first question.

    Can I override a screenshot for every language?

    Yes! What you want to do is provide a screenshot for the base locale, “C”. Just add a “C” folder under slides and treat it like any other locale. When something isn’t available for the current language, the version from “C” will be shown.

    Why shouldn’t I translate all the slides?

    We already have an amazing translation community that contributes translations for ubiquity-slideshow, and it would be a shame to fragment that effort. Of course, if you are correcting errors or filling gaps for a language that didn’t get translated on Launchpad, please do what you need, but consider submitting your translations to Launchpad as well. That way, people using the official Ubuntu install CD will benefit as well.

  2. Very interesting post this, but for Raring I can not find the same thing.
    Maybe that read bad English (I’m French).
    Thank you for sharing.

  3. I know this is a really old thread, but hopefully someone is watching. Does anyone know where I can find a guide like this for 12.04? I have searched hi and low. There are differences such as the lack of a slides folder that has thrown me off. Any help at all would be much appreciated.

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