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Distrobox

Use any linux distribution inside your terminal

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Distrobox

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Use any Linux distribution inside your terminal. Enable both backward and forward compatibility with software and freedom to use whatever distribution you’re more comfortable with. Distrobox uses podman or docker to create containers using the Linux distribution of your choice. The created container will be tightly integrated with the host, allowing sharing of the HOME directory of the user, external storage, external USB devices and graphical apps (X11/Wayland), and audio.


Documentation - Matrix Room - Telegram Group


overview



What it does

Simply put it’s a fancy wrapper around podman or docker to create and start containers highly integrated with the hosts.

The distrobox environment is based on an OCI image. This image is used to create a container that seamlessly integrates with the rest of the operating system by providing access to the user’s home directory, the Wayland and X11 sockets, networking, removable devices (like USB sticks), systemd journal, SSH agent, D-Bus, ulimits, /dev and the udev database, etc…

It implements the same concepts introduced by https://github.com/containers/toolbox but in a simplified way using POSIX sh and aiming at broader compatibility.

All the props go to them as they had the great idea to implement this stuff.

It is divided into 10 commands:

It also includes a little wrapper to launch commands with distrobox COMMAND instead of calling the single files.

Please check the usage docs here and see some handy tips on how to use it

See it in action

Thanks to castrojo, you can see Distrobox in action in this explanatory video on his setup with Distrobox, Toolbx, Fedora Silverblue on his project ublue (check it out!)

Video

Why

Refer to the compatiblity list for an overview of supported host’s distro HERE and container’s distro HERE.

Aims

This project aims to bring any distro userland to any other distro supporting podman or docker. It has been written in POSIX sh to be as portable as possible and not have problems with dependencies and glibc version’s compatibility.

Refer HERE for a list of supported container managers and minimum supported versions.

It also aims to enter the container as fast as possible, every millisecond adds up if you use the container as your default environment for your terminal:

These are some sample results of distrobox-enter on the same container on my weak laptop:

~$ hyperfine --warmup 3 --runs 100 "distrobox enter bench -- whoami"
Benchmark 1: distrobox enter bench -- whoami
  Time (mean ± σ):     395.6 ms ±  10.5 ms    [User: 167.4 ms, System: 62.4 ms]
  Range (min … max):   297.3 ms … 408.9 ms    100 runs

Security implications

Isolation and sandboxing is not the main aim of the project, on the contrary it aims to tightly integrate the container with the host. The container will have complete access to your home, pen drives and so on, so do not expect it to be highly sandboxed like a plain docker/podman container or a flatpak.

⚠️ BE CAREFUL:⚠️ if you use docker, or you use podman with the --root/-r flag, the containers will run as root, so root inside the rootful container can modify system stuff outside the container, if you have security concern for this, use podman that runs in rootless mode. Rootless docker is still not working as intended and will be included in the future when it will be complete.

That said, it is in the works to implement some sort of decoupling with the host, as discussed here: #28 Sandboxed mode


Basic usage

Create a new distrobox:

distrobox create -n test

Enter created distrobox:

distrobox enter test

Add various distroboxes, eg Ubuntu 20.04:

distrobox create -i ubuntu:20.04

Execute a command in a distrobox:

distrobox enter test -- command-to-execute

Upgrade all distroboxes at once:

distrobox upgrade --all

List running distroboxes:

distrobox list

Stop a running distrobox:

distrobox stop test

Remove a distrobox

distrobox rm test

You can check HERE for more advanced usage and check a comprehensive list of useful tips HERE

Configure Distrobox

Configuration files can be placed in the following paths, from the least important to the most important:

Example configuration file:

container_always_pull="1"
container_user_custom_home="/home/.local/share/container-home-test"
container_image="registry.opensuse.org/opensuse/toolbox:latest"
container_manager="docker"
container_name="test-name-1"
container_entry=0
non_interactive="1"
skip_workdir="0"

Alternatively it is possible to specify preferences using ENV variables:


Installation

Distrobox is packaged in the following distributions, if your distribution is on this list, you can refer to your repos for installation:

Packaging status

Thanks to the maintainers for their work: M0Rf30, alcir, dfaggioli, AtilaSaraiva, michel-slm

You can also follow the guide to install in a rootless manner

Alternative methods

Here is a list of alternative ways to install distrobox

Curl

If you like to live your life dangerously, or you want the latest release, you can trust me and simply run this in your terminal:

curl -s https://raw.githubusercontent.com/89luca89/distrobox/main/install | sudo sh

or if you want to select a custom directory to install without sudo:

curl -s https://raw.githubusercontent.com/89luca89/distrobox/main/install | sh -s -- --prefix ~/.local

If you want to install the last development version, directly from last commit on git, you can use:

curl -s https://raw.githubusercontent.com/89luca89/distrobox/main/install | sudo sh -s -- --next

or:

curl -s https://raw.githubusercontent.com/89luca89/distrobox/main/install | sh -s -- --next --prefix ~/.local

Warning Remember to add prefix-path-you-choose/bin to your PATH, to make it work.

Git

Alternatively you can clone the project using git clone or using the latest release HERE.

Enter the directory and run ./install, by default it will attempt to install in ~/.local but if you run the script as root, it will default to /usr/local. You can specify a custom directory with the --prefix flag such as ./install --prefix ~/.distrobox.

Prefix explained: main distrobox files get installed to ${prefix}/bin whereas the manpages get installed to ${prefix}/share/man.

Flatpak

⚠️ ⚠️ ⚠️ This is experimental! ⚠️ ⚠️ ⚠️

You can find flatpak builds of distrobox here: io.github.luca.distrobox
Download the latest release flatpak and run

flatpak install io.github.luca.distrobox.flatpak

You can then run distrobox with:

flatpak run io.github.luca.distrobox create ...
flatpak run io.github.luca.distrobox enter ...
flatpak run io.github.luca.distrobox list ...
[...]

It will be handy to add an alias distrobox="flatpak run io.github.luca.distrobox" to your shell, so that you can run distrobox commands normally.

Being experimental, please if you encounter problems, report them!


Check the Host Distros compatibility list for distro-specific instructions.

Dependencies

Distrobox depends on a container manager to work, you can choose to install either podman or docker.

Please look in the Compatibility Table for your distribution notes.

There are ways to install Podman without root privileges and in home. This should play well with completely sudoless setups and with devices like the Stean Deck.


Uninstallation

If you installed distrobox using the install script in the default install directory use this:

curl -s https://raw.githubusercontent.com/89luca89/distrobox/main/uninstall | sudo sh

or if you specified a custom path:

curl -s https://raw.githubusercontent.com/89luca89/distrobox/main/uninstall | sh -s -- --prefix ~/.local

Else if cloned the project using git clone or using the latest archive release from HERE,

enter the directory and run ./uninstall, by default it will assume the install directory was /usr/local if ran as root or ~/.local, you can specify another directory if needed with ./uninstall --prefix ~/.local


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