Linux, Unix, Operating Systems

A Guide to Running GUI Applications in a Docker Container

Containers are not usually associated with GUI applications, but there may be times when one might still want to run such a program inside a container, for example to isolate the application’s dependencies. Installing a GUI application in a container means that not only the application, but also all its specific dependencies are encapsulated inside the container (respectively, the container image), and can therefore reliably be removed from the system in a single step.

The primary challenge is to let a container communicate with the host’s display system, so that it can create GUI windows on the host. A GUI application will likely also need to share files with the host system, which in turn requires the appropriate user permissions.

Running a GUI Application in a Docker Container

Containers are not usually associated with GUI applications, but there may be times when one might still want to run such a program inside a container, for example to isolate the application’s dependencies. Installing a GUI application in a container means that not only the application, but also all its specific dependencies are encapsulated inside the container (respectively, the container image), and can therefore reliably be removed from the system in a single step.

Using Xsession to Set an Environment Variable Without a Shell

The freedesktop project, arguably the most important Linux organization you’ve never heard of, has (among many other noble deeds) done an admirable job clearing up the mess of local cache and config files in one’s home directory. But how does one override their defaults, if this requires setting environment variables globally, for all processes, and outside an explicit shell environment?

Unix Tools Today

I learned Unix almost 30 years ago, while attending graduate school in the early 90s, from a now long-obsolete book entitled “Unix for the Impatient”.

Some of the tools and commands I learned back then have long since become irrelevant (ftp, telnet, cvs, biff — remember biff?). Others, although long in the tooth, continue to serve me well every day (emacs, tcsh, cc). And yet a third group seems to be more important than ever (such as tar, which is the basis for Docker images).