lxc-gentoo: Linux Containers Gentoo Guest Template Script
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lxc-gentoo: Linux Containers Gentoo Guest Template Script

Build Status


The script creates a root filesystem and config file suitable for initializing a Gentoo guest within an LXC (Linux Containers) environment.

LXC Boot Time Screenshot

Typical startup time on modern hardware (even without an SSD) is under half a second, and as hardware detection and kernel bootstrapping is not required, the init process is largely IO bound (however adding more network interfaces does increase startup latency).

Security Notes

  • Don't treat guests as root safe
  • Best practice is to be paranoid:
    • Drop most capabilities
    • Give each guest a dedicated filesystem (eg. separate LVM2 logical block device, ZFS dataset, or loopback-mounted file)
    • Do not use UIDs on the guest that intsersect with the host system
  • Make sure you never both (1) mount proc in a guest that you don't trust, and (2) have CONFIG_MAGIC_SYSRQ 'Magic SysRq Key' enabled in your kernel (which creates /proc/sysrq-trigger) ... as this can be abused for denial of service
  • If you use DHCP be sure to use the default busybox DHCP daemon as your client (to avoid the bash shellshock issues)
  • If applicable to your kernel, ensure sysctl -w kernel.core_pattern=core. (see http://www.openwall.com/lists/oss-security/2015/04/14/4 for details)


  • Recent Linux kernel (>=3.2.x recommended, >=3.7.x actively tested) http://www.kernel.org/ (Gentoo: emerge hardened-sources / emerge gentoo-sources / emerge vanilla-sources)
  • Recent lxc userspace utilities (Gentoo: emerge lxc)


While normally run interactively, the script also accepts input from various environment variables.

  • interactive: lxc-gentoo create
  • interactive (with environment): CACHE=/cache lxc-gentoo create
  • automated: lxc-gentoo create -q
  • automated (with environment): CACHE=/cache lxc-gentoo create -q

Available environment variables are as follows.

Property Environment
Cache Path
/var/cache/lxc/gentoo Stores arch/subarch/variant combo specific stage3 tarballs and the portage snapshot.
http://distfiles.gentoo.org Specifies the location from which the stage3 tarball, portage snapshot and metadata should be fetched.
Stage 3 tarball
Specifies the location of a custom stage3 tarball. When this option is present, fetching will be skipped
Portage source
path to a custom portage to use. Can be one of:
  • a tarball -- will be extracted
  • a directory -- will be bind-mounted read-only
  • "none" -- do not set up a portage tree
  • undefined -- a portage snapshot will be downloaded and extracted into the rootfs
  • LXC Container Name
    gentoo Used by lxc-start, lxc-stop, etc.
    gentoo May be altered by DHCP.
    IPv4 Address
    dhcp dhcp is a special value; normally format is x.x.x.x/y.
    IPv4 Gateway
    auto auto is a special value; normally format is x.x.x.x/y. Ignored if $IPV4 is dhcp.
    IPv6 Address
    dhcp dhcp is a special value; normally format is x/y.
    IPv6 Gateway
    auto auto is a special value; normally format is x/y. Ignored if $IPV6 is dhcp.
    Guest Root Password
    Will be phased out soon.
    Gentoo Architecture
    amd64 Gentoo architecture code: alpha, amd64, arm, hppa, ia64, ppc, s390, sh, sparc, x86
    Gentoo Architecture Variant
    (none) Usually none, hardened or hardened+nomultilib
    PGP (GPG/GNUPG) directory
    $HOME/.gnupg Preferred key directory, or empty string (disable). See notes below.
    lxc.conf Location
    ${NAME}.conf Path at which to generate the lxc.conf file, one of:
  • undefined -- config will be placed into ./${NAME}.conf
  • a directory -- config will be placed into dir/${NAME}.conf
  • file path -- config will be placed into it
  • PGP setup

    There are 3 possible setups for PGP/GPG (GNU Privacy Guard) signature checking:

    • off
    • PGP_DIR="" lxc-gentoo ...
    • on with $HOME/.gnupg as the keys directory
    • lxc-gentoo ...
    • PGP_DIR="$HOME/.gnupg" lxc-gentoo ...
    • on with random directory
    • PGP_DIR="/path/to/random/dir" lxc-gentoo ...

    GNUPG key setup:

    You need the 'Gentoo Linux Release Engineering (Automated Weekly Release Key)' that can be found at https://wwwold.gentoo.org/proj/en/releng/index.xml

    If you wish to use a custom key storage directory, first create it as follows. Otherwise, GPG will use your default ($HOME/.gnupg) directory.

    # create and use a temporary GPG key storage dir (optional)
    mkdir -p ${PGP_DIR}
    chmod 0700 ${PGP_DIR}
    alias gpg="gpg --homedir ${PGP_DIR}"

    Now continue with the key imports.

    # Import stage3 signing key (subkeys.pgp.net is flakey)
    gpg --keyserver pool.sks-keyservers.net --recv-keys 0xBB572E0E2D182910
    # Check fingerprint (2015/04 = 13EB BDBE DE7A 1277 5DFD  B1BA BB57 2E0E 2D18 2910)
    gpg --fingerprint 0xBB572E0E2D182910
    # Trust it
    gpg --edit-key 0xBB572E0E2D182910 trust
    # If you do not have the portage tree yet: import portage signing key
    gpg --keyserver pool.sks-keyservers.net --recv-keys 0xDB6B8C1F96D8BF6D
    # Check fingerprint (2015/04 = DCD0 5B71 EAB9 4199 527F  44AC DB6B 8C1F 96D8 BF6D)
    gpg --fingerprint 0xDB6B8C1F96D8BF6D
    # Trust it
    gpg --edit-key 0xDB6B8C1F96D8BF6D trust

    Be sure to verify that the keys are actually the right ones (check fingerprint with friends, ask on IRC #gentoo-releng, #gentoo, #gentoo-containers, #lxccontainers, visit https://wwwold.gentoo.org/proj/en/releng/index.xml )

    When you're done running lxc-gentoo, if you used a custom key storage dir, you may want to reset your GPG alias and environment.

    unalias gpg
    unset PGP_DIR

    Network Configuration Notes

    LXC guests can have zero or more network interfaces, which can be of various types, and each of which may be configured with zero or more addresses. They may, regardless of the above, be granted access to zero or more external networks, real or virtual.

    As is typical of Unix (and Linux networking in particular), this basically means "you can probably achieve anything you set your mind to, but it's not going to be easy".

    The lxc-gentoo script therefore tries to provide a reasonable default for normal use cases, ie. by configuring guests to use one veth-type interface that can be connected to the outside world via iptables.

    Basic connectivity can be established with the following host-side commands:

    • lxc-start -n guest -f guest.conf
    • ifconfig guest x.x.x.x (You should now be able to ping the guest. If not, check your guest.conf network configuration versus the host-side configuration. Make sure that both addresses are in the same range and differ, for example the host may be and the guest may be

    Once you have established basic connectivity, external network connectivity can be established as follows:

    • sysctl net.ipv4.ip_forward=1 and/or sysctl net.ipv6.ip_forward=1 (Optionally also set these in /etc/systctl.conf to persist after reboot)
    • iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -o outward-interface -j MASQUERADE (Where outward-interface is the name of the interface that carries traffic to/from the host and the internet, or other destination that you wish to allow the guest to connect to. Different distributions have different ways to persist these iptables rules, but you can use iptables-save >some-ruleset and iptables-restore <some-ruleset on any distribution)

    Alternatively to a pure iptables-based approach, you may consider interface bridging. A bridge interface is a layer 2 software-based bridge on the host to which guest interfaces may be linked. It requires some configuration. Here is an IPv4 example:

    • install the bridge-utils package (gentoo: emerge bridge-utils)
    • brctl addbr br0 (create a bridge called br0)
    • brctl setfd br0 0 (set forward delay of zero for optimisation)
    • ifconfig br0 (select an address range)
    • brctl addif br0 <guest-interface> (add guest to bridge)

    For further reading, the following resources are recommended:

    • lxc.conf man page, ie. man 5 lxc.conf.
    • man 8 iptables
    • man 8 brctl
    • man 8 ifconfig; or the modern alternative man 8 ip

    The following notes describe LXC-specific network topology design considerations:

    • Guest startup times will be higher if DHCP is used. In addition, DHCP use creates a dependency on a valid guest-external DHCP configuration which can compromise portability or reliability when executing in different environments. As such, if you are planning to use your LXC guests for executing what should be reliable, repeated jobs, consider avoiding DHCP. Basically it is nothing but a potential source of failure (eg. address pool exhaustion, DHCP server configuration expectation differences between multiple guests, etc.) and should be removed if your infrastructure can be configured to facilitate it. (KISS principal)
    • VLANs have been observed to sometimes come up with unavoidable delays (depending upon various factors such as spanning tree configuration and intermediate hardware/software). For this reason they are perhaps best left for the host system to establish connectivity with and for any LXC guest access to be provided via the host iptables configuration. The ideal setup will depend upon your particular use case. KISS.
    • There have been bugs regarding relative MAC addresses in other LXC interface types in the past, which initially caused us to move toward veth-style interface configuration. Bear this in mind if moving back!

    Emulating other architectures with QEMU...

    • Enable BINFMT_MISC support in your kernel.

    • emerge static qemu with the relevant architecture enabled in QEMU_USER_TARGETS="". Hint: Do this in a native container so you don't have left over static binaries on your system :)

    • Use either the qemu-provided /etc/init.d/qemu-binfmt script to set up the binfmt handlers or something of your own. Note that the ARM handler @ qemu-binfmt is broken and you will probably have to replace it with the line found here: https://bugs.gentoo.org/show_bug.cgi?id=407099

    • Copy the statically-linked qemu-$ARCH executable into the rootfs (do cat /proc/sys/fs/binfmt_misc/$ARCH to see where).


    Feburary 2017

    • Fix comment typo

    January 2016

    • Add basic versionless ebuild (thanks to @josch09)
    • Add Travis CI automated build testing

    October 2015

    • Add IPv6 support (largely untested)
    • Adopt new defaults ('dhcp' for IPv4/IPv6 addresses, and 'auto' for gateways)

    April 2015

    • Add GPG signature and checksum validation
    • Add major kernel bug to security notes
    • Improved documentation

    February 2015

    • Minor update to mirror information parsing to suit new format
    • Additional notes on loopback setup (see below)

    September 2014

    • Cleanup old init system workarounds
    • Remove hushlogin default

    July 2014

    • Hacky FQDN support within UTSNAME

    June 2014

    • Fix to wget argument handling to improve reliability and performance on developing world or other real / half-broken internet connections

    May 2014

    • Remove kmod-static-nodes from sysinit runlevel to avoid openrc related error messages during guest startup.

    April 2014

    • No longer drop the sys_boot capability in containers, as this prevents shutdown or poweroff command within the container from properly closing the container, resulting in a hung init process and failure to recognize the container state on the host side.

    February 2014

    • External networking documentation
    • Discourage intra-guest dynamic network configuration for portability
    • Add /etc/rc.conf line: rc_provide="net" to fix service start issues

    January 2014

    • Resolve issues downloading stage3 archives
    • Set a default, unicode-enabled locale to silence perl whinging
    • Fallback to local cache when offline
    • Silence errors for antique OpenRC fixes
    • Minor fixes for recent OpenRC releases
    • Working defaults for quiet mode (lxc-gentoo create -q)
    • Minor typo fixes

    June 2013

    • Bashisms
    • Cleaner syntax
    • Improved error handling
    • Speedups
    • Better/improved locking
    • More full-featured prompting
    • Portage tree bind mount support
    • Portage workspace now tmpfs mounted
    • More verbose download
    • Compress cache at /var/cache/lxc/gentoo

    January 2013

    • Deployment of whizz-bang screenshot eyecandy.
    • Up to date OpenRC fixes for fast and minimalist boot (eg. newer OpenRC net dependency handling)
    • Additional boot verbosity with agetty --noclear
    • Fairly significant updates to error handling, which should now be relatively reliable.
    • Improved internal and external documentation.
    • Explicit inclusion of GPLv3 license text
    • Cancel the following point; we have a fairly large stylistic mismatch in addition to our use of GPLv3 and their use of LGPL. I guess that's a good thing in some ways because we can continue to hack freely without being stylistically constrained ;)
    • Development of this script will soon be moving to the main lxc utils repository, which has recently moved to github. While it has not yet been committed (a style review is pending vs. other scripts), you can find that repo over here: https://github.com/lxc/lxc

    November 2012

    • Comments regarding recent kernel JIT spraying vulnerability: http://bit.ly/T9CkqJ
    • Various contributed minor improvements around locking, indentation, shell syntax, etc.
    • Don't drop CAP_FOWNER capability, as it breaks portage's ability to chown.
    • Don't create /etc/init.d/net.eth0 unless DHCP is specified.

    October 2012

    • Migrate stage3 URL from ARCH to SUBARCH basis, as per Gentoo Release Guidelines.

    September 2012

    • Default network config has changed. Instead of assuming a bridge setup, we use simpler veth based tunnels direct to the host, which now appear as ''guestname'' in the host's interface list. (Also resolves an apparently outstanding bug related to random MAC assignment, see http://bit.ly/QWAkOy )
    • Generated guests now attempt to aggressively drop capabilities (man 7 capabilities) in a bid to plug known security issues, also to pre-mount /proc and remove /sys for the same purpose. (See also: http://bit.ly/SSDbY0 )
    • Add DHCP support
    • sshd setup code dropped as out of scope
    • More OpenRC related fixes for faster startup.
    • Various minor updates


    If you do not generate your guest on a dedicated filesystem and/or block device then you are very likely to encounter inode exhaustion on many default extN-class filesystems. Therefore, do create a new device. A good modern solution is to use a new ZFS dataset (man zfs and/or see http://zfsonlinux.org) or an LVM2 logical volume (man lvcreate and/or see http://sourceware.org/lvm2/).

    However, ZFS or LVM2 are not always available. You can achieve a similar, more portable but lower performance and storage efficiency result with the nearly always available Linux loopback device driver.

    First, create a 1024MB (for example) virtual block device image file.

     # dd if=/dev/zero of=myguest.image bs=1MiB count=1024

    Second, manually request the generation of a loopback device in order to facilitate the initial process of filesystem creation.

     # losetup --show -f myguest.image

    Third, create an appropriate filesystem.

     # mkfs -t ext4 /dev/loop0

    Finally, detach the device.

     # losetup --detach /dev/loop0

    You can now mount the image in which to store your guest as follows:

     # mkdir /mnt/myguest
     # mount -o loop myguest.image /mnt/myguest
     # cd /mnt/myguest
     # /path/to/lxc-gentoo create


    The project was originally hosted at... http://sourceforge.net/projects/lxc-gentoo/

    It was moved to github by Julien Sanchez at: https://github.com/gentooboontoo/lxc-gentoo

    This was then forked again by the original author in order to move project hosting to github. https://github.com/globalcitizen/lxc-gentoo

    Since then it has seen contributions from many parties.