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System container image builder for LXC and LXD


Type Service Status
CI Jenkins Build Status
Project status CII Best Practices CII Best Practices

Command line options

The following are the command line options of distrobuilder. You can use distrobuilder to create container images for both LXC and LXD.

$ distrobuilder
System container image builder for LXC and LXD

  distrobuilder [command]

Available Commands:
  build-dir   Build plain rootfs
  build-lxc   Build LXC image from scratch
  build-lxd   Build LXD image from scratch
  help        Help about any command
  pack-lxc    Create LXC image from existing rootfs
  pack-lxd    Create LXD image from existing rootfs

      --cache-dir   Cache directory
      --cleanup     Clean up cache directory (default true)
  -h, --help        help for distrobuilder
  -o, --options     Override options (list of key=value)
  -t, --timeout     Timeout in seconds
      --version     Print version number

Use "distrobuilder [command] --help" for more information about a command.

How to use

In the following, we see how to create a container image for LXD.

Installing from package

distrobuilder is available from the snapstore.

sudo snap install distrobuilder --classic

Installing from source

To compile distrobuilder from source, first install the Go programming language, and some other dependencies.

  • Debian-based:
    sudo apt update
    sudo apt install -y golang-go debootstrap rsync gpg squashfs-tools git
  • ArchLinux-based:
    sudo pacman -Syu
    sudo pacman -S go debootstrap rsync gnupg squashfs-tools git --needed

Second, download the source code of the distrobuilder repository (this repository). The source will be placed in $HOME/go/src/

go get -d -v

Third, enter the directory with the source code of distrobuilder and run make to compile the source code. This will generate the executable program distrobuilder, and it will be located at $HOME/go/bin/distrobuilder.

cd $HOME/go/src/

Finally, you can run distrobuilder as follows. You may also add to your $PATH the directory $HOME/go/bin/ so that you do not need to run the command with the full path.


Creating a container image

To create a container image, first create a directory where you will be placing the container images, and enter that directory.

mkdir -p $HOME/ContainerImages/ubuntu/
cd $HOME/ContainerImages/ubuntu/

Then, copy one of the example yaml configuration files for container images into this directory. In this example, we are creating an Ubuntu container image.

cp $HOME/go/src/ ubuntu.yaml

Build the container image for LXD

Finally, run distrobuilder to create the container image. We are using the build-lxd option to create a container image for LXD.

sudo $HOME/go/bin/distrobuilder build-lxd ubuntu.yaml

If the command is successful, you will get an output similar to the following. The lxd.tar.xz file is the description of the container image. The rootfs.squasfs file is the root filesystem (rootfs) of the container image. The set of these two files is the container image.

$ ls -l
total 100960
-rw-r--r-- 1 root   root         676 Oct  3 16:15 lxd.tar.xz
-rw-r--r-- 1 root   root   103370752 Oct  3 16:15 rootfs.squashfs
-rw-r--r-- 1 ubuntu ubuntu      7449 Oct  3 16:03 ubuntu.yaml

Adding the container image to LXD

To add the container image to a LXD installation, use the lxc image import command as follows.

$ lxc image import lxd.tar.xz rootfs.squashfs --alias mycontainerimage 
Image imported with fingerprint: 009349195858651a0f883de804e64eb82e0ac8c0bc51880

Let's see the container image in LXD. The ubuntu.yaml had a setting to create an Ubuntu 20.04 (focal) image. The size is 98.58MB.

$ lxc image list mycontainerimage
|      ALIAS       | FINGERPRINT  | PUBLIC | DESCRIPTION  |  ARCH  |  SIZE   |         UPLOAD DATE         |
| mycontainerimage | 009349195858 | no     | Ubuntu focal | x86_64 | 98.58MB | Oct 3, 2020 at 5:10pm (UTC) |

Launching a LXD container from the container image

To launch a container from the freshly created container image, use lxc launch as follows. Note that you do not specify a repository of container images (like ubuntu: or images:) because the image is located locally.

$ lxc launch mycontainerimage c1
Creating c1
Starting c1

Build a LXC container image

Using LXC containers instead of LXD may require the installation of lxc-utils. Having both LXC and LXD installed on the same system will probably cause confusion. Use of raw LXC is generally discouraged due to the lack of automatic Apparmor protection.

For LXC, instead use:

$ sudo $HOME/go/bin/distrobuilder build-lxc ubuntu.yaml
$ ls -l
total 87340
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root      740 Jan 19 03:15 meta.tar.xz
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 89421136 Jan 19 03:15 rootfs.tar.xz
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root     4798 Jan 19 02:42 ubuntu.yaml

Adding the container image to LXC

To add the container image to a LXC installation, use the lxc-create command as follows.

lxc-create -n myContainerImage -t local -- --metadata meta.tar.xz --fstree rootfs.tar.xz

Then start the container with

lxc-start -n myContainerImage


Examples of yaml files for various distributions can be found in the examples directory and in the lxc-ci repository.


Error "Cannot install into target '/var/cache/distrobuilder.123456789/rootfs' mounted with noexec or nodev"

You have installed distrobuilder into a LXD container and you are trying to run it. distrobuilder does not run in a LXD container. Run distrobuilder on the host, or in a VM.

Error "error: This revision of snap "distrobuilder" was published using classic confinement"

You are trying to install the distrobuilder snap package. The distrobuilder snap package has been configured to use the classic confinement. Therefore, when you install it, you have to add the flag --classic as shown above in the instructions.

Error "You must be root to run this tool"

You must be root in order to run the distrobuilder tool. The tool runs commands such as mknod that require administrative privileges. Prepend sudo when running distrobuilder.

You can’t perform that action at this time.