Advanced Podman Build

To make the Redox build process more consistent across platforms, we are using Rootless Podman for major parts of the build. The basics of using Podman are described here. This chapter provides a detailed discussion, including tips, tricks and troubleshooting, as well as some extra detail for those who might want to leverage or improve Redox's use of Podman.

Build Environment

  • Environment and Command Line Variables, other than ARCH, CONFIG_NAME and FILESYSTEM_CONFIG, are not passed to the part of make that is done in Podman. You must set any other config variables, e.g. REPO_BINARY, in .config and not on the command line or in your environment.

  • If you are building your own software to include in Redox, and you need to install additional packages using apt-get for the build, follow Adding Ubuntu Packages to the Build.

Minimum Installation

Most of the packages required for the build are installed in the container as part of the build process. However, some packages need to be installed on the host computer. You may also need to install an emulator such as QEMU. For most Linux distros, this is done for you in, but you can do a minimum install by following the instructions below.

Note that the Redox filesystem parts are merged using FUSE. installs libfuse for most platforms, if it is not already included. If you have problems with the final assembly of Redox, check that libfuse is installed and you are able to use it.


sudo apt-get install podman


sudo apt-get install podman curl git make libfuse-dev

Arch Linux

sudo pacman -S --needed git podman fuse


sudo dnf install podman


The building of the image is controlled by the tag file build/container.tag. If you run make all with PODMAN_BUILD=1, the file build/container.tag will be created after the image is built. This file tells make that it can skip updating the image after the first time.

Many targets in the Makefiles mk/*.mk include build/container.tag as a dependency. If the tag file is missing, building any of those targets may trigger an image to be created, which can take some time.

When you move to a new working directory, if you want to save a few minutes, and you are confident that your image is correct and your poduser home directory build/podman/poduser is valid, you can do

make container_touch

This will create the file build/container.tag without rebuilding the image. However, it will fail if the image does not exist. If it fails, just do a normal make, it will create the container when needed.

Cleaning Up

To remove the base image, any lingering containers, poduser's home directory, including the Rust install, and build/container.tag, use:

make container_clean

To check that everything has been removed,

podman ps -a
podman images

will show any remaining images or containers. If you need to do further cleanup,

podman system reset

will remove all images and containers. You still may need to remove build/container.tag if you did not do make container_clean.

In some rare instances, poduser's home directory can have bad file permissions, and you may need to do

sudo chown -R `id -un`:`id -gn` build/podman

where `id -un` is your User ID and `id -gn` is your effective Group ID. Be sure to make container_clean after that.


  • make clean does not run make container_clean and will not remove the container image.
  • If you already did make container_clean, doing make clean could trigger an image build and a Rust install in the container. It invokes cargo clean on various components, which it must run in a container, since the build is designed to not require Cargo on your host machine. If you have Cargo installed on the host and in your PATH, you can use make PODMAN_BUILD=0 clean to clean without building a container.

Debugging your Build Process

If you are developing your own components and wish to do one-time debugging to determine what library you are missing in the Podman Build environment, the following instructions can help. Note that your changes will not be persistent. After debugging, you must Add your Libraries to the Build. With PODMAN_BUILD=1, run the command:

make container_shell

This will start a bash shell in the Podman container environment, as a normal user without sudo privilege. Within that environment, you can build the Redox components with:

make repo

or, if you need to change ARCH or CONFIG_NAME,

./ -a ARCH -c CONFIG_NAME repo

If you need root privileges, while you are still running the above bash shell, go to a separate Terminal or Console window on the host, and type:

cd ~/tryredox/redox
make container_su

You will then be running bash with root privilege in the container, and you can use apt-get or whatever tools you need, and it will affect the environment of the user-level container_shell above. Do not precede the commands with sudo as you are already root. And remember that you are in an Ubuntu instance.

Note: Your changes will not persist once both shells have been exited.

Type exit on both shells once you have determined how to solve your problem.

Adding Ubuntu Packages to the Build

This method can be used if you want to make changes/testing inside the Ubuntu container with make env.

The default Containerfile, podman/redox-base-containerfile, imports all required packages for a normal Redox build.

However, you cannot easily add packages after the base image is created. You must add them to your own Containerfile and rebuild the container image.

Copy podman/redox-base-containerfile and add to the list of packages in the initial apt-get.

cp podman/redox-base-containerfile podman/my-containerfile
nano podman/my-containerfile
        xxd \
        rsync \
        MY_PACKAGE \

Make sure you include the continuation character \ at the end of each line except after the last package.

Then, edit .config, and change the variable CONTAINERFILE to point to your Containerfile, e.g.


If your Containerfile is newer than build/container.tag, a new image will be created. You can force the image to be rebuilt with make container_clean.

If you feel the need to have more than one image, you can change the variable IMAGE_TAG in mk/ to give the image a different name.

If you just want to install the packages temporarily, run make env, open a new terminal tab/windows, run make container_su and use apt install on this tab/window.

Troubleshooting Podman

If you have problems setting Podman to rootless mode, use these commands:

(These commands were taken from the official Podman rootless wiki and Shortcomings of Rootless Podman, then it could be broken/wrong in the future, read the wiki to see if the commands match, we will try to update the method to work with everyone)

  • Install podman, crun, slirp4netns and fuse-overlayfs packages on your system.
  • podman ps -a - this command will show all your Podman containers, if you want to remove all of them, run podman system reset.
  • Take this step if necessary (if the Podman of your distribution use cgroup V2), you will need to edit the containers.conf file on /etc/containers or your user folder at ~/.config/containers, change the line runtime = "runc" to runtime = "crun".
  • Execute cat /etc/subuid and cat /etc/subgid to see user/group IDs (UIDs/GIDs) available for Podman.

If you don't want to edit the file, you can use this command:

sudo usermod --add-subuids 100000-165535 --add-subgids 100000-165535 yourusername

You can use the values 100000-165535 for your user, just edit the two text files, we recommend sudo nano /etc/subuid and sudo nano /etc/subgid, when you finish, press Ctrl+X to save the changes.

  • After the change on the UID/GID values, execute this command:
podman system migrate
  • If you have a network problem on the container, this command will allow connections on the port 443 (without root):
sudo sysctl net.ipv4.ip_unprivileged_port_start=443
  • Hopefully, you have a working Podman build now (if you still have problems with Podman, check the Troubleshooting chapter or join us on the Redox Support room)

Let us know if you have improvements for Podman troubleshooting on Redox Dev room.

  • PODMAN_BUILD - If set to 1 in .config, or in the environment, or on the make command line, much of the build process takes place in Podman.

  • CONTAINERFILE- The name of the containerfile used to build the image. This file includes the apt-get command that installs all the necessary packages into the image. If you need to add packages to the build, edit your own containerfile and change this variable to point to it.

  • make build/container.tag - If no container image has been built, build one. It's not necessary to do this, it will be done when needed.

  • make container_touch - If a container image already exists and poduser's home directory is valid, but there is no tag file, create the tag file so a new image is not built.

  • make container_clean - Remove the container image, poduser's home directory and the tag file.

  • make container_shell - Start an interactive Podman bash shell in the same environment used by make; for debugging the apt-get commands used during image build.

  • make env - Start an interactive bash shell with the prefix tools in your PATH. Automatically determines if this should be a Podman shell or a host shell, depending on the value of PODMAN_BUILD.

  • make repo or ./ -a ARCH -c CONFIG repo - Used while in a Podman shell to build all the Redox component packages. make all will not complete successfully, since part of the build process must take place on the host.

  • podman exec --user=0 -it CONTAINER bash - Use this command in combination with make container_shell or make env to get root access to the Podman build environment, so you can temporarily add packages to the environment. CONTAINER is the name of the active container as shown by podman ps. For temporary, debugging purposes only.

  • podman system reset - Use this command when make container_clean is not sufficient to solve problems caused by errors in the container image. It will remove all images, use with caution. If you are using Podman for any other purpose, those images will be deleted as well.

Gory Details

If you are interested in how we are able to use your working directory for builds in Podman, the following configuration details may be interesting.

We are using Rootless Podman's --userns keep-id feature. Because Podman is being run Rootless, the container's root user is actually mapped to your User ID on the host. Without the keep-id option, a regular user in the container maps to a phantom user outside the container. With the keep-id option, a user in the container that has the same User ID as your host User ID, will have the same permissions as you.

During the creation of the base image, Podman invokes Buildah to build the image. Buildah does not allow User IDs to be shared between the host and the container in the same way that Podman does. So the base image is created without keep-id, then the first container created from the image, having keep-id enabled, triggers a remapping. Once that remapping is done, it is reused for each subsequent container.

The working directory is made available in the container by mounting it as a volume. The Podman option:

--volume "`pwd`":$(CONTAINER_WORKDIR):Z

takes the directory that make was started in as the host working directory, and mounts it at the location $CONTAINER_WORKDIR, normally set to /mnt/redox. The :Z at the end of the name indicates that the mounted directory should not be shared between simultaneous container instances. It is optional on some Linux distros, and not optional on others.

For our invocation of Podman, we set the PATH environment variable as an option to podman run. This is to avoid the need for our make command to run .bashrc, which would add extra complexity. The ARCH, CONFIG_NAME and FILESYSTEM_CONFIG variables are passed in the environment to allow you to override the values in mk/ or .config, e.g. by setting them on your make command line or by using

We also set PODMAN_BUILD=0 in the environment, to ensure that the instance of make running in the container knows not to invoke Podman. This overrides the value set in .config.

In the Containerfile, we use as few RUN commands as possible, as Podman commits the image after each command. And we avoid using ENTRYPOINT to allow us to specify the podman run command as a list of arguments, rather than just a string to be processed by the entrypoint shell.

Containers in our build process are run with --rm to ensure the container is discarded after each use. This prevents a proliferation of used containers. However, when you use make container_clean, you may notice multiple items being deleted. These are the partial images created as each RUN command is executed while building.

Container images and container data is normally stored in the directory $HOME/.local/share/containers/storage. The command:

podman system reset

removes that directory in its entirety. However, the contents of any volume are left alone.