become-root in an user namespace

I’ve cleaned up some C files I was using locally for hacking with user namespaces and uploaded them to a new repository on github:

Creating an user namespace can be easily done with unshare(1) and get the current user mapped to root with unshare -r COMMAND but it doesn’t support the mapping of multiple uids/gids. For doing that it is necessary to use the suid newuidmap and newgidmap tools, that allocates multiple uids/gids to unprivileged users accordingly to the configuration files:

  • /etc/subuid: for additional UIDs
  • /etc/subgid: for additional GIDs
    • $ grep gscrivano /etc/subuid
      $ become-root cat /proc/self/uid_map 
               0       1000          1
               1     110000      65536

      The uid_map file under /proc shows the mappings used by the process.

      become-root doesn’t allow any customization, it statically maps the current user to the root in the user namespace and any additional uid/gid are mapped starting from 1.

      One feature that might be nice to have is to allow the creation of other namespaces as part of the same unshare syscall, such as creating a mount or network namespace, but I’ve not added this feature as I am not using it, I rely on unshare(1) for more features. PR are welcome.

fuse-overlayfs moved to

The project I was working on in the last weeks was moved under the umbrella.

With Linux 4.18 it will be possible to mount a FUSE file system in an user namespace. fuse-overlayfs is an implementation in user space of the overlay file system already present in the Linux kernel, but that can be mounted only by the root user. Union file systems were around for a long time, allowing multiple layers to be stacked on top of each other where usually the last one is the only writeable.
Overlay is an union file system widely used for mounting OCI image. Each OCI image is made up of different layers, each layer can be used by different images. A list of layers, stacked on each other gives the final image that is used by a container. The last level, that is writeable, is specific for the container. This model enables different containers to use the same image that is accessible as read-only from the lower layers of the overlay file system.

The current implementation of the overlay file system is done directly in the kernel, at a very low level, allowing non privileged users to use it directly poses some security risks. In the longer term, once the security aspect is resolved, non privileged users will probably be able to mount directly an overlay file system.

For now, given the new feature in Linux 5.18, having an implementation of the overlay union in user space will enable rootless containers to use the same storage as containers running as root.

On Fedora Rawhide, where Linux 4.18 is available, it is already possible to take a taste of it with:

podman --storage-opt overlay2.fuse_program=/usr/bin/fuse-overlayfs run ...

The previous command tells podman to mount an overlay file system using the specified FUSE helper instead of mounting it directly through the kernel.

Current status (and problems) of running Buildah as non root

Having Buildah running in an user namespace opens the possibility of building container images as a not root user. I’ve done some work to get Buildah running in an user container.

There are still some open issues to get it fully working. The biggest open one is that overlayfs cannot be currently used as non root user. There is some work going on, but this will require changes in the kernel and the way extended attributes work for overlay. The alternative is far from ideal and it is to use the vfs storage driver, but it is a good starting point to get things moving and see how far we get. (Another possibility that doesn’t require changes in the kernel would be an OSTree storage for Buildah, but that is a different story).

Circumvented the first obstacle, the other big issue was to get a container, that is created for every buildah run command, the Buildah version of the RUN directive in a Dockerfile. That means run a container inside of a container.

The default runtime for atomic –user is bwrap-oci, a tool that converts a subset of the OCI configuration file to a command line for bubblewrap, the real engine for running the container. There is an open issue with bubblewrap, that as part of the container setup, move the container in a chroot. This will prevent further containers to be created as for the unshare(2) man page, you can get an EPERM if:

EPERM (since Linux 3.9)
CLONE_NEWUSER was specified in flags and the caller is in a chroot environment (i.e., the caller’s root directory does not match the root directory of the mount namespace in which it resides).

This problem is tracked here: Once that is merged, together with some other small changes in bwrap-oci I got the container running and bubblewrap could be used both as the runtime for running the Buildah container that for the runtime for managing the containers created by Buildah.

I wanted to give it a try with runc as well as the container runtime. There is a lot of development going on upstream for running containers as not root user, but it also failed to run in an user namespace when it tried to setup the cgroups.

To get a better understanding of what could the solution for having a full OCI runtime managing these containers, I wrote some patches for crun, partly because it is my pet project and also as it is still experimental, it is much easier to quickly throw a bunch of patches at it and not be worried to make someone sad. I’ve added some code to detect when the container is running in an user namespace and relax some error conditions to deal with the limitations in such environment. Even if the user id is 0 the runtime doesn’t still have full control of the system.

The container image that I’ve prepared is hosted on Docker hub at

Given you use the latest version crun from git and of the atomic CLI tool (that supports –runtime) you can run the container as:

$ atomic run --runtime /usr/bin/crun --storage ostree /host/$(pwd)/

The script looks very similar to the example on the Buildah github page. It is a shell script that looks like:

#!/bin/bash -x

export HOME=/host/$(pwd)

ctr1=`buildah --storage-driver vfs from --pull ${}`

buildah --storage-driver vfs run --runtime /host/usr/bin/crun --runtime-flag systemd-cgroup $ctr1 -- dnf  upgrade -y

buildah --storage-driver vfs run --runtime /host/usr/bin/crun --runtime-flag systemd-cgroup $ctr1 -- dnf install -y lighttpd

buildah --storage-driver vfs config $ctr1 --annotation ""

buildah --storage-driver vfs config $ctr1 --cmd "/usr/sbin/lighttpd -D -f /etc/lighttpd/lighttpd.conf"
buildah --storage-driver vfs config $ctr1 --port 80

buildah --storage-driver vfs commit $ctr1  giuseppe/lighttpd

We got very close, but it doesn’t work yet the last `commit` command fails as vfs got broken upstream: We’ve built a container in an user namespace, but we cannot share it with anyone šŸ™‚

New COPR repository for crun

I made a new COPR repository for CRUN so that it can be easily tested on Fedora:

To install crun on Fedora, it is enough to:

# dnf install 'dnf-command(copr)'
# dnf -y copr enable gscrivano/crun
# dnf install -y crun

a recent change in the atomic tool, which didn’t still get into a release, allows to easily override the OCI runtime for system containers. Assuming you are using atomic from the upstream repository, you can use crun as:

# atomic install --system ----runtime /usr/bin/crun
# systemctl start etcd

It will install etcd as a system container which runs through crun!

You might need to disable SELinux as the /usr/bin/crun executable is not yet labelled correctly.

Facebook detox?Ā 

I have been using Facebook for the last years to fill every dead time:waiting for the bus, ads on TV, compiling, etc.  The quality of the information coming from Facebook is inferior to any other social network, at least to my experience (it can be I follow/know the wrong people), though the part of the brain that controls procrastination seems addicted to this lower quality information and the chattering there.  Also, I don’t want to simply delete my Facebook account and move on, most of the people I know are present only there, neither I want to be more “asocial”.

The Android market has always a solution.    An app let you define rules on how long are you permitted to use each app.  I am self limiting myself to ten minutes per day of Facebook.  Second day and the rule is still in place without exceptions! 

Refactoring a function name across several patches with git rebase

git rebase is one of my favorite git commands. It allows to update a set of local patches against another git branch and also to rework, trough the -i flag some previous patches.

The problem I had to deal with was quite simple, rename a function called notProperPythonCode to proper_python that was defined in the first patch and be sure that all other patches are using the correct name. The –exec flag allows to run a custom script after each patch is applied, so that I could run sed to process the Python files and replace the old function name with the new one. The process is quite simple, except that such changes would trigger a lot of merge conflicts, trivial to solve but quite annoying.
Fortunately git rebase allows to choose what merge strategy must be adopted for solving conflicts, the theirs strategy in case of a conflict, will take the previous version of the patch and silently use it. That is fine for this simple substitution case, where we process each file ending by *.py in the repository.

In the end, the final command looked like this:

git rebase -X theirs -i \
  --exec "sh -c \"git ls-files *.py \
  | xargs sed --follow-symlinks -i -e \
   's|notProperPythonCode|proper_python|g'\" \
  && git commit --amend -a -C HEAD" origin/master

System containers for Atomic

The main reason behind system containers was the inability to run Flannel in a Docker container as Flannel is required by Docker itself. CoreOS solved this chicken and egg problem by using another instance of Docker (called early-docker) that is used to setup only Etcd and Flannel.

Differently, Atomic system containers will be managed by runc and systemd.

The container images, even though being served through the Docker v2 registry, are slighty different than a regular Docker container in order to be used by Atomic. The installer expects that some files are present in the container rootfs under /exports, the OCI spec file for running the Runc container and the unit file for Systemd. Both these files are templates and some values are replaced by the installer.
The communication with the Docker registry is done through Skopeo, that is used internally by the atomic cli tool.

The demo shows the current status of the project, these features are not still part of any release and most likely there will be more changes before they will be released.

I wanted to give a try to asciinema, this is the result:

The images used in the demo are maintained here:

More details on the current design can be found here: