Want to try out something in your Linux distro, but don’t want to bloat your system? Docker might help you doing this and get rid of the thing after you’re done.

To experiment with a Perl module requiring a system library to be installed, I figured that I would need to install a lot of stuff in my Debian system, which I wasn’t sure about:

$ sudo apt-get install libzbar-dev
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree       
Reading state information... Done
The following additional packages will be installed:
  yadda yadda yadda...
Suggested packages:
  yadda yadda yadda...
The following NEW packages will be installed:
  yadda yadda yadda...
The following packages will be upgraded:
  libglib2.0-0 libglib2.0-bin libicu57 libx11-6
4 upgraded, 77 newly installed, 0 to remove and 91 not upgraded.
Need to get 64.0 MB of archives.
After this operation, 193 MB of additional disk space will be used.
Do you want to continue? [Y/n]

Well… thanks but no thanks, I don’t want all this stuff just for trying out a few programs and then move on!

Why not with Docker?

Docker can provide the right experimenting environment to try out stuff and then get rid of it when we’re done.

In this case, I already had the image for debian:slim-9 in my local Docker cache of images, so why not using it?

$ docker run --rm -itv "$PWD:/mnt" debian:slim-9
root@769f7f634955:/mnt# apt-get update
# ...
root@769f7f634955:/mnt# apt-get install -y libzbar-dev perlmagick
# ...

And voilà, the perfect environment for experimenting. When I’m done with it, it suffices to exit from the shell inside the container and command line --rm will make sure to get rid of everything, releasing precious resources.

As I’m starting a shell to interact with, I’m also passing both options -i (interactive) and -t (to allocate a tty).

Last, I’m also mapping the current directory onto path /mnt inside the container. In this way, I can still edit files within the host system, while running them inside the container, with the advantage of not losing those programs when the container goes away - yay!

Summing up

Docker can provide a lot of benefits, including quick throw-away environment to test things out. I’d suggest giving it a try!