Command-line programs containerization


Some reflections about containerizing command-line applications.

In time I’ve found useful to put some command-line applications in a container (e.g. graffer), because I think it’s a cool way to pack all dependencies together and make life easier for the recipients. To some extent, it mimics MacOS’s way of having tightly packaged applications.

In time, this led me to develop some intermediate layers in the form of elaborate entrypoint programs, which are most of the times shell programs that support invoking several different facilities inside the container, be it dispatching a call to the right internal tool (when I package more than one, like again in graffer) or accessing ancillary stuff (e.g. help text, etc.).

And yet, this is still not perfect. One thing that might hit is that, sometimes, it can be useful to have common stuff consumed by these images. At the moment, I have fonts in mind, which are usually not something that you need a specialized version for, so it’s perfectly acceptable to get them from the host instead of getting them from the container.

This is usually addressed in the driver shell program that wraps the call to the container image, making sure to e.g. mount the current directory somewhere inside the container, so that files can be read and written. It’s probably a matter of adjusting those wrappers, although this puts the game at a totally different level, because things like fonts might be spread all over the place and exposing them to the container would mean getting in the semantics of this.

Maybe the solution might be to have some specific shell tools that can help these wrapper scripts to solve this kind of problems, solving the specific issue once and for all (e.g. providing a way to mount all available font directories, or whatever), without reinventing too many wheels.

Time will tell, stay safe!

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