[Rd] Docker versus Vagrant for reproducability - was: The case for freezing CRAN

Philippe GROSJEAN Philippe.GROSJEAN at umons.ac.be
Sat Mar 22 08:58:45 CET 2014

On 21 Mar 2014, at 20:21, Gábor Csárdi <csardi.gabor at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Fri, Mar 21, 2014 at 11:12 AM, Rainer M Krug <Rainer at krugs.de> wrote:
>> Gábor Csárdi <csardi.gabor at gmail.com> writes:
>>> You might want to look at packer as well, which can build virtual
>> machines
>>> from an ISO, without any user intaraction. I successfully used it to
>> build
>>> VMs with Linux, OSX and Windows. It can also create vagrant boxes. You
>> can
>>> specify provisioners, e.g. to install R, or a set of R packages, etc. It
>> is
>>> under heavy development, by the same team as vagrant.
>> I think I am getting lost in these - I looked ad Docker, and it looks
>> promising, but I actually didn't even manage to sh into the running
>> container. Is there somewhere an howto on how one can use these in R, to
>> the purpose discussed in this thread? If not, I really think this would
>> be needed. It is extremely difficult for me to translate what I want to
>> do into the deployment / management / development scenarios discussed in
>> the blogs I have found.
> I haven't tried Docker, so I cannot say anything about that. The purpose of
> vagrant and packer is slightly different, but there seems to be some
> overlap.
> Packer helps you building a virtual machine from an ISO, automatically,
> without any human interaction. That's pretty much it. The result can be a
> VirtualBox, VMWare, etc. virtual machine, or even a vagrant box. I used it
> to build Ubuntu, OSX and Windows boxes, it works great if you have a
> working configuration. If you need to tweak a config to install additional
> software, etc. then it requires some experimenting and patience, because
> debugging is not that great.
> Vagrant manages disposable virtual machines. I.e. it takes a vagrant box,
> which is essentially a VM and some extra configuration info, provisions it,
> which usually means installing software or setting up a development
> environment, and then manages it, so that you can ssh to it, or do whatever
> you want with it.
> There are a number of boxes available, so if you want a minimal VM with
> Ubuntu32, it takes one command to create it from a public box, another one
> starting it, and a third one to ssh to it. It is literally a couple of
> minutes, downloading the box takes longest. If you have the box, then it is
> even quicker.
> You can use packer and vagrant together. Packer creates the vagrant box,
> sets up a very minimal environment. Then you can use vagrant with this box.
> In my opinion it is somewhat cumbersome to use this for everyday work,
> although good virtualization software definitely helps.
> Gabor
Additional info: you access R into the VM from within the host by ssh. You can enable x11 forwarding there and you also got GUI stuff. It works like a charm, but there are still some problems on my side when I try to disconnect and reconnect to the same R process. I can solve this with, say, screen. However, if any X11 window is displayed while I disconnect, R crashes immediately on reconnection.


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