This lesson is in the early stages of development (Alpha version)

Containers used in generating this lesson


Teaching: 20 min
Exercises: 0 min
  • How can containers be useful to me for building websites?

  • Demonstrate how to construct a website using containers to transform a specification into a fully-presented website.

The website for this lesson is generated mechanically, based on a set of files that specify the configuration of the site, its presentation template, and the content to go on this page. This is far more manageable than editing each webpage of the lesson separately, for example, if the page header needs to change, this change can be made in one place, and all the pages regenerated. The alternative would be needing to edit each page to repeat the change: this is not productive or suitable work for humans to do!

In your shell window, in your container-playground create a new directory copy-of-docker-intro and cd into it. We will later be expanding a ZIP file into this directory later.

Now open a web browser window and:

  1. Navigate to the GitHub repository that contains the files for this session, at;
  2. Click the green “Clone or download” button on the right-hand side of the page;
  3. Click “Download ZIP”.
  4. The downloaded ZIP file should contain one directory named docker-introduction-gh-pages.
  5. Move the docker-introduction-gh-pages folder into the copy-of-docker-intro folder you created above.

There are many ways to work with ZIP files

Note that the last two steps can be achieved using a Mac or Windows graphical user interface. There are also ways to effect expanding the ZIP archive on the command line, for example, on my Mac I can achieve the effect of those last two steps through running the command unzip ~/Downloads/

In your shell window, if you cd into the docker-introduction-gh-pages folder and list the files, you should see something similar to what I see:

$ cd docker-introduction-gh-pages
$ ls
AUTHORS			_episodes		code
CITATION		_episodes_rmd		data	_extras			fig		_includes		files		_layouts
Makefile		assets
_config.yml		bin

You can now request that a container is created that will compile the files in this set into the lesson website, and will run a simple webserver to allow you to view your version of the website locally. Note that this command will be long and fiddly to type, so you probably want to copy-and-paste it into your shell window. This command will continue to (re-)generate and serve up your version of the lesson website, so you will not get your shell prompt back until you type control+c. This will stop the webserver, since it cleans away the container.

If you happen to have the make tool already installed…

We are taking an atypical approach in using the command that follows, since you are not required to have set up the make tool on your computer. However you may want to see whether you happen to have make installed anyway, by typing make docker-serve instead of the command below. At worst, this will fail and you can use the command shown below.

For macOS, Linux and PowerShell:

$ docker run --rm -it -v ${PWD}:/srv/jekyll -p jekyll/jekyll:3.7.3 make serve

For cmd.exe shells on Microsoft Windows:

> docker run --rm -it -v "%CD%":/srv/jekyll -p jekyll/jekyll:3.7.3 make serve

When I ran the macOS command, the output was as follows:

Unable to find image 'jekyll/jekyll:3.7.3' locally
3.7.3: Pulling from jekyll/jekyll
ff3a5c916c92: Pull complete 
8e2da6035957: Pull complete 
42e99ed6de92: Pull complete 
70c638bbd0d9: Pull complete 
8f8df9937b34: Pull complete 
Digest: sha256:2b907c5f836ee66d6dde39aa021eebadcadd59dffab693ceecb73be7cfa2808b
Status: Downloaded newer image for jekyll/jekyll:3.7.3
jekyll serve
ruby 2.5.1p57 (2018-03-29 revision 63029) [x86_64-linux-musl]
Configuration file: /srv/jekyll/_config.yml
            Source: /srv/jekyll
       Destination: /srv/jekyll/_site
 Incremental build: disabled. Enable with --incremental
                    done in 2.647 seconds.
 Auto-regeneration: enabled for '/srv/jekyll'
    Server address:
  Server running... press ctrl-c to stop.
[2019-02-07 15:37:35] ERROR `/assets/favicons/favicon-96x96.png' not found.
[2019-02-07 15:37:35] ERROR `/assets/favicons/favicon-196x196.png' not found.
[2019-02-07 15:37:35] ERROR `/assets/favicons/favicon-16x16.png' not found.
[2019-02-07 15:37:35] ERROR `/assets/favicons/favicon-128.png' not found.
[2019-02-07 15:37:35] ERROR `/assets/favicons/favicon-32x32.png' not found.

In the preceding output, you see Docker downloading the image for Jekyll, which is a tool for building websites from specification files such as those used for this lesson. The line jekyll serve indicates a command that runs within the Docker container instance. The output below that is from the Jekyll tool itself, highlighting that the website has been built, and indicating that there is a server running.

Open a web browser window and visit the address http://localhost:4000/. You should see a site that looks very similar to that at

Using a new shell window, or using your laptop’s GUI, locate the file within the docker-introduction-gh-pages directory, and open it in your preferred editor program.

Near the top of this file you should see the description starting “This session aims to introduce the use of Docker containers with the goal of using them to effect reproducible computational environments.” Make a change to this message, and save the file.

If you reload your web browser, the change that you just made should be visible. This is because the Jekyll container saw that you changed the file, and regenerated the website.

You can stop the Jekyll container by clicking in its terminal window and typing control+c.

You have now achieved using a reproducible computational environment to reproduce a lesson about reproducible computing environments.

Key Points

  • The generation of this lesson website can be effected using a container.