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Reproducible Computational Environments Using Containers: Introduction to Docker: Setup

Website accounts to create

Please seek help at the start of the lesson if you have not been able to establish a website account on:

Files to download

Download the file. This file can alternatively be downloaded from the files directory in the docker-introduction GitHub repository.

Move the downloaded file to your Desktop and unzip it. It should unzip to a folder called docker-intro.

Software to install

Docker’s installation experience has steadily improved, however situations will arise in which installing Docker on your computer may not be straightforward unless you have a large amount of technical experience. Workshops try to have helpers on hand that have worked their way through the install process, but do be prepared for some troubleshooting.

In most cases, you will need to have administrator rights on the computer in order to install the Docker software. If you are using a computer managed by your organisation and do not have administrator rights, you may be able to get your organisation’s IT staff to install Docker for you. Alternatively your IT support staff may be able to give you remote access to a server that can run Docker commands.

Please try to install the appropriate software from the list below depending on the operating system that your computer is running. Do let the workshop organisers know as early as possible if you are unable to install Docker using these instructions, as there may be other options available.

Microsoft Windows

You must have admin rights to run Docker! Some parts of the lesson will work without running as admin but if you are unable to Run as administrator on your machine some elements of this workshop might not work as described.

Ideally, you will be able to install the Docker Desktop software, following the Docker website’s documentation. Note that the instructions for installing Docker Desktop on Windows 10 Home Edition are different from other versions of Windows 10.

Note that the above installation instructions highlight a minimum version or “build” that is required to be able to install Docker on your Windows 10 system. See Which version of Windows operating system am I running? for details of how to find out which version/build of Windows 10 you have.

If you are unable to follow the above instructions to install Docker Desktop on your Windows system, the final release of the deprecated Docker Toolbox version of Docker for Windows can be downloaded from the releases page of the Docker Toolbox GitHub repository. (Download the .exe file for the Windows installer). Please note that this final release of Docker Toolbox includes an old version of Docker and you are strongly advised not to attempt to use this for any production use. It will, however, enable you to follow along with the lesson material.

Warning: Git Bash

If you are using Git Bash as your terminal on Windows then you should be aware that you may run into issues running some of the commands in this lesson as Git Bash will automatically re-write any paths you specify at the command line into Windows versions of the paths and this will confuse the Docker container you are trying to use. For example, if you enter the command:

docker run alpine cat /etc/os-release

Git Bash will change the /etc/os-release path to C:\etc\os-release\ before passing the command to the Docker container and the container will report an error. If you want to use Git Bash then you can request that this path translation does not take place by adding an extra / to the start of the path. i.e. the command would become:

docker run alpine cat //etc/os-release

This should suppress the path translation functionality in Git Bash.

Apple macOS

Ideally, you will be able to install the Docker Desktop software, following the Docker website’s documentation. The current version of the Docker Desktop software requires macOS version 10.14 (Mojave) or later.

If you already use Homebrew or MacPorts to manage your software, and would prefer to use those tools rather than Docker’s installer, you can do so. For Homebrew, you can run the command brew install --cask docker. Note that you still need to run the Docker graphical user interface once to complete the initial setup, after which time the command line functionality of Docker will become available. The Homebrew install of Docker also requires a minimum macOS version of 10.14. The MacPorts Docker port should support older, as well as the most recent, operating system versions (see the port details), but note that we have not recently tested the Docker installation process via MacPorts.


There are too many varieties of Linux to give precise instructions here, but hopefully you can locate documentation for getting Docker installed on your Linux distribution. It may already be installed. If it is not already installed on your system, the Install Docker Engine page provides an overview of supported Linux distributions and pointers to relevant installation information. Alternatively, see:

Verify Installation

To quickly check if the Docker and client and server are working run the following command in a new terminal or ssh session:

$ docker version
 Version:           20.10.2
 API version:       1.41
 Go version:        go1.13.8
 Git commit:        20.10.2-0ubuntu2
 Built:             Tue Mar  2 05:52:27 2021
 OS/Arch:           linux/arm64
 Context:           default
 Experimental:      true

  Version:          20.10.2
  API version:      1.41 (minimum version 1.12)
  Go version:       go1.13.8
  Git commit:       20.10.2-0ubuntu2
  Built:            Tue Mar  2 05:45:16 2021
  OS/Arch:          linux/arm64
  Experimental:     false
  Version:          1.4.4-0ubuntu1
  Version:          1.0.0~rc95-0ubuntu1~21.04.1
  Version:          0.19.0

The above output shows a successful installation and will vary based on your system. The important part is that the “Client” and the “Server” parts are both working and returns information. It is beyond the scope of this document to debug installation problems but common errors include the user not belonging to the docker group and forgetting to start a new terminal or ssh session.

A quick tutorial on copy/pasting file contents from episodes of the lesson

Let’s say you want to copy text off the lesson website and paste it into a file named myfile in the current working directory of a shell window. This can be achieved in many ways, depending on your computer’s operating system, but routes I have found work for me: