I tried to use Linux Containers (LXC) as my development environment.

[ This is not an LXC tutorial. I am too new to the tech to write a reliable tutorial. ]

[ Check out all posts in “containers” series here. ]

In my previous post on LXC, I shared my first impressions on the LXC technology. But I didn’t really try to use it for dev work at the time.

Today, I made my first attempt to actually do development using an LXC container.

It was great so far! It provides me the library version isolation behaviour I was after, with the native performance I needed.

I was able to test below steps without observing any issues:

  • Build USD (OpenUSD), building some of its dependencies, and using the distribution’s package manager for others.
  • Load Kitchen Set scene in usdview, confirming the responsiveness of the runtime.
  • Build an executable that links against USD libs, and run it.
  • Modify the sources using my preferred editor, emacs, and rebuild.

There were a couple instances where a new emacs process I spawned crashed at startup. But that was the only instability I encountered during my hours of testing. Running emacs sessions were very stable.

Another aspect of the LXC container-based workflow I really enjoyed is that I feel like I am working on a really clean OS setup:

  • My home directory in the container has much fewer files.
  • Running htop shows just a few processes.


I decided to introduce another tool to my container-based dev workflow: tmux. It is a “terminal multiplexer”.

I evaluated tmux a few years ago. It was very cool, but I decided that its window-management related features overlap with other tools I use daily: tiling window managers, and emacs. And I didn’t really need persistent terminal sessions at the time.

So how does it help me now?

It felt limiting to access the container through a terminal. Because I normally use a separate terminal for separate tasks. You can attach the container multiple times, but then it would be frustrating to constantly distinguish “container-attached terminals” from “host terminals”.

So I figured I can:

  • usually attach from a single terminal
  • utilize tmux to make that single terminal behave like my desktop.

This indeed made the experience much more convenient for me. I still spawn separate emacs sessions with X support, and I use a different background color for the emacs running inside the container.

I will keep sharing my experience with development using LXC containers.

Thanks for reading! If you find technical errors, please report in the blog’s Issues page.