Monthly Archives: June 2011

“App” containing on the modern Linux desktop

(Just released Arkose 1.0 that’s a full rewrite in python using LXC and introducing a nice GUI for fine grained app restriction. Read below for details.)

Those of you who read my blog know that I’ve been working on a pet-project of mine called Arkose.
This project is used as the base for WebLive‘s feature allowing users to easily test any package in the Ubuntu archive.

At the Ubuntu Developer Summit, last month in Hungary, I was leading a session on application containing and gathered ideas on how to improve the safety of our user’s desktop while still making it easy for app developers.

Today, I’d like to present you with the initial result, the new version of Arkose which I ended up releasing as 1.0 (as it’s a full rewrite).

The biggest new feature is the “wrapper” that can be used by packagers or upstreams to specify what the software will have access to, so Arkose will spawn a container that only has access to these resources.

Arkose wrapper for gedit

Current access controls include:
– Which user to run the software as (current user or root user)
– Network access (currently, all or nothing)
– X server access (either no access at all, an independent X server using xpra or direct X access)
– DBUS access (any combination of session bus, system bus or no dbus access at all)
– Pulseaudio access (enabled or not)

Then the app can specify a list of paths using one of these options:
– Direct filesystem access with read/write depending on user permissions
– Overlay filesystem access, similar to direct but all changes are dropped when the app exits
– Temporary empty directory. created and available to the app and dropped when the app exits

As an example, here’s the definition file for a completely isolated “xeyes”:

In this case, xeyes will appear almost as it’d in a regular environment. The only difference you’ll notice is that it won’t follow your mouse unless it’s in xeyes’ window. Also, if xeyes was to have some bug, it wouldn’t be able to eavesdrop on dbus, do any damage to the filesystem or even play a sound.

This 1.0 release is available for download at:
Development code is available on Launchpad at:
I have PPA builds for Maverick and Natty at:
The package also just got uploaded to Ubuntu Oneiric.

To start the gedit from the screenshot above, use:
arkose-wrapper-gui /usr/share/doc/arkose/examples/profiles/gedit.conf
Some other example profiles are available in:

Here’s an example of how to use the new python module:
import arkose
container.run_command("su stgraber -c xterm")

That will start an xterm as the user “stgraber” on an isolated X server and with pulseaudio and network support.

Next step for the project is to improve the GUI part, add all the new cool features to the old commands (arkose and arkose-gui), work on fine grained network access control and allow for translations. 1.1 should be released relatively soon with bug fixes and maybe some of these features.

I appreciate any comment or bug report. Comments can be left on this blog and bug reports on Launchpad:

Posted in Arkose, Canonical voices, LXC, Planet Ubuntu | Tagged | 11 Comments