Balena base images
balenalib is the central home for 6000+ IoT focused Docker images built specifically for balenaCloud and balenaOS. This set of images provide a way to get up and running quickly and easily, while still providing the option to deploy slim secure images to the edge when you go to production.
- Multiple Architectures:
- multiple distributions:
- multiple language stacks:
buildvariants designed for multistage builds.
- cross-build functionality for building ARM containers on x86.
- Helpful package installer script called
install_packagesinspired by minideb.
How to Pick a Base Image
How the Image Naming Scheme Works
With over 6000
balenalib base images to choose from it can be overwhelming to decide which image and tag is correct for your project. To pick the correct image, it helps to understand the how the images are named as that indicates what is installed in the image. In general the naming scheme for the
balenalib image set follows the pattern below:
<hw>is either architecture or device type and is mandatory. If using Dockerfile.templates you can replace this with
<distro>is the linux distribution, currently there are 4 distributions, namely Debian, Alpine, Ubuntu and Fedora. This field is optional, and will default to Debian if left out.
<lang_stack>is the programming language pack, currently we support Node.js, Python, OpenJDK and Go. This field is optional and if left out, no language pack will be installed, so you will just have the distribution.
In the tags, all of the fields are optional and if they are left out, they will default to their
<lang_ver>is the version of the language stack, for example node.js 10.10, it can also be substituted for
<distro_ver>is the version of the linux distro, for example in the case of Debian there are 4 valid versions, namely
stretch. For each combination of distro and stack we have two variants called
build. The build variant is much heavier as it has a number of tools preinstalled to help with building source code. You can see an example of the tools that are included in the Debian Stretch variant here. The
runvariants are stripped down and only include a few useful runtime tools, see an example here. If no variant is specified, the image defaults to
the last optional field on tags is the date tag. This is useful for production deployments as these base images are non-moving tags, so no packages in these will update ever.
<hw>: raspberrypi3 - The raspberry pi 3 device type.
<distro>: omitted, so it defaults to Debian.
<lang>: node - the Node.js runtime and npm will be installed
<lang_ver>: 10.10 - This gives us node.js version 10.10.x whatever is the latest patch version provided on balenalib
<distro_ver>: omitted, so it defaults to
(build|run): omitted, so the image defaults to the slimmed down
<yyyymmdd>: omitted, we don’t have a date frozen image, so new updates pushed to our 10.10 tag, for example patch versions from node.js will automatically be inherited when they are available.
<hw>: i386 - the intel 32 bit architecture that runs on Intel Edison
latest, so it points to python 2, which currently is 2.7.15
<distro_ver>: trusty, which is ubuntu 14.04
(build|run): build - so it will include things like
<yyyymmdd>: 20181029 - This is a date frozen image, so this image will never be updated on dockerhub. Pinning to a date frozen base image is a good idea if you are running a fleet in production and are sensitive to dependencies updating and/or bandwidth constrained.
run vs. build
For each combination of
<lang> there is both a
run and a
build variant. These variants are provided to allow for easier multistage builds.
run variant is designed to be a slim and minimal variant with only runtime essentials packaged into it. An example of the packages installed in can be seen in the
build variant is a heavier image that includes many of the tools required for building from source such as
gcc, etc. As an example you can see the types of packages installed in the
balenalib/armv7hf-debian:build variant here.
These variants make building multistage projects easier, take for example installing an I2C node.js package which requires a number of build time dependencies to build the native
i2c node module, but we don't want to send all of those down to our device. This is the perfect time for multistage builds and to use the
FROM balenalib/raspberrypi3-debian-node:10.10-stretch-build as build RUN npm install --only=production i2c # The run time container that will go to devices FROM balenalib/raspberrypi3-debian-node:10.10-stretch-run # Grab our node modules for the build step COPY --from=build ./node_modules ./node_modules COPY main.js main.js CMD ["node", "main.js"]
Supported Architectures, Distros and Languages
Currently balenalib supports the following OS distribuitions and Language stacks, if you would like to see others added, create an issue on the balena base images repo.
|Debian||Debian GNU/Linux 9 (stretch)||armv5e, armv6, armv7hf, aarch64, amd64, i386|
|Alpine||Alpine Linux v3.8||armv6, armv7hf, aarch64, amd64, i386|
|Ubuntu||18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver)||armv7hf, aarch64, amd64, i386|
|Fedora||Fedora 28 (Twenty Eight)||armv7hf, aarch64, amd64, i386|
|Node.js||v10.10.0||armv6, armv7hf, aarch64, amd64, i386|
|Python||2.7.15||armv5e, armv6, armv7hf, aarch64, amd64, i386|
|OpenJDK||1.7.0_181 (IcedTea 2.6.14)||armv7hf, aarch64, amd64, i386|
|Go||1.11||armv7hf, aarch64, amd64, i386|
Installing software packages in balenalib containers is very easy and in most cases you can just use base image operating system package manager, however to make things evey easier ever balenalib image includes a small
install_packages script that abstracts away the specifics of the underlying package managers, and adds the following useful features:
- Install the named packages, skipping prompts etc.
- Clean up the package manager metadata afterwards to keep the resulting image small.
- Retries if package install fails. Sometimes a package will fail to download due to a network issue, and this may fix that, which is particularly useful in an automated build pipeline.
An example of this in action is as follows:
FROM balenalib/raspberrypi3 RUN install_packages wget git CMD ["bash", "start.sh"]
This will run an
apt-get update -qq, then install
git via apt-get with
-y --no-install-recommends flags and it will by default try this 2 times before failing. You can see the source of
How the Images Work at Runtime
On container start up, the entry.sh script first checks if the
UDEV flag is set to
false. In the case where it is
CMD is then executed. In the case it is
1), the entry.sh will check if the container is running privileged, if it is, it will mount
/dev to a devtmpfs and then start
udevd. In the case the container is an unprivileged container, no mount will be performed and
udevd will be started (although it won't be very much use without the privilege).
At the end of a container's lifecycle, when a request to container restart, reboot or shutdown is sent to the supervisor, the balenaEngine will send a
SIGTERM (signal 15) to the containers, and 10 seconds later it will issue a
SIGKILL if the container is still running.
Working with Dynamically Plugged Devices
In many IoT projects your containers will want to interact with some hardware, often this hardware is plugged in at runtime, in the case of USB or serial devices. In these cases you will want to enable
udevd in your container. In
balenalib images this can easily be done either by adding
ENV UDEV=1 in your
Dockerfile or by setting an environment variable.
You will also need to run your container
privileged, by default any balenaCloud projects that don't contain a
docker-compose.yml will run their containers
privileged. If you are using a multicontainer project you will need to add
privileged: true to each of the service definitions for the services that need hardware access.
balenalib container runs with
UDEV=1 it will first detect if it is running on a
privileged container, if it is, it will mount the hostOS
/dev to a devtmpfs and then start
udevd. Now anytime a new device is plugged in, the kernel will notify the container
udevd daemon and the relevant device nodes in the container
/dev will appear.
Warning: If you are using
UDEV=1 and a cellular modem, you need to take special care to disable host networking for any of the services that use
udevd, as it can sometimes cause the modems to disconnect and never come back. The easiest way to do this is to ensure your service does NOT have
When moving from the legacy
resin/... base images to the
balenalib ones, there are a number of breaking changes that you should take note of, namely:
UDEVnow defaults to
off, so if you have code that relies on detecting dynamically plugged devices you will need to enable this in either your Dockerfile or via a device environment variable. See Working with Dynamcally Plugged Devices.
INITSYSTEMfunctionality has been completely removed, so applications that rely on systemd or openRC should install and set up the initsystem in their apps. See Installing your own Initsystem.
- Mounting of
/devto a devtmpfs will now only occur when
UDEV=onand the container is running as
- Support for Debian Wheezy has been dropped.
armelarchitecture has been renamed to
Installing your own Initsystem
Since the release of multicontainer on the balenaCloud platform, we now recommend the use of multiple containers and discourage the use of an initsystem, particularly systemd, in the container as it tends to cause a myriad of issues, undefined behaviour and requires the container to run fully privileged.
FROM balenalib/amd64-debian:jessie # Install Systemd ENV container docker RUN apt-get update && apt-get install -y --no-install-recommends \ systemd \ && rm -rf /var/lib/apt/lists/* # We never want these to run in a container # Feel free to edit the list but this is the one we used RUN systemctl mask \ dev-hugepages.mount \ sys-fs-fuse-connections.mount \ sys-kernel-config.mount \ display-manager.service \ getty@.service \ systemd-logind.service \ systemd-remount-fs.service \ getty.target \ graphical.target COPY entry.sh /usr/bin/entry.sh COPY resin.service /etc/systemd/system/resin.service RUN systemctl enable /etc/systemd/system/resin.service STOPSIGNAL 37 VOLUME ["/sys/fs/cgroup"] ENTRYPOINT ["/usr/bin/entry.sh"] ################################## # Your code here... ##################################
Building ARM Containers on x86 Machines
This is an unique feature of balenalib ARM base images that allows you to run them anywhere (running ARM image on x86/x86_64 machines). A tool called
resin-xbuild and QEMU are installed inside any balenalib ARM base images and can be triggered by
RUN [ "cross-build-start" ] and
RUN [ "cross-build-end" ]. QEMU will emulate any instructions between
cross-build-end. So this Dockerfile:
FROM resin/armv7hf-debian RUN [ "cross-build-start" ] RUN apt-get update RUN apt-get install python RUN pip install virtualenv RUN [ "cross-build-end" ]
can be run on your x86 machine and there will be no
Exec format error, which is the error when you run an ARM binary on x86. More details can be found in our blog post here. You can find the full source code for the two cross-build scripts here.