Containerize GUI Applications on Mac - II

August 6, 2016

In the previous post, we ran firefox inside a container on OS X. To allow connection from the container to the X11, we used xhost + $(hostname). This gives rise to serious security vulnerability.

Let's list the entries in ACL before adding our local machine

$ /usr/X11R6/bin/xhost
access control enabled, only authorized clients can connect

Now let's add our localmachine to ACL

$ /usr/X11R6/bin/xhost + $(hostname)
<my-machine-name>.local being added to access control list

Let's list the entries in ACL

$ /usr/X11R6/bin/xhost
access control enabled, only authorized clients can connect

Our ip address has been added to the ACL. If you are switching between networks regularly or your dynamic ip address gets renewed to a new address, X11 will stop allowing connection from the container. You must remove the old ip address from the ACL, else Bob can use your old ip address(in your network) and hijack your X display.

Let's remove our machine from ACL. Removing hostname will remove both hostname and ip address entries from ACL

$ /usr/X11R6/bin/xhost - $(hostname)
<my-machine-name>.local being removed from access control list

$ /usr/X11R6/bin/xhost
access control enabled, only authorized clients can connect

Using xhost + or open X display is one of the high rated system vulnerabilities. So let's use another(safer) way in this post. The drawback of this method is that it requires us to extend the image and create a local image containing our xauth file.

  • Extending the image to include our user to authenticate with x11.
# Dockerfile
FROM jess/firefox

ARG username
ARG uid

RUN useradd -m $USERNAME && \
        echo "$USERNAME:$USERNAME" | chpasswd && \
        usermod --shell /bin/bash $USERNAME && \
        usermod  --uid ${uid} $USERNAME && \
        groupmod --gid ${uid} $USERNAME

USER ${user}

WORKDIR /home/${user}
  • Building docker image. Note that the variables started with ARG reference in the Dockerfile are supplied using --build-args
$ docker build --build-arg user=$USER --build-arg uid=$(id -u) -t <image_name> .
  • Generate xauth file. Using :0 as our display. Note: if it complains that the file /tmp/.docker.xauth doesn't exist, touch the file and re-run the command.
$ /usr/X11R6/bin/xauth nlist :0 | sed -e 's/^..../ffff/' | /usr/X11R6/bin/xauth -f /tmp/.docker.xauth nmerge -
  • While starting the container, we should mount the xauth file and set the path of the file as environmental variable using the flags
    • -v /tmp/.docker.xauth:/tmp/.docker.xauth:rw
    • -e XAUTHORITY=/tmp/.docker.xauth
$ docker run -d \
      --memory 2gb \
      --net host \
      --cpuset-cpus 0 \
      -v /etc/localtime:/etc/localtime:ro \
      -v /tmp/.X11-unix:/tmp/.X11-unix \
      -v $HOME/docker_data/.firefox/cache:/root/.cache/mozilla \
      -v $HOME/docker_data/.firefox/mozilla:/root/.mozilla \
      -v $HOME/Downloads:/root/Downloads \
      -v /tmp/.docker.xauth:/tmp/.docker.xauth:rw -e XAUTHORITY=/tmp/.docker.xauth \
      -e DISPLAY=$ip:0 \
      -e GDK_SCALE \
      -e GDK_DPI_SCALE \
      --name firefox \

The above run command will preserve firefox's data on the mounted volumes.

Issues left unfixed

  • We haven't touched audio yet. I am yet to figure out a way to pass audio from the container to hostmachine.
  • Retina display is not properly used by the container. The fonts are not smooth on the retina screen.
Made with 💙 by Ganessh Kumar