How to create a Linux distribution in your web browser with Instantbox?

If you’re looking for a simple way to speed up a Linux distribution for development purposes, Instantbox does it from a web browser.

Image: Ralf/Adobe Stock

If you’re a developer – especially someone who works with container or cloud-native deployments – you work with Linux. While Linux may not be your desktop OS of choice, it is definitely your container or cloud environment. Therefore, you need easy access to a native Linux operating system to serve as your development environment.

For this, you can always log into your Docker or Kubernetes server and create a new container based on any Linux image. You can also go the virtual machine route or even use a tool like Multipass.

TO SEE: 40+ open source and Linux terms you need to know (TechRepublic Premium)

There is another way. This method makes it possible to deploy a new Linux distribution from a web browser to meet your development needs. This tool is called Instantbox, which makes it easy to spin a new Linux distribution for development or even educational purposes. With Instantbox you can run Ubuntu, CentOS, Arch Linux, Debian, Fedora or Alpine Linux with an easy point-and-click user interface.

What will you need to install Instantbox?

You will need a server or desktop machine running Docker and docker-compose to successfully deploy Instantbox. This much.

How to install Docker CE?

If you don’t already have Docker installed, let’s do it now.

First, add the required GPG key with the command:

curl -fsSL https://download.docker.com/linux/ubuntu/gpg | sudo gpg --dearmor -o /usr/share/keyrings/docker-archive-keyring.gpg

Next, add the official Docker repository:

echo "deb [arch=amd64 signed-by=/usr/share/keyrings/docker-archive-keyring.gpg] https://download.docker.com/linux/ubuntu $(lsb_release -cs) stable" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/docker.list > /dev/null

Now we need to handle a few dependencies with the command:

sudo apt-get install apt-transport-https ca-certificates curl gnupg lsb-release -y

Install the latest version of the Docker engine with these two commands:

sudo apt-get updatesudo apt-get install docker-ce docker-ce-cli containerd.io -y

Make sure your user is still a member of the docker group with the command:

sudo usermod -aG docker $USER

Log out and log back in for the changes to take effect.

You will also want to install the docker-compose command, which can be done with:

sudo apt-get install docker-compose -y

How to deploy Instantbox

Create a new directory with the command:

mkdir instantbox

Change to this new directory with:

cd instantbox

Download and run the setup script with:

bash <(curl -sSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/instantbox/instantbox/master/init.sh)

Once the script is downloaded, run docker-compose like this:

docker-compose up -d

How to access Instantbox?

Deployment should only take a few minutes. Once complete, open a web browser and redirect to http://SERVER:8888; where SERVER is the IP address or domain of the hosting server. You should be greeted by the Instantbox homepage (Figure A).

Figure A

Instantbox is opened and ready to serve.
Instantbox is opened and ready to serve.

How to deploy a Linux distribution with Instantbox

Click on the distribution you want to deploy, select the version and click Next (Figure B).

Figure B

Let's distribute the latest version of Ubuntu.
Let's distribute the latest version of Ubuntu.

In the window that opens (Figure C), configure the port, CPU cores, Memory and Time for distribution.

Figure C

Configuring our Ubuntu instance in Instantbox.
Configuring our Ubuntu instance in Instantbox.

Click Create. Then click Confirm when prompted.

Instantbox will deploy the distribution and another popup will appear where you can click Yes to open the web shell. Do this and you will find yourself at the bash prompt (Figure D) of your newly deployed Linux distribution.

Figure D

You can now start testing or developing in your new Linux environment.
You can now start testing or developing in your new Linux environment.

Making disposable Linux distributions

Instantbox is a great tool for creating disposable Linux distributions that can be used for development or testing. However, one thing to keep in mind is that you can only create one distribution at a time. When you're done with the deployment, make sure to click Clean in the main Instantbox window to get rid of the deployment and start over.

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