Author Crown421
17 Stars
Updated Last
2 Years Ago
Started In
February 2020


This package was presented at JuliaCon, and the presentation is available under this link.

This package provides a rough interface to create Singularity containers from DrWatson Projects. It currently works best on Linux systems, as the build command currently not available on Mac.

Most of the code is still very WIP and based on my own processes and needs. If you use Singularity, or have a use case that I haven't considered yet, please reach out either by email or by opening an issue.

Install singularity

The Sylab documentation contains instructions to install Singularity, but appears to be slightly out of date. You can find additional information for

Alternatively, you can use the instructions for Vagrant on Windows and Mac.


This package uses a minimal debian-based container with Julia installed as a base. On the Sylab cloud you can find the Juliabase image, and an experimental container also including jupyter

If you would prefer to build them yourself, the def files are available in the basebuilds folder.


The package assumes that that the folder structure contains the following elements

├── scripts
│   ├── run
├── src
│   ├── module1
│   ├── module2
├── container
├── <other folders>
├── Project.toml
├── Manifest.toml

and everything is under the control of a single git repository. This will be automatically the case if the project folder was created by DrWatson.jl.

The src and scripts folder will be copied into the container, and it is further assumed that the modules in it are registered as deved in the project Manifest.toml.


Calling buildsif will ask for root privileges, as the underlying singularity build commands requires it. This is clearly a potential security risk, so if you are unsure, please inspect the Singularity.pack file in the container folder.


The package provides the following functions. All these functions work from any folder as long as the correct project environment is loaded. They are also still WIP, so there is very little error checking being done.

    generate_deffile(; excludepkgs = [], commit = "master")

Creates the container folder if it does not exist yet, and generates the Singularity.pack def file.

  • excludepkgs accepts and array of package names. These packages will be removed from Project.toml inside the container. This is for packages that are needed locally, for example for visualization, but are not needed in the container and would only add bloat.
  • commit accept any project commit hash, and will build the container using the src and script folder from that commit. Requires the git setting below.
    buildsif(;verbose = false, force = true)

Builds the container image into the container folder based on the existing def file.

  • verbose sends all the output of the build process to the REPL if set to true, otherwise it will be written to file.
  • force set to true causes an existing image to be overwritten without asking for confirmation.
    recreatedata(file::String; dir = [])

Extracts the git commit hash and script name from a DrWatson.@tagsaved file, and generated a def file. The resulting container, when singularity run, should recreate the initial file directly.

  • dir allows the specification of a subdirectory of the DrWatson.datadir() directory.

Transfers the image to the host into a folder in the home directory of the same name as the project folder. This assumed that everything is configured such that ssh host just works.

Further info

Currently, the commands build a single read-only image. This means, that after any change in the project the entire image needs to be rebuilt. This is partly as intended, as the result is a tamper-proof complete environment, that can be used at any point in the future the return the exact same results. However for projects that are still under more rapid development, I have possible ideas to make that initial phase not require frequent lengthy rebuilds.

Further work:

  • Generate different def files
  • add interaction with singularity cloud and hub (pushing and pulling)
  • signing
  • add tests
  • add various error handling and options
  • (big) do some remote builder magic to make this work on windows/ mac
  • (bigger) add singularity binary ?