Docker-machine on Linode: The hard way

A while ago I started to experiment with docker-machine: A tool that allows you to create and manage a (virtual) machine running docker-engine. Once you are connected to a docker-machine instance you can easily manage containers in a very similar way as you use containers locally.

I have quite good experiences with Linode. Their pricing is also quite attractive. For that reason I decided to set up a docker-machine using Linode. For this I've used the "third party" docker-machine-linode driver to setup the machine. Aside from the fact that I had to compile the driver manually it took care of everything.

While setting up the machine I discovered the docker-machine generic driver. This driver allows you to setup docker-machine on any (virtual) machine. Also on Linode or any other (unsupported) cloud provider. This would avoid the requirement to compile the docker-machine driver and it would introduce the ability to pick a unsupported machine provider.

Setting up a docker-machine: The hard way


This article gives some insights in how to setup a generic docker-machine on Linode. It is not advised to set up a docker-machine in this way. Use a docker-machine driver instead if available.


Before you start make sure you have installed the following:

Setup the stackscript

Linode comes by default with password authentication. This is a bad default. Also I found out that Linode may have some issues with updating Ubuntu. We will patch this with a stackscript. This script will be executed on the first boot of the machine.

#! /bin/bash

# Disable password authentication
grep -q "ChallengeResponseAuthentication" /etc/ssh/sshd_config && sed -i "/^[^#]*ChallengeResponseAuthentication[[:space:]]yes.*/c\ChallengeResponseAuthentication no" /etc/ssh/sshd_config || echo "ChallengeResponseAuthentication no" >> /etc/ssh/sshd_config
grep -q "^[^#]*PasswordAuthentication" /etc/ssh/sshd_config && sed -i "/^[^#]*PasswordAuthentication[[:space:]]yes/c\PasswordAuthentication no" /etc/ssh/sshd_config || echo "PasswordAuthentication no" >> /etc/ssh/sshd_config

# Update the system can always update
printf "# Ensure that apt update works\nprecedence ::ffff:0:0/96  100\n" >> /etc/gai.conf
apt update && DEBIAN_FRONTEND=noninteractive apt -y upgrade

service ssh restart

Go to the new stackscript form:

Linodes >> Manage StackScripts >> Add a new StackScript

Fill in all the fields and use the snippet from above to fill in the Script field. Save the form and click on the edit button and check the URL. The ID of the stackscript should be at the end of the URL.

Create the linode machine

Setup virtual machine by executing the following commands. Be sure to replace variables ({{VARIABLE}}) before executing the snippet in your terminal.

linode create {{MACHINE_NAME}} --location london --plan linode1024 --distribution 146 --stackscript {{STACKSCRIPT_ID}} --stackscriptjson '{"x":"x"}' --pubkey-file {{ABSOLUTE_PATH_OF_YOUR_PUBLIC_KEY}}

There are two interesting arguments in this command:

  • distribution: 146, this is Ubuntu 16.04
  • stackscriptjson: Without dummy arguments the stackscript did not execute properly.
  • pubkey-file: docker-machine requires passwordless authentication.

Execute the command and in a few minutes your machine should be ready.

Use the following command to find the IP of the machine:

linode show {{MACHINE_NAME}}

Intermezzo: tweak the linode machine

Before we proceed we need to change the kernel on the machine. For some reason the default Linode kernel does not work well with docker. We will swap the Linode kernel for the Grub2 kernel through the Linode web interface.

Go to the configuration edit form:

Linodes >> {{MACHINE_NAME}} >> Edit (configuration profiles)

Change Kernel (Boot settings) to Grub2.

Restart the machine to apply the different kernel:

linode restart {{MACHINE_NAME}}

Transform the linode machine into a docker-machine

Creating a docker-machine on a machine without password authentication is fairly easy.

docker-machine create \
             --driver generic \
             --generic-engine-port=2376 \
             --generic-ip-address={{MACHINE_IP}} \
             --generic-ssh-user=root \
             --generic-ssh-port=22 \

Once the command finishes you should have a docker-machine running on Linode. You should be able to find the machine using docker-machine ls.

Test the new machine

Now you can start talking to the machine:

eval $(docker-machine env {{MACHINE_NAME}})

Check what is running:

docker ps

Say hello:

docker run hello-world

And check the containers on the machine:

docker ps -a

Use a different terminal. Executing the ps commands should give different results in that terminal.