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Install Ubuntu Desktop Docker Using Portainer and Access it From Browser (VNC/noVNC)

 It will be helpful for the testing if you have a Linux Desktop environment in the cloud. But I do not want to install a desktop environment to pollute my Linux installation. If I can get a docker environment and let Linux Desktop running inside, that would be a perfect solution. 

Recently I found one Github project "docker-ubuntu-vnc-desktop" to show how to get your own Ubuntu Desktop in the docker. I decided to use Portainer to manage this docker as I did for other docker image. Here are all my steps to get it working. 

    Change System Swap File Size

    It is usually same size as your RAM. But if your RAM is less than 1GB, you can make your swap file size double.

    wget && bash
    Follow the prompt to add or delete your swap file size. You do not need to reboot and it will take into effect right away.

    Install Docker and Docker Compose

    1  Update Package list and Upgrade Packages for Ubuntu 18.04

    Update and Upgrade Ubuntu to latest 

    $ sudo apt-get -y update && sudo apt-get -y upgrade

    2  Install Docker on Ubuntu

    sudo apt install -y
    sudo -i
    systemctl start docker
    systemctl enable docker
    docker version
    3  Install Docker Compose on Ubuntu

    Here is an example using version 1.19.0. You might want to check current release (current is 1.28.2) to update the command. 

    [email protected]:~# curl -L "$(uname -s)-$(uname -m)" -o /usr/local/bin/docker-compose
      % Total    % Received % Xferd  Average Speed   Time    Time     Time  Current
                                     Dload  Upload   Total   Spent    Left  Speed
    100   651  100   651    0     0   7076      0 --:--:-- --:--:-- --:--:--  7076
    100 8288k  100 8288k    0     0  4671k      0  0:00:01  0:00:01 --:--:-- 7520k
    [email protected]:~# chmod +x /usr/local/bin/docker-compose
    [email protected]:~# docker-compose version
    docker-compose version 1.19.0, build 9e633ef
    docker-py version: 2.7.0
    CPython version: 2.7.13
    OpenSSL version: OpenSSL 1.0.1t  3 May 2016
    [email protected]:~#

    If it is CentOS, the commands to install Docker are different, but for Docker Compose, they are same:

    For CentOS 7 install Docker:

    sudo -i
    yum -y update
    curl -sSL | sh
    systemctl start docker.service
    systemctl enable docker.service
    For Ubuntu 20.04 version

    #Ubuntu 20.04
    sudo apt install
    sudo apt install docker-compose

    Install Portainer

    Commands to install latest Portainer Docker. 

    docker volume create portainer_data
    docker run -d -p 9000:9000 --name portainer --restart always -v /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock -v portainer_data:/data portainer/portainer
    docker ps
    Use your browser to access URL http://<public ip of your linuxserver>:9000
    First time, it will ask you to set up admin user's password.

    Command to Launch Docker-Ubuntu-VNC-Desktop 

    Originally from docker-ubuntu-vnc-desktop, the command to run this docker is :

    docker run -p 6080:80 -v /dev/shm:/dev/shm dorowu/ubuntu-desktop-lxde-vnc
    With http basic authentication password for root user:

    docker run -p 6080:80 -e HTTP_PASSWORD=mypassword -v /dev/shm:/dev/shm dorowu/ubuntu-desktop-lxde-vnc

    The container has been set to use host's Shared Memory Directory, /dev/shm.

    Another interesting Docker file we can take a look is from imlala/ubuntu-xfce-vnc-novnc:

    version: '3.5'
            container_name: xfce
            image: imlala/ubuntu-xfce-vnc-novnc:latest
            shm_size: "1gb"
                - 5900:5900
                - 6080:6080
                - VNC_PASSWD=mypassword
                - GEOMETRY=1280x720
                - DEPTH=24
                - ./Downloads:/root/Downloads
                - ./Documents:/root/Documents
                - ./Pictures:/root/Pictures
                - ./Videos:/root/Videos
                - ./Music:/root/Music
            restart: unless-stopped

    Use Portainer to Launch Docker-Ubuntu-VNC-Desktop 

    Create a new container from Portainer Containers page:

    Set restart policy to Unless stopped.

    Environment variables:
    for security, we can add one variable, HTTP-PASSWORD, value is the any password you want to set. HTTP-PASSWORD is for user root. 

    Now, using a browser to browse to http://<Public IP>:6080



    1. Hello
      I love your article.
      I was wondering what to do if I want to run multiple containers on the same VM.
      And Also enable the password to log into the docker VM.

    2. Great!!
      Just getting one error:
      Line 74
      /etc/docker/daemon.json No such file or directory
      How do I fix this?

      Would love to see a Debian version also.