Using Docker for seL4, Camkes, and L4v dependency management

This page provides instructions on how to quickly set up your machine for building the seL4 kernel and related projects.


These instructions assume you are using Debian (or a derivative, such as Ubuntu), and are using Bash for your shell. However, it should be informative enough for users of other distros/shells to adapt.

To begin, you will need at least these two programs:

  • make (sudo apt install make)
  • docker (See here or here for installation instructions)

For convenience, add your account to the Docker group:

sudo usermod -aG docker $(whoami)

Note that after doing so you may have to logout of your account and log back in for the change to have affect.

Getting a build environment

To get a running build environment for seL4 and Camkes, run:

git clone
cd seL4-CAmkES-L4v-dockerfiles
make user

This will give you a terminal inside a container that has all the relevant tools to build, simulate, and test seL4 & Camkes programs.

The first time you run this, docker will fetch the relevant images, which may take a while.

To map a particular directory into the container:

make user HOST_DIR=/scratch/seL4_stuff  # as an example
# Now /host in the container maps to /scratch/seL4_stuff

To make this easier to type, you can setup a bash alias such as this:

echo $'alias container=\'make -C /<path>/<to>/seL4-CAmkES-L4v-dockerfiles user HOST_DIR=$(pwd)\'' >> ~/.bashrc
# now open a new terminal, or run `source ~/.bashrc`

Replace /<path>/<to>/ to match where you cloned the git repo of the docker files. This then allows you to run:


to start the container in the current directory you are in.

An example workflow:

A good workflow is to run two terminals:

  • terminal A is just a normal terminal, and is used for git operations, editing (e.g., vim, emacs), and other normal operations.
  • terminal B is running in a container, and is only used for compilation.

This gives you the flexibility to use all the normal tools you are used to, while having the seL4 dependencies separated from your machine.

Compiling seL4 test

Start two terminals (terminal A and terminal B).

In terminal A, run these commands:

jblogs@host:~$ mkdir ~/seL4test
jblogs@host:~$ cd ~/seL4test
jblogs@host:~/seL4test$ repo init -u
jblogs@host:~/seL4test$ repo sync

In terminal B, run these commands:

jblogs@host:~$ cd ~/seL4test
jblogs@host:~/seL4test$ container  # using the bash alias defined above
jblogs@in-container:/host$ mkdir build-x86
jblogs@in-container:/host$ cd build-x86
jblogs@in-container:/host/build-x86$ ../ -DPLATFORM=x86_64 -DSIMULATION=TRUE 
jblogs@in-container:/host/build-x86$ ninja

If you need to make any code modifications or commit things to git, use terminal A. If you need to recompile or simulate an image, use terminal B. Note, if QEMU fails when trying to simulate the image, try configuring your Docker host to give the container more memory.

Adding dependencies

To add more software inside the container, modify the extras.dockerfile. It contains an apt-get command which can be added to. After the first modification, docker will rebuild the extras image, and cache it after that.

Available images

All the prebuilt docker images are available on DockerHub here These images are used by the Trustworthy Systems Continuous Integration (CI) software, and so represent a standard software setup we use.

The CI software always uses the latest docker image, but images are also tagged with the date they were built.

More information

You can find the dockerfiles and supporting Makefile here

Pull-requests and issues are welcome.