Docker Instructions

(This is a Work In Progress. Please contact the current web devs if you have any questions.)

Table of contents

Setup basics

  1. In Terminal/Command Line, within your preferred development folder:

    git clone
    docker build . -t ubyssey/

    (Or replace ubyssey/ with name of your choice)

  2. Again, in your preferred directory, clone either the below repo, or else clone a fork you made of it:

    git clone

    (If you changed the docker image's name, make sure to also change it in docker-compose.yml in /ubyssey-dev/.devcontainer/)

  3. Set up a persistent Docker volume. (This is used to persist the database contents between Docker containers, should you ever need to delete yours)

    docker volume create --name=ubyssey_db_volume
  4. Use the Remote Development plugin to open the ubyssey-dev.git directory as a container

  5. If the database container on Docker isn't set up yet, connect it:

    This container may be named something other than ubyssey_db. If so, type docker ps to find what it is named. You can also connect to it without typing terminal commands if you download Docker Desktop.

    docker exec -t -i ubyssey_db bash
  6. Once connected, setup the local database in the container.

    # password is ubyssey
    mysql -u root -p
    create database ubyssey;

You have now finished setting up Docker and should now be able to develop inside the Docker container. However, we are not quite done with setup. Head over to Wagtail setup and development for the next steps.

What does setting up like this accomplish?

Starting out as a new coder on an ongoing coding project is generally a difficult and time-consuming process. Even if your general computer knowledge is strong, knowledge of the specific tools involved may still be weak, and there’s almost inevitably a lot of learning to do. Furthermore, because you’re likely to have your own computer, we have little control over what you have installed, creating the risk of wasting time doing a lot of individualized troubleshooting.

Because the Ubyssey depends so much upon volunteer work from students who are busy with school work, it is necessary coder onboarding be made as fast as possible, so volunteers do not get caught up on the “boring stuff” of simply getting a local development environment set up. We therefore distribute virutalized development machines using containerization technology, specifically, Docker. This technology is often used in the tech industry alongside DevOps practices. The site and all its dependencies are packaged together in a “container”. Containers are a virtualization technology that can start up faster than traditional VMs, because many containers can share a single Linux kernel. The containerized website can run the same on any individual computer as it runs on the production environment.



Install Docker (version docker 19.03.x is used in these instructions). Follow the instructions from official Docker doc. This will require you to create a docker account if you do not already have one.

Afterward install docker-compose (these instructions use docker-compose 1.25.x) from here (If not already installed with docker).

(2020/06/29 - Possibly outdated note!) If setting up on linux, all docker and docker-compose commands should be preceeded with sudo. To enable docker without sudo, follow this official post-installation doc.*

Visual Studio Code

This sort of workflow is best done using Visual Studio Code, available for all major platforms, because Microsoft has developed a Remote Development plugin designed to facilitate this.

Performing Django migrations on the Docker container

  1. If you are already in your VSCode workspace connected to your Docker container, skip this step.

    Connect to the ubyssey-dev Docker container

    docker exec -t -i ubyssey-dev bash
  2. Run migrations on the MySQL database. First make sure you are in the folder (where the file is).

    python migrate
  3. Add login to database.

    python createsuperuser

    This will prompt you to add an email adress and password. You will then be able use these credentials to login to the wagtail admin

Once the database has been populated, and migrations have been applied, you should be able to proceed to localhost:8000 and localhost:8000/admin to view your local and Wagtail running from your ubyssey-dev Docker container.

Troubleshooting and various how-tos

How to clone repositories

This is the github link (

Clone the and the dispatch repositories to where-ever you prefer to work. This is typically done with the following terminal commands. If you forked the repository, use the URL of your fork. If you are working on a different branch, use the -b flag to specify which branch.

git clone
git clone

How to build Docker images from scratch

To build a docker image from a Dockerfile, run in the directory containing the Dockerfile:

docker build . -t <dockerhub account>/<image name>:<tag>


docker build . -t <some other cloud hub>/<cloud account>/<image name>:<tag>

(The first works because Docker Hub will be assumed if the cloud hub isn’t specified)

You can name the image whatever you like, but if you want to push it to the cloud, you should follow the above convention of <dockerhub account>/<image name>:<tag>

In our project:

  • A Dockerfile is located in /

  • There is also one in /dispatch/ too, but it layers Dispatch on top of the image built by the one in / To get this to work correctly, make sure you name the image built from the / Dockerfile the same name as is in the /dispatch/ Dockerfile’s FROM instruction

Extra docker info

To see currently running docker containers, run the following command in a separate terminal.

docker ps

When in doubt, you may need to clear docker's cache and remove all docker images.

# will remove docker cache and clear all images
docker system prune -a

then you can rebuild your docker images using

# from ubyssey-dev dir
docker-compose up

Using pdb with Docker

**Note: pdb is a command line debugging tool for python

First we need to update our docker-compose.yml to allow our ubyssey-dev container to connect with pdb. Make sure the django container looks like the following.

    build: .
    command: bash -c "cd && python runserver"
      - ./dispatch/dispatch:/dispatch/dispatch
      - .:/
      - ~/.config/:/root/.config
      - gulp
      - yarn
      - "8000:8000"
      # PDB #
      - "4444:4444"
        condition: service_healthy
    container_name: ubyssey-dev
    # PDB #
    stdin_open: true
    tty: true

Now kill any running docker containers, and rerun them with docker-compose up.

Add import pdb to the .py file you are interested in debugging, and set a breakpoint with pdb.set_trace().

To step through the source, open a new terminal and connect to the ubyssey-dev container.

docker attach ubyssey-dev

the pdb output will start to display here when you hit your breakpoint.

For more information on pdb and how to use it, there is a helpful post at RealPython.

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