Flagrant System Error

I don't know what I did, but I sure screwed everything up.

Composing a Git Server

This is the GitHub README for a Vagrant/Docker Compose configuration I created to run a Gogs Git server. I’ve posted it here also for convenience.


This is a simple configuration for Vagrant and Docker that sets up a Gogs Git server with an nginx reverse proxy for https support. It shares the SSL certificates and the git repos from the host to make backups easier.

Using Vagrant gives a consistent machine set up for the Docker containers, without interfering the host machine. The configuration works best on macOS, Linux, or other Unix OS’s. Windows support is forthcoming.


There are a few requirements that must be installed prior to running the Git server.

NFS Setup

To make backups and configuration easier, Vagrant shares the git repos and SSL certs with the host via NFS1. Vagrant takes care of the exports, as long as NFS is installed. If you’re running macOS2 or Linux, it should already be installed, or can easily be with a trip to your package manager.

If you’re on macOS, I recommend checking your NFS configuration by downloading NFS Manager. It makes it much easier than trying to deal with configuration files.

Become Certified

To provide SSL, nginx is configured to look for certificates from Let’s Encrypt. Vagrant and Docker are configured to look for the certs in /etc/letsencrypt on the host via NFS.

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Install Vagrant via your favorite package manager, or download it directly. I use the VirtualBox provider as it is free and adequate for my purposes.

Pull the Trigger

I use vagrant-triggers to install Docker Compose and bring up the containers. Install the vagrant-triggers with

$ vagrant plugin install vagrant-triggers

Installation and Configuration

Installation should be as easy as cloning this repo. The repo should be placed where you want the VM to run, or it can be copied to where you want the VM to run.

The Vagrant config.rb file contains the configuration options you might be interested in changing:

  • $instance-name-prefix - set to “git-server”, this is a simple placeholder if you care for something better. Doesn’t affect too much.
  • $vm_memory and $vm_cpus - amount of memory and number of host CPUs dedicated to the Vagrant VM.
  • $nfs_shared_folders - the folders meant to be shared. If you have installed your certs somewhere else, make the change here. Also, this configuration is set up to place the git repos under the gogs directory in the repo. If you wish those to be placed somewhere else, map that here.
  • $forwarded_ports - map ports on the Vagrant guest ports to the ports on the host.

The Vagrantfile itself has one notable configuration option. Where the the NFS mounts are created, I set nfs_udp: false since my NFS mounts wouldn’t work with UDP. However, this may affect performance, so you might want to enable UDP to see if NFS works with it in your case. Note, there is a good reason to keep TCP enabled even for local NFS mounts.

The docker-compose.yml in docker subdirectory shouldn’t need any changes, though the host and domain names should be changed to your own site.

Last, you’ll need to configure the nginx site files in docker/nginx/etc/nginx/conf.d. Currently they are set up for the sites code.icosahedron.io and home.icosahedron.io sites. At a minimum you will need to:

  • rename the files to the names of your own sites
  • change the server_name option to match your own site.

Once complete, you can simply bring up the Vagrant VM with

$ sudo vagrant up

Why Use Vagrant Instead of Docker on the Host?

I couldn’t get Docker containers on macOS to mount any directory on the file system except the user’s folder.3.

Since /etc/letsencrypt can’t be mounted in a Docker container, the certificates had to be copied either into the container or into a data volume that was mounted in the container, or into my home directory (which putting cert private keys in my home directory seems a bit sketchy). When certs expired, as they do every 90 days with Let’s Encrypt, the process had to be repeated. Hardly difficult, but a chore to remember.4

Git repos mounted in my home directory aren’t much of a security concern, but the Docker osxfs file system is a performance concern, so it was easier to put them in a Vagrant VM that was mounted to the host by NFS.

These issues present, I decided to use a more “native” approach, which is to run Docker on Linux, in a Linux VM in this case. (I know, it’s funny to say running in a VM is more “native”.) While Docker can’t mount the /etc/letsencrypt directory in macOS, it can do so on Linux. The Vagrant VM in turn can access any folder on the Mac via NFS.

To Do

  • Windows host support using SMB shares instead of NFS
  • Automatic certificate renewal?
    • This may be better served as a separate entity since they are shared with the host
  • Replace nginx with HAProxy as the reverse proxy
  • Try Gitea instead of Gogs since it sees more active development
  • Running vagrant without using sudo


This is a good base to build on, and it functions as a great git server. However, the certificates still require attention every 90 days, so I would like to automate their renewal. Fortunately, others have blazed the trail before. (I’m currently leaning towards this container.)

As always, if you know of a better way to do something, or wish to share some other insight, I can be reached on the addresses on the Contact page.

  1. We use NFS shares rather than the VirtualBox shared folders due to performance concerns.

  2. I used these instructions to enable NFS on macOS

  3. It’s weird, because it seems like it should be able to do so. There are preferences for which directories can be mounted, but I never could get them to work.

  4. I could have used cron jobs to handle all of the filesystem syncs, but I wanted something more “integrated”.