Containers

How to Manage your Docker Containers with DockStation

8 May 2022 5:00am, by

When you go to find a GUI tool to manage your Docker containers, you’ll find more options than you can imagine. Those tools range from the overly simplistic to the remarkably complicated, and everything in between. Every so often, however, you’ll find a desktop client that does an outstanding job of making container management much easier.

One such GUI is DockStation, which is available for Linux, macOS, and Windows and can be used for free for both personal and startup usage. With DockStation, you’ll find features like:

  • Manage both services and containers
  • Backward compatibility
  • Stats, ports, and log monitoring
  • Project creation
  • Built-in Parser
  • Observer
  • Drag and drop images to projects
  • Docker Compose support

One of the only caveats to DockStation is that while it does allow you to build and manage projects on localhost (the machine the app is installed on), with remote hosts you cannot build. You can, however, do quite a bit with your remotely connected Docker server.

Let’s first get DockStation installed, build our first project on the local machine, and then connect it to a remote machine. I’ll be demonstrating on Pop!_OS Linux and connecting to a remote instance of Ubuntu Server with Docker installed.

How to Install DockStation

The installation of DockStation is quite simple. The first thing you need to do is download the installer file that is compatible with your operating system. Since I’m using a Debian-based distribution, I’ll download the .deb file from the DockStation download page. Save the file to your ~/Downloads directory and then open a terminal window.

From the terminal, install DockStation with the command:

sudo dpkg -i ~/Downloads/dockstation*.deb

Should the installation error out, fix the issue with:

sudo apt-get install -f

Once the installation completes, you’re ready to launch the app.

Launching DockStation and Logging in

Launch DockStation and, in the login window (Figure 1), either register with Google or GitHub or click register now and follow the prompts to create an account.

Figure 1: Creating an account for DockStation.

Upon successful authentication, you’ll be presented with an empty projects tab (Figure 2).

Figure 2: DockStation is ready for you to create your first project.

Click + to create a new project. In the resulting window (Figure 3), give the project a name and then set a path to house the project files and folders.

Figure 3: Creating a new project in DockStation.

After filling out the required information, click CREATE to add the new project.

Let’s build a WordPress project. Type WordPress in the search file and then, when the official image appears (Figure 4), drag it from the center column to the right.

Wordpress install

Figure 4: WordPress images are available for use in DockStation.

Wait for the versions to populate and then, from the drop-down, select the image tagged with latest. Click OK and the image will be added. Next, click the gear icon associated with image and you can edit the service to perfectly fit your needs (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Here you can edit the general, startup, volume, and port options.

After completing the configuration, click OK and you’re back to the project window. Click the start button associated with the WordPress service to deploy the container.

And that’s it for creating a very basic container deployment with DockStation on your local machine.

Connecting DockStation to a Remote host

This part is a bit tricky because it’s hidden in plain sight. We’re going to use SSH as our means to connect to the remote machine. Before we do that, we need to generate an SSH key and copy it to our remote host.

To generate the SSH key, open a terminal window and issue the command:

ssh-keygen

Go ahead and accept the defaults and, when prompted, make sure to give the key a strong password.

After the key is generated, you must copy it to the remote server with the command:

ssh-copy-id [email protected]

Where USER is the username on the remote server and SERVER is the IP address of the remote server.

With the key copied, you can now connect DockStation to the remote server. For that, click the Containers tab and click the edit button directly to the left of localhost in the upper left corner (Figure 6).

DockStation

Figure 6: The DockStation Containers tab not only shows all of your running containers, it allows you to connect to remote hosts.

In the resulting window (Figure 7), click ADD.

Add a remote connection to DockStation.

Figure 7: Adding a new remote connection to DockStation.

Click on the SSH tab in the resulting window and fill out the necessary information (Figure 8).

Figure 8: Adding the details for our SSH connection to a remote host.

Click OK and, when prompted, type the password for the SSH key you generated earlier. Now, from the localhost drop-down (upper left corner) select the new connection you just created and click CONNECT. Again, you’ll be prompted for your SSH key password. After successfully authenticating, you’ll see all of the containers running on your remote server (Figure 9).

Success, we can now manage the containers found on our remote server.

Figure 9: Success, we can now manage the containers found on our remote server.

There you go. Yet another Docker GUI you can use to manage your container deployments. I confess I’m a fan of DockStation, but I do wish they’d make it possible to deploy to a remote server from within the GUI. Even with that caveat, DockStation is still a great tool for container management.

The New Stack is a wholly owned subsidiary of Insight Partners, an investor in the following companies mentioned in this article: Docker.