Service Packaging

Welcome! Thank you for your interest in contributing to the growing ecosystem of open software. We call the software applications that run on StartOS services. This distinction is made to differentiate from “applications” (apps), which are generally run on a client, and used to access server-side software (services). To run services on StartOS, a package of file components needs to be composed. This guide will dive into the basic structure of how to compose this package.

Check out the glossary to get acquainted with unfamiliar terms. The bottom of this guide also includes support links, including a master checklist.

Let’s get started!


  1. Choose software to package

  2. Set up the development environment

  3. Try out the hello-world demo project

  4. Package the service

  5. Test the service on StartOS

  6. Submit and/or distribute

Choosing Software

Almost any type of open source software can be run on StartOS. No matter what programming language, framework, database or interface the service has, it can be adapted for StartOS. This is made possible by the power of Docker containers (don’t worry, we’ll get to this). We do have a few recommendations for choosing a service that will perform optimally across platforms:

  1. It either has a web user interface (it can be interacted with in a web browser), or is server software that external applications or internal services can connect to. Please keep in mind that StartOS users are not expected to have SSH and/or CLI access.

    • The interfaces supported are: HTTP, TCP, and REST APIs

  2. It can be compiled for ARM (arm64v8 - namely, the Raspberry Pi) and/or x86_64 (amd64 - most desktops, laptops, and servers)

  3. It can be served over TOR

  4. It creates a container image that is optimized for size (under 1GB) to save device space and expedite installation time

Development Environment

A basic development and testing environment includes:

  1. A Start9 server or VM running the latest StartOS

  2. A development machine

    • Linux is highly recommended, and this walkthrough will assume a Debian-based (Ubuntu) distribution

Dependencies - Required

  • Docker - Docker is currently the only supported containerization method for StartOS. This declares the necessary environment and building stages for your package to run. Install the desktop GUI or via the command line:

    curl -fsSL | bash
    sudo usermod -aG docker "$USER"
    exec sudo su -l $USER

    We need to enable cross-arch emulated builds in Docker (unless you are building on an ARM machine, such as an M1 Mac - in which case, skip this step).

    docker run --privileged --rm linuxkit/binfmt:v0.8
  • Buildx - This adds desirable new features to the Docker build experience. It is included by default with Docker Desktop GUI. If Docker was installed via command line, additionally run:

    docker buildx install
    docker buildx create --use
  • Rust & Cargo - Cargo is the package management solution for the Rust programming language. It is needed to build the Start SDK. The following will install both Rust and Cargo:

    curl -sSf | sh
    source $HOME/.cargo/env

    Verify install:

    cargo --version
  • Start SDK - StartOS has an embedded Software Development Kit (SDK). You can install this component on any system, without needing to run StartOS.

    git clone && \
     cd start-os && git submodule update --init --recursive && \
     make sdk

    Initialize sdk & verify install

    start-sdk init
    start-sdk --version
  • Deno (an optional component for more advanced SDK features) - A simple, modern and secure runtime for JavaScript and TypeScript that uses V8 and is built in Rust. It is used to enable the scripting API portion of the SDK.


    sudo snap install deno

    Other *nix:

    curl -fsSL | sh

Demo with Hello World

Check your environment setup by building a demo project and installing it to StartOS.

  1. Get Hello World

    git clone
    cd hello-world-wrapper
    git submodule update --init
    docker run --rm --privileged multiarch/qemu-user-static --reset -p yes -c yes
  2. Build to create hello-world.s9pk

  3. Sideload & Run
    • In the StartOS web UI menu, navigate to System -> Sideload Service

    • Drag and drop or select the hello-world.s9pk from your filesystem to install

    • Once the service has installed, navigate to Services -> Hello World and click “Start”

    • Once the Health Check is successful, click “Launch UI” and verify you see the Hello World page

Package the service

The package file produced by this process has a s9pk extension. This file is what is installed to run a service on StartOS.

Build a Dockerfile

A Dockerfile defines the recipe for building the environment to run a service. Currently, StartOS only supports one Dockerfile per project (i.e. no Docker compose), so it should include any necessary database configurations. There are several methods to build a Dockerfile for your service.

First, check to see if the upstream project has already built one. This is usually your best source for finding Docker images that are compatible with ARM. Next, you can:

  • Download an image from Docker Hub

  • Make a new Dockerfile, and pull in an image the upstream project hosted on Docker Hub as the base

  • Make a new Dockerfile, and pull in a small distribution base (eg. alpine) and compile the build environment yourself using the upstream project source code

After coding the build steps, build the Docker image using docker buildx, replacing the placeholder variables:

docker buildx build --tag start9/$(PKG_ID)/main:$(PKG_VERSION) --platform=linux/arm64 -o type=docker,dest=image.tar .

The resulting docker-images/aarch64.tar or docker-images/x86_64.tar artifact (depending on if you used --platform=linux/arm64 or --platform=linux/amd64 is the Docker image that needs to be included in the s9pk package.

Create File Structure

Once we have a Docker image, we can create the service wrapper. A service wrapper is a repository of a new git committed project that “wraps” an existing project (i.e. the upstream project). It contains the set of metadata files needed to build a s9pk, define information displayed in the user interface, and establish the data structure of your package. This repository can exist on any hosted git server - it does not need to be a part of the Start9 GitHub ecosystem.

The following files should be included in the service wrapper repository:

  • manifest.yaml, which defines:

    • The package id - a unique lowercase and hyphenated package identifier (eg. hello-world)

    • Essential initialization details, such as version

    • Where you are persisting your data on the filesystem (i.e. mounts and volumes)

    • Port mappings (i.e. interfaces)


    • Instructions for the user

    • Appears as a menu item in the service page UI


    • The Open Source License for your wrapper

  • icon.png

    • The image that will be associated with the service throughout the UI, including in a marketplace



    • A script that setups up the build environment for a Debian system so that Start9 can verify the build process upon submission.

  • Dockerfile

    • A recipe for service creation

    • Add here any prerequisite environment variables, files, or permissions

    • Examples:


    • Starts and governs the operation of a service container

    • Gracefully handles container errors and user preferences, i.e. username/password, SIGTERMs

    • Examples:

Format Package

Building the final s9pk artifact depends on the existence of the files listed above, and the execution of the following steps (which should be added to the Makefile):

  • Package the s9pk:

    start-sdk pack
  • Verify the s9pk (replace PKG_ID with your package identifier):

    start-sdk verify s9pk PKG_ID.s9pk

    The verification step will provide details about missing files, or fields in the service manifest file.

That’s it! You now have a package!


  1. Run the make command from the root folder of your wrapper repository to execute the build instructions defined in the MAKEFILE

  2. Install the package, via either:

    1. Drag and drop:

      • In the StartOS web UI menu, navigate to System -> Sideload Service

      • Drag and drop or select the <package>.s9pk from your filesystem to install

    2. Use the CLI:

      • Create a config file with the IP address of the device running StartOS:

        touch /etc/embassy/config.yaml
        echo "host: <IP_ADDRESS_REPLACE_ME>" > /etc/embassy/config.yaml
      • Login with master password

        start-cli auth login
        start-cli package install <PACKAGE_ID_REPLACE_ME>.s9pk
    Installing a service
  3. Once the service has installed, navigate to Services -> <Service Name> and click “Start”

  4. Check that the service operations function as expected by either launching the UI, or querying if a server application

  5. Check that each UI element on the service’s page displays the proper information and is accurately formatted

  6. Ensure the service can be stopped, restarted, and upgraded (if applicable)

    An eOS service page

Submission and Distribution

The s9pk file can be uploaded for distribution to any website, repository, or marketplace. You can also submit your package for publication to the Community Registry by following the submission process.

Advanced configuration

Scripting on StartOS

Start9 has developed a highly extensible scripting API for developers to create the best possible user experience. This is your toolkit for creating the most powerful service possible by enabling features such as:

  • Configuration

  • Version migration

  • Dependencies

  • Health checks

  • Properties

Use is optional. To experiment, simply use the existing skeleton from the Hello World wrapper example, changing only the package version in the migration file.

Check out the specification here.


Have a question? Need a hand? Please jump into our Community, or our Matrix Community Dev Channel. You can also check out our full list of Community Channels.

Need more details? Check out the Service Packaging Specification

You may like to use this handy Checklist to be sure you have everything covered.


service - open software applications that run on StartOS

package - the composed set of a Docker image, a service manifest, and service instructions, icon, and license, that are formatted into a file with the s9pk extension using start-sdk

wrapper - the project repository that “wraps” the upstream project, and includes additionally necessary files for building and packaging a service for eOS

scripts - a set of developer APIs that enable advanced configuration options for services

start-sdk - the Software Development Toolkit used to package and verify services for StartOS

open source software - computer software that is released under a license in which the copyright holder grants users the rights to use, study, change, and distribute the software and its source code to anyone and for any purpose

upstream project - the original, source project code that is used as the base for a service

StartOS - a browser-based, graphical operating system for a personal server

eOS - shorthand for StartOS

s9pk - the file extension for the packaged service artifact needed to install and run a service on StartOS

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