I am making a script that uses systemd-nspawn to boot a second linux root filesystem in a container.

The script is currently using this line to boot the container: systemd-nspawn -b --machine virtualdesktop -D "/mnt/virtualdesktop" The host and container are based on Debian and use systemd. (Raspbian Buster to be exact)

The guest boots up correctly and after logging in, gives me a shell.
But that is not all I want - the script should also load the graphics of the guest. The host has a Xephyr window open, running a second X display on :1. Then the guest will run lxsession on display :1.

It is easy to do this manually by typing this command in the guest's shell: DISPLAY=:1 lxsession -s LXDE-pi -e LXDE, but here's what I need help with: running that command automatically, not requiring the operator to input the guest's password and type in the lxsession command.

I have tried:

  • Appending the desired lxsession command to the end of the systemd-nspawn command, like this: systemd-nspawn -b --machine virtualdesktop -D "/mnt/virtualdesktop" 'DISPLAY=:1 lxsession -s LXDE-pi -e LXDE', but nothing happened.
  • using systemd-run, as suggested here. Ran this command while container is running: systemd-run --machine virtualdesktop "/usr/binlxsession -s LXDE-pi -e LXDE", but Xephyr doesn't display anything and journalctl reports Failed to execute command: No such file or directory
    Failed at step EXEC spawning /usr/bin/lxsession -s LXDE-pi -e LXDE: No such file or directory

1 Answer 1


Remove the quotes from your commands and use the -E, --setenv option:

systemd-nspawn --machine virtualdesktop -D "/mnt/virtualdesktop" -E DISPLAY=:1 lxsession -s LXDE-pi -e LXDE


systemd-run --machine virtualdesktop -E DISPLAY=:1 /usr/bin/lxsession -s LXDE-pi -e LXDE

You try to execute the files 'DISPLAY=:1 lxsession -s LXDE-pi -e LXDE' and '/usr/bin/lxsession -s LXDE-pi -e LXDE':

systemd-run [OPTIONS...] COMMAND [ARGS...]
systemd-nspawn [OPTIONS...] [COMMAND [ARGS...]]
  • using -b flag makes systemd-nspawn ignore any commands to run, therefore I need an alternative. Similar question here.
    – Botspot
    Sep 12, 2019 at 2:15
  • I have started researching expect to see if it can input the commands automatically in the guest's shell.
    – Botspot
    Sep 12, 2019 at 2:17

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