The goal is to install and run programs in a displaced (relocated) distro (whose / must not coincide with the global /) inside a host Linux system. The programs are not adapted for using a different / .

fakechroot is not a complete solution because it employs library-substitution instead of acting on the level of system calls (so not good for statically linked binaries).


2 Answers 2


The solution must probably be based either on ptrace or namespaces (unshare).

ptrace-based solutions are probably less efficient then namespaces/unshare-based (but the latter technology is cutting-edge and is not well explored path, probably).



As for ptrced-based solutions, thanks to the comments at https://stackoverflow.com/a/1019720/94687, I've discovered UMView:

The linked docs describe how to have a "copy-on-write view" of the host fs -- that's not exactly like performing a chroot. Exact intructions on how to achieve /-substitution in umview would be nice to have in an answer to my question (please write one if you figure out how to do this!).

umview must be open-source, because it is included in Ubuntu and Debian -- http://packages.ubuntu.com/lucid/umview.

"Confining programs"

Another implementation is described in http://www.cs.vu.nl/~rutger/publications/jailer.pdf, http://www.cs.vu.nl/~guido/mansion/publications/ps/secrypt07.pdf.

They have a change-root-ing policy rule, CHRDIR, whose effect is similar to chroot. (Section "The jailing policy")

However, they might have not published their source code (partially based on a modified strace http://www.liacs.nl/~wichert/strace/ -- Section "Implementation")...


Geordi (http://www.eelis.net/geordi/, https://github.com/Eelis/geordi) could probably be modified to make the wanted rewriting of file arguments to system calls in the jailed programs.


PRoot is a ready to use ptrace-based tool for this. http://proot.me/:

chroot equivalent

To execute a command inside a given Linux distribution, just give proot the path to the guest rootfs followed by the desired command. The example below executes the program cat to print the content of a file:

proot -r /mnt/slackware-8.0/ cat /etc/motd

Welcome to Slackware Linux 8.0

The default command is /bin/sh when none is specified. Thus the shortest way to confine an interactive shell and all its sub-programs is:

proot -r /mnt/slackware-8.0/

$ cat /etc/motd
Welcome to Slackware Linux 8.0


user_namespaces support in the Linux kernel has got more mature since when the question was asked. Now you can play with performing a chroot as a normal with the help of unshare like in Simulate chroot with unshare:

unshare --user --map-root-user --mount-proc --pid --fork
chroot ......
su - user1
  • You ask and answer simultaneosly? Apr 17, 2013 at 4:22
  • 2
    @HaukeLaging It's encouraged if you think the info will be useful for others Apr 17, 2013 at 23:35
  • @HaukeLaging As I posed this question to myself (and started writing the question down), I started searching for the solutions, so very soon I got already an understanding of the possible solutions, and wrote that down as an answer. A bit later I discoveren one more tool to do this (proot), perhaps the most convenient, and added it to the answer. Apr 20, 2013 at 13:11
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    bubblewrap is a really nice unshare-based chroot/mount --bind replacement: github.com/projectatomic/bubblewrap
    – user2303
    Sep 30, 2016 at 13:45

You could try User-Mode Linux. The code for building such a kernel is now present in the mainstream sources, and you can find (outdated) precompiled builds on the page I linked.

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