3. Installation instructions

3.1. Summary

The goals of this page are to provide more detail than Quickstart and to treat special cases. If Quickstart worked for you, then you can safely skip this page.

The details vary depending upon the hardware that you want to share. These instructions are work in progress, and contributions and feedback are welcome. Please open a ticket at https://github.com/rerobots/hardshare/issues

Installation instructions are provided for modern GNU/Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu. We are working to support other kinds of hosts, including Windows, macOS, and FreeBSD.

3.2. Main aspects

The main aspects to an operational hardshare installation:

  1. API token for a rerobots user account,
  2. an SSH key pair,
  3. hardshare client,
  4. a container provider (also known as cprovider),
  5. rules around instance initialization, termination, and filtering.

To begin, initialize a new configuration:

hardshare config -c

3.2.1. API tokens

Instructions about managing API tokens are in the rerobots Web Guide. The token that you create at https://rerobots.net/tokens and download is saved to your local hardshare configuration. As such, the default expiration time might be too small for your application. Download the token, and add it:

hardshare config --add-key path/to/your/jwt.txt

3.2.2. SSH keys

An SSH key is required to create SSH tunnels through which remote users connect to containers that you host. This section describes how to manually create keys and some security considerations. Because a key pair is created as part of a new configuration (hardshare config -c) automatically, this section can be skipped unless something breaks.

There might already be an SSH key at ~/.ssh/id_rsa. If not, or if you want to create a new pair for this purpose, then:


to start an interactive process to create a new pair. The default options are sufficient here; the prompt “default” is selected by simply pushing ENTER without typing text. For convenience, we recommend that you do not create a password for the key. If you insist, then managing such a key is discussed below. Additional instructions about creating and working with SSH keys, for example from DigitalOcean or GitHub.

The SSH key is used by the hardshare client in a way that does not motivate adding password protection: to create reverse tunnels from rerobots-managed servers into containers that you host. Only the public key is copied to the rerobots server-side. Furthermore, API tokens provide for authentication and authorization of the hardshare client with respect to your rerobots account. In summary, this SSH key has a technical role and provides for encryption, but exposure risk of the secret key small.

If the SSH key has a password, then there must be some way for the hardshare client to use the key without having to know the password. For this, you should configure ssh-agent, usage of which is presented in the OpenBSD manual. If you are new to ssh-agent, we recommend reading about basic ideas of how it works at http://www.unixwiz.net/techtips/ssh-agent-forwarding.html

Finally, add the SSH secret key path:

hardshare config --add-ssh-path path/to/your/ssh_key

3.2.3. Containers

Hardshare shares hardware among remote users through containers. The term container in the context of hardshare includes Linux containers. Supporting software that facilitates containers in hardshare are known cproviders. For new users, Docker is a good first cprovider to try and is the default in a newly installed hardshare client configuration.

Finally, the primary client is implemented in Python and available via PyPI:

pip install hardshare

or pipenv install hardshare if Pipenv is installed. If it succeeded, then you should be able to get the version from the command-line interface (CLI):

hardshare version

3.3. Prepare a cprovider

3.3.1. Docker

In most cases, Docker images are available via Docker Hub. The correct image to use depends on your host architecture. On Linux, you can do

uname -m

to find this. For example, on Raspberry Pi this would be armv7l, so Docker image tags that begin with armv7l- can be used. To get the latest release of the base generic image:

docker pull rerobots/hs-generic:armv7l-latest

which pulls the image from Docker Hub. To declare this image in the local hardshare configuration:

hardshare config --assign-image rerobots/hs-generic:armv7l-latest

Many consumer “desktop” and “laptop” computers have the x86_64 architecture, so the corresponding image is instead rerobots/hs-generic:x86_64-latest.

Images in this registry are defined by Dockerfiles under the directory robots/ of the sourcetree. To build the image from source files, use the command given in the comments of the Dockerfile. For example,

docker build -t rerobots/hs-generic:latest -f Dockerfile .

3.3.2. Podman

For many operations, podman is a drop-in replacement for docker. To switch to it with an existing hardshare configuration (created as described above),

hardshare config --cprovider podman

Then, the section about Docker can be followed by replacing docker with podman.

3.4. Include devices

For example,

hardshare config --add-raw-device /dev/ttyUSB0

3.5. Access rules

Each robot shared through rerobots is subject to access rules about who can do what with it. These rules are said to define capabilities. The decision sequence for a user username trying to perform some action is the following:

  1. if there is a rule about action explicitly for username, then apply it;
  2. else, if there is a rule about action that is for a class of users of which username is a member, then apply it;
  3. else, if there is a rule about action that targets all users (indicated by *), then apply it;
  4. else (no match), default to not permit.

The most simple kind of rule is whether or not to allow someone to remotely access a device. When a new device is registered, a single rule is created that permits only you (i.e., your user account) to create instances. To get the list of access rules:

hardshare rules -l

which should only have 1 item under rules: a capability CAP_INSTANTIATE and your username. To allow other users:

hardshare rules --permit-all

3.6. What next?

At this stage, you have a ready-to-use hardshare host. Next: