In a prior article, Jetson Containers - Introduction, I showed how to bring QEMU static libraries into the container enabling the configuration/creation of ARM images and debootstrap‘ped root file systems. We can make this effort transparent to the chroot or container with a little bit of effort.

TLDR - Assuming you have installed the packages in the Required Packages (Ubuntu 18.04) section, go to The How section below.

Required Packages (Ubuntu 18.04)

We need to install QEMU and binfmt support so that we can leverage the binfmt_misc support in the Linux kernel.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install -y --no-install-recommends \
                     qemu qemu-system-misc qemu-user-static qemu-user binfmt-support

The What

If you want to understand the kernel support for miscellaneous binary formats in detail, take a look at the binfmt-misc documentation.

We’ll need to set up a string in the format :name:type:offset:magic:mask:interpreter:flags for arm32v7 and arm64v8 (aarch64). With QEMU and binfmt-support installed, this is straightforward:

# arm32v7
$ cat /var/lib/binfmts/qemu-arm


# arm64v8 (aarch64)
$ cat /var/lib/binfmts/qemu-aarch64 


Note that \x7f\x45\x4c\x46 is \\x7fELF, the ELF format magic number.

arm32v7 ident arm64v8 Description
\x7f ELF MAGIC NUMBER 0 \x7f  
\x45 ELF MAGIC NUMBER 1 \x45  
\x4c ELF MAGIC NUMBER 2 \x4c  
\x46 ELF MAGIC NUMBER 3 \x46  
\x01 ei_class \x02 (bitness): ELFCLASS32 = 1, ELFCLASS64 = 2
\x01 ei_data \x01 processor-specific data in the file is two’s complement, little-endian = 1, or two’s complement, big-endian = 2
\x01 ei_version \x01 ELF specification version, current = 1
\x00 e_ident \x00 Remainder of e_ident block padded out with \x00 to fill 16 bytes
\x00   \x00  
\x00   \x00  
\x00   \x00  
\x00   \x00  
\x00   \x00  
\x00   \x00  
\x00   \x00  
\x00   \x00  
\x02 e_type \x02 Executable = 2
\x00 e_machine (high) \x00  
\x28 e_machine (low) \xb7 arm32 = 40 (x28), arm64 = 183 (xb7)
\x00 e_version \x00  

With the magic found and the header decoded, we have our format flushed out.

  • name: qemu-arm or qemu-aarch64
  • type: M to use the format’s magic number for identification
  • offset: optional and 0 by default, and we’ll use the default.
  • magic: found above:
    • arm32v7: \x7f\x45\x4c\x46\x01\x01\x01\x00\x00\x00\x00\x00\x00\x00\x00\x00\x02\x00\x28\x00
    • arm64v8: \x7f\x45\x4c\x46\x02\x01\x01\x00\x00\x00\x00\x00\x00\x00\x00\x00\x02\x00\xb7\x00
  • defined mask: line after magic above
    • arm32v7: \xff\xff\xff\xff\xff\xff\xff\x00\xff\xff\xff\xff\xff\xff\xff\xff\xfe\xff\xff\xff
    • arm64v8: \xff\xff\xff\xff\xff\xff\xff\x00\xff\xff\xff\xff\xff\xff\xff\xff\xfe\xff\xff\xff
  • applied mask: We don’t care about the ei_version or the rest of e_ident. Change those bytes to \x00
    • arm32v7: \xff\xff\xff\xff\xff\xff\xff\x00\x00\x00\x00\x00\x00\x00\x00\x00\xfe\xff\xff\xff
    • arm64v8: \xff\xff\xff\xff\xff\xff\xff\x00\x00\x00\x00\x00\x00\x00\x00\x00\xfe\xff\xff\xff
  • interpreter: line after the mask above, location of our qemu binary
  • flags: F - fix binary - interpreter is always available after emulation is installed. This is key for as it makes the interpreter available inside other mount namespaces (like containers) and chroots.

arm32v7 Configuration:


arm64v8 Configuration:


The How

Write the Failing Test

If you try to run container with an unknown format, it should error with something close to

  • standard_init_linux.go:211: exec user process caused "exec format error"
  • standard_init_linux.go:211: exec user process caused "no such file or directory"

Go ahead and give it a try, we’ll come back to these after configuring the system to verify functionality.

$ docker run arm32v7/busybox uname -m

standard_init_linux.go:211: exec user process caused "exec format error"


$ docker run arm64v8/busybox uname -m

standard_init_linux.go:211: exec user process caused "exec format error


With the details hashed out, it is time to set up our systemd-binfmt.service configuration:

# Create the binfmt.d directory which is read at boot to configure
# additional binary executable formats which can be handled by the system.
sudo mkdir -p /lib/binfmt.d

# Create a configuration for arm32v7
sudo sh -c 'echo :qemu-arm:M::\\x7f\\x45\\x4c\\x46\\x01\\x01\\x01\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x02\\x00\\x28\\x00:\\xff\\xff\\xff\\xff\\xff\\xff\\xff\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\xfe\\xff\\xff\\xff:/usr/bin/qemu-arm-static:F > /lib/binfmt.d/qemu-arm-static.conf'

# Create a configuration for arm64v8
sudo sh -c 'echo :qemu-aarch64:M::\\x7f\\x45\\x4c\\x46\\x02\\x01\\x01\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x02\\x00\\xb7\\x00:\\xff\\xff\\xff\\xff\\xff\\xff\\xff\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\x00\\xfe\\xff\\xff\\xff:/usr/bin/qemu-aarch64-static:F > /lib/binfmt.d/qemu-aarch64-static.conf'

# Restart the service to force an evaluation of the /lib/binfmt.d directory
sudo systemctl restart systemd-binfmt.service

Run the Tests

We should now be able to pull and run commands from arm32v7 and arm64v8 containers and applications transparently.

$ docker run arm32v7/busybox uname -m


$ docker run arm64v8/busybox uname -m