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HomeUncategorizedDo, or do not. There is no try

Do, or do not. There is no try

try logo

“Do, or do not. There is no try.”

We’re setting out to change that.



try lets you run a command and inspect its effects before changing your live system. try uses Linux’s namespaces (via unshare) and the overlayfs union filesystem.

Please note that try is a prototype and not a full sandbox, and should not be used to execute
commands that you don’t already trust on your system, (i.e. devices in /dev are
mounted in the sandbox, and network calls are all allowed.) Please do not
attempt any commands that will remove everything in /dev or write zeros to your

try gif

Getting Started


Has been tested on the following distributions:

  • Ubuntu 20.04 LTS or later
  • Debian 12
  • Centos 9 Stream 5.14.0-325.el9
  • Arch 6.1.33-1-lts
  • Alpine 6.1.34-1-lts
  • Rocky 9 5.14.0-284.11.1.el9_2


You only need the try script, which you can download by cloning this repository:

$ git clone

Example Usage

try is a higher-order command, like xargs, exec, nohup, or find. For example, to install a package via pip3, you can invoke try as follows:

$ try pip3 install libdash
... # output continued below

By default, try will ask you to commit the changes made at the end of its execution.

Sometimes, you might want to pre-execute a command and commit its result at a later time. Invoking try with the -n flag will return the overlay directory, without committing the result.

$ try -n "curl | sh"

Alternatively, you can specify your own overlay directory as follows (note that you’ll have to create the sandbox directory first)

$ try -D rustup-sandbox "curl | sh"
$ ls rustup-sandbox
temproot  upperdir  workdir

As you can see from the output above, try has created an overlay environment in the rustup-sandbox directory.

Manually inspecting upperdir reveals the changes to the files made inside the overlay during the execution of the previous command with try:

~/try/rustup-sandbox/upperdir$ du -hs .
1.2G    .

You can inspect the changes made inside a given overlay directory using try:

$ try summary rustup-sandbox/ | head

Changes detected in the following files:

rustup-sandbox//upperdir/home/ubuntu/.profile (modified/added)
rustup-sandbox//upperdir/home/ubuntu/.bashrc (modified/added)
rustup-sandbox//upperdir/home/ubuntu/.rustup/update-hashes/stable-x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu (modified/added)
rustup-sandbox//upperdir/home/ubuntu/.rustup/settings.toml (modified/added)
rustup-sandbox//upperdir/home/ubuntu/.rustup/toolchains/stable-x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu/lib/ (modified/added)
rustup-sandbox//upperdir/home/ubuntu/.rustup/toolchains/stable-x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu/lib/rustlib/etc/lldb_commands (modified/added)
rustup-sandbox//upperdir/home/ubuntu/.rustup/toolchains/stable-x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu/lib/rustlib/etc/ (modified/added)

You can also choose to commit the overlay directory contents:

$ try commit rustup-sandbox

Known Issues

Any command that interacts with other users/groups will fail since only the
current user’s UID/GID are mapped. However, the future
has support for uid/mapping,
please refer to the that branch’s readme for installation instructions for the

Please also report any issue you run into while using the future branch!

Version History

  • 0.1.0
    • Initial Release


This project is licensed under the MIT License – see LICENSE for details.

Copyright (c) 2023 The PaSh Authors.

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