Running aeneas using VirtualBox and Vagrant

RSS  •  Permalink  •  Created 14 Jun 2015  •  Written by Alberto Pettarin

This tutorial helps you setting up a Vagrant box on VirtualBox so that you can easily run aeneas without the hassle of installing its dependencies, especially if you are using Windows or Mac OS X.

The Idea

After publishing the source code of aeneas, I started getting emails from people who wanted to test this tool, but who were unable to do so, mainly because they could not install its dependencies correctly.

So, I started thinking about creating a VirtualBox image and sharing it for others to use.

If you are not familiar with it, VirtualBox is a virtualization manager, that is, a program that lets you run a guest operating system (OS) inside the operating system of your (host) machine. For example, you can have a Linux virtual machine running inside your Windows machine in user space.

In practice, the guest OS is "installed" to one or more files acting as virtual hard drives, while VirtualBox simulates the hardware for the virtual machine (VM), letting the guest OS believe it is running on a physical machine.

I thought about creating a Debian image, installing aeneas code and all its dependencies, and sharing it for other people to use. This approach has a big problem: the size (roughly 3 GB) of the VirtualBox image.

Fortunately, while searching for a solution, I discovered Vagrant. By using Vagrant, I no longer need to share the entire VirtualBox image, but I can simply give you the "instructions" to create the VirtualBox image.

In the case of aeneas-vagrant, these instructions are contained in two files:

  1. Vagrantfile: the instructions to create the VirtualBox virtual machine
  2. a Bash script that gets executed the first time the VM is created, installing the dependencies and the source code of aeneas

Beyond allowing me to share only 2 kB of code instead of 3 GB of data, this approach has another advantage: the script will clone the source code of aeneas from its GitHub repo, ensuring the end user will always get the latest version.

There are two main disadvantages:

  1. the installation procedure takes a while (10-30 minutes, depending on your network bandwidth) and it downloads roughly 1 GB from the Internet (and requiring 3.5 GB of space on your hard disk);
  2. aeneas will run inside the emulated VirtualBox VM, possibly slower than a native installation.

The Vagrant box approach is great for testing or if you do not have experience setting up a Linux (Debian) machine; however, if you plan to run aeneas in production and on a massive scale, please consider a native installation instead.


Step 1: install VirtualBox and Vagrant

First, you need to install on your machine:

  1. VirtualBox
  2. Vagrant

Just download the corresponding installers, double click on the file icon, and follow the on screen directions.

Step 2: get the Vagrant files from aeneas-vagrant

Then, you need to get the Vagrantfile and from the GitHub repo.

If you are familiar with the command line you can simply git clone the repo:

user@host:~$ git clone

as shown in this screenshot:

Blog Image 20150614-gitclone.png

Or, if you prefer using the GUI, download the master ZIP from the aeneas-vagrant GitHub repo:

Blog Image 20150614-github.png

and unzip it somewhere on your hard disk (right click > decompress or whatever it is called now).

Step 3: initialize the Vagrant box

In what follows I assume you have Vagrantfile and in the ~/aeneas-vagrant directory, but you can rename it as you like.

Open a terminal, enter that directory and ask Vagrant to run the box:

user@host:~$ cd aeneas-vagrant
user@host:~/aeneas-vagrant$ vagrant up

The first time you run vagrant up, the box is not initialized, so Vagrant will start downloading the base box (a vanilla Debian image) and it will execute which installs aeneas and its dependencies:

Blog Image 20150614-vagrantup.png

Please allow 10-30 minutes (depending on your network bandwidth) for the process to complete. At the end, the following message will be printed:

[INFO] Setting vagrant box up... done
[INFO] Congratulations, now you can use aeneas!

Step 4: entering the VM

Once your Vagrant/VirtualBox VM has been installed and it is running, you can enter it:

user@host:~/aeneas-vagrant$ vagrant ssh

In the following screenshot you can clearly see that the Bash prompt changes from alberto@nievo (my host machine) to vagrant@debian-800-jessie (the guest VM).

Blog Image 20150614-vagrantssh.png

The aeneas directory contains the code cloned from the aeneas GitHub repo; if you want you can check that everything is fine:

vagrant@debian-800-jessie:~$ cd aeneas
vagrant@debian-800-jessie:~/aeneas$ python

which should produce:

Blog Image 20150614-check.png

Step 5: using aeneas inside the VM

At this point, while you are in the ~/aeneas/ directory on the VM, you can use aeneas as explained in the documentation or in the tutorial.

You probably want to access files existing in, and write the sync maps produced by aeneas to, your host OS. To do so, the directory where you have the Vagrantfile is shared between the host OS and the VM, where it is mounted as /vagrant/.

For example, if you have a Job ZIP container ~/aeneas-vagrant/ in your host OS, it will be accessible in the VM as /vagrant/

To run a job, writing its output to your host OS, you can therefore run something like:

vagrant@debian-800-jessie:~/aeneas$ python -m /vagrant/ /vagrant/

and you will get the file:

Blog Image 20150614-execjob.png
Blog Image 20150614-execjob2.png

Similarly, if you want to execute a Task:

vagrant@debian-800-jessie:~/aeneas$ python -m /vagrant/sonnet001.mp3 /vagrant/sonnet001.txt "task_language=en|os_task_file_format=srt|is_text_type=parsed" /vagrant/

producing in the shared directory.

Blog Image 20150614-exectask.png

Step 6: exiting and halting the VM

Once you are done working with the VM, you should exit and halt it:

vagrant@debian-800-jessie:~/aeneas$ exit
user@host:~/aeneas-vagrant$ vagrant halt

Again, note that the Bash prompt will revert to your usual host name:

Blog Image 20150614-vagranthalt.png

Subsequent usages

The next time you want to work with the VM, you will just need to:

user@host:~$ cd aeneas-vagrant
user@host:~/aeneas-vagrant$ vagrant up
user@host:~/aeneas-vagrant$ vagrant ssh

and proceed as above.

Note that the VM will be installed (download from Internet, setup, etc.) only the first time; all the subsequent vagrant up commands will simply boot the VM.

Destroying the VM

If you want to destroy the VM, deleting all the associated files, you can do that with:

user@host:~/aeneas-vagrant$ vagrant destroy

Note that the latter command cannot be undone, and you will need to reinstall the box from scratch (Step 3 onwards).