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Getting Started

introduction to IOTstack - videos

Andreas Spiess Video #295: Raspberry Pi Server based on Docker, with VPN, Dropbox backup, Influx, Grafana, etc: IOTstack

#295 Raspberry Pi Server based on Docker, with VPN, Dropbox backup, Influx, Grafana, etc: IOTstack

Andreas Spiess Video #352: Raspberry Pi4 Home Automation Server (incl. Docker, OpenHAB, HASSIO, NextCloud)

#352 Raspberry Pi4 Home Automation Server (incl. Docker, OpenHAB, HASSIO, NextCloud)


IOTstack makes the following assumptions:

  1. Your hardware is a Raspberry Pi (typically a 3B+ or 4B)
  2. It has a reasonably-recent version of Raspberry Pi OS (aka "Raspbian") installed which has been kept up-to-date with:

    $ sudo apt update
    $ sudo apt upgrade -y
  3. You are logged-in as the user "pi"

  4. User "pi" has the user ID 1000
  5. The home directory for user "pi" is /home/pi/
  6. IOTstack is installed at /home/pi/IOTstack (with that exact spelling).

The first five assumptions are Raspberry Pi defaults on a clean installation. The sixth is what you get if you follow these instructions faithfully.

Please don't read these assumptions as saying that IOTstack will not run on other hardware, other operating systems, or as a different user. It is just that IOTstack gets most of its testing under these conditions. The further you get from these implicit assumptions, the more your mileage may vary.

new installation

  1. Install curl:

    $ sudo apt install -y curl
  2. Run the following command:

    $ curl -fsSL | bash
  3. Run the menu and choose your containers:

    $ cd ~/IOTstack
    $ ./
  4. Bring up your stack:

    $ cd ~/IOTstack
    $ docker-compose up -d


  1. Install git:

    $ sudo apt install -y git
  2. Clone IOTstack:

    • If you want "new menu":

      $ git clone ~/IOTstack
    • If you prefer "old menu":

      $ git clone -b old-menu ~/IOTstack
  3. Run the menu and choose your containers:

    $ cd ~/IOTstack
    $ ./


    • If you are running "old menu" for the first time, you will be guided to "Install Docker". That will end in a reboot, after which you should re-enter the menu and choose your containers.
  4. Bring up your stack:

    $ cd ~/IOTstack
    $ docker-compose up -d


If you prefer to automate your installations using scripts, see:

migrating from the old repo (gcgarner)?

If you are still running on gcgarner/IOTstack and need to migrate to SensorsIot/IOTstack, see:

Run the following commands:

$ sudo bash -c '[ $(egrep -c "^allowinterfaces eth0,wlan0" /etc/dhcpcd.conf) -eq 0 ] && echo "allowinterfaces eth0,wlan0" >> /etc/dhcpcd.conf'
$ sudo reboot

See Issue 219 and Issue 253 for more information.

a word about the sudo command

Many first-time users of IOTstack get into difficulty by misusing the sudo command. The problem is best understood by example. In the following, you would expect ~ (tilde) to expand to /home/pi. It does:

$ echo ~/IOTstack

The command below sends the same echo command to bash for execution. This is what happens when you type the name of a shell script. You get a new instance of bash to run the script:

$ bash -c 'echo ~/IOTstack'

Same answer. Again, this is what you expect. But now try it with sudo on the front:

$ sudo bash -c 'echo ~/IOTstack'

Different answer. It is different because sudo means "become root, and then run the command". The process of becoming root changes the home directory, and that changes the definition of ~.

Any script designed for working with IOTstack assumes ~ (or the equivalent $HOME variable) expands to /home/pi. That assumption is invalidated if the script is run by sudo.

Of necessity, any script designed for working with IOTstack will have to invoke sudo inside the script when it is required. You do not need to second-guess the script's designer.

Please try to minimise your use of sudo when you are working with IOTstack. Here are some rules of thumb:

  1. Is what you are about to run a script? If yes, check whether the script already contains sudo commands. Using as the example:

    $ grep -c 'sudo' ~/IOTstack/

    There are numerous uses of sudo within That means the designer thought about when sudo was needed.

  2. Did the command you just executed work without sudo? Note the emphasis on the past tense. If yes, then your work is done. If no, and the error suggests elevated privileges are necessary, then re-execute the last command like this:

    $ sudo !!

It takes time, patience and practice to learn when sudo is actually needed. Over-using sudo out of habit, or because you were following a bad example you found on the web, is a very good way to find that you have created so many problems for yourself that will need to reinstall your IOTstack. Please err on the side of caution!

the IOTstack menu

The menu is used to install Docker and then build the docker-compose.yml file which is necessary for starting the stack.

The menu is only an aid. It is a good idea to learn the docker and docker-compose commands if you plan on using Docker in the long run.

Please do not try to install docker and docker-compose via sudo apt install. There's more to it than that. Docker needs to be installed by The menu will prompt you to install docker if it detects that docker is not already installed. You can manually install it from within the Native Installs menu:

$ cd ~/IOTstack
$ ./
Select "Native Installs"
Select "Install Docker and Docker-Compose"

Follow the prompts. The process finishes by asking you to reboot. Do that!


  • New menu (master branch) automates this step.

docker-compose uses a docker-compose.yml file to configure all your services. The docker-compose.yml file is created by the menu:

$ cd ~/IOTstack
$ ./
Select "Build Stack"

Follow the on-screen prompts and select the containers you need.

The best advice we can give is "start small". Limit yourself to the core containers you actually need (eg Mosquitto, Node-RED, InfluxDB, Grafana, Portainer). You can always add more containers later. Some users have gone overboard with their initial selections and have run into what seem to be Raspberry Pi OS limitations.

Key point:

  • If you are running "new menu" (master branch) and you select Node-RED, you must press the right-arrow and choose at least one add-on node. If you skip this step, Node-RED will not build properly.
  • Old menu forces you to choose add-on nodes for Node-RED.

The process finishes by asking you to bring up the stack:

$ cd ~/IOTstack
$ docker-compose up -d

The first time you run up the stack docker will download all the images from DockerHub. How long this takes will depend on how many containers you selected and the speed of your internet connection.

Some containers also need to be built locally. Node-RED is an example. Depending on the Node-RED nodes you select, building the image can also take a very long time. This is especially true if you select the SQLite node.

Be patient (and ignore the huge number of warnings).

The commands in this menu execute shell scripts in the root of the project.

other menu items

The old and new menus differ in the options they offer. You should come back and explore them once your stack is built and running.

switching menus

current menu (master branch)

$ cd ~/IOTstack/
$ git pull
$ git checkout master
$ ./

old menu (old-menu branch)

$ cd ~/IOTstack/
$ git pull
$ git checkout old-menu
$ ./

experimental branch

Switch to the experimental branch to try the latest and greatest features.

$ cd ~/IOTstack/
$ git pull
$ git checkout experimental
$ ./


  • Please make sure you have a good backup before you start.
  • The experimental branch may be broken, or may break your setup.
  • Please report any issues.
  • Remember:

    • you can switch git branches as much as you like without breaking anything.
    • simply launching the menu (any version) won't change anything providing you exit before letting the menu complete.
    • running the menu to completion will change your docker-compose.yml and supporting structures in ~/IOTstack/services.
    • running docker-compose up -d will change your running containers.
  • The way back is to take down your stack, restore a backup, and bring up your stack again.

useful commands: docker & docker-compose

Handy rules:

  • docker commands can be executed from anywhere, but
  • docker-compose commands need to be executed from within ~/IOTstack

starting your IOTstack

To start the stack:

$ cd ~/IOTstack
$ docker-compose up -d

Once the stack has been brought up, it will stay up until you take it down. This includes shutdowns and reboots of your Raspberry Pi. If you do not want the stack to start automatically after a reboot, you need to stop the stack before you issue the reboot command.

logging journald errors

If you get docker logging error like:

Cannot create container for service [service name here]: unknown log opt 'max-file' for journald log driver
  1. Run the command:

    sudo nano /etc/docker/daemon.json
  2. change:

    "log-driver": "journald",


    "log-driver": "json-file",

Logging limits were added to prevent Docker using up lots of RAM if log2ram is enabled, or SD cards being filled with log data and degraded from unnecessary IO. See Docker Logging configurations

You can also turn logging off or set it to use another option for any service by using the IOTstack docker-compose-override.yml file mentioned at IOTstack/Custom.

starting an individual container

To start the stack:

$ cd ~/IOTstack
$ docker-compose up -d «container»

stopping your IOTstack

Stopping aka "downing" the stack stops and deletes all containers, and removes the internal network:

$ cd ~/IOTstack
$ docker-compose down

To stop the stack without removing containers, run:

$ cd ~/IOTstack
$ docker-compose stop

stopping an individual container

stop can also be used to stop individual containers, like this:

$ cd ~/IOTstack
$ docker-compose stop «container»

This puts the container in a kind of suspended animation. You can resume the container with

$ cd ~/IOTstack
$ docker-compose start «container»

There is no equivalent of down for a single container. It needs two commands:

$ cd ~/IOTstack
$ docker-compose stop «container»
$ docker-compose rm -f «container»

To reactivate a container which has been stopped and removed:

$ cd ~/IOTstack
$ docker-compose up -d «container»

checking container status

You can check the status of containers with:

$ docker ps


$ cd ~/IOTstack
$ docker-compose ps

viewing container logs

You can inspect the logs of most containers like this:

$ docker logs «container»

for example:

$ docker logs nodered

You can also follow a container's log as new entries are added by using the -f flag:

$ docker logs -f nodered

Terminate with a Control+C. Note that restarting a container will also terminate a followed log.

restarting a container

You can restart a container in several ways:

$ cd ~/IOTstack
$ docker-compose restart «container»

This kind of restart is the least-powerful form of restart. A good way to think of it is "the container is only restarted, it is not rebuilt".

If you change a docker-compose.yml setting for a container and/or an environment variable file referenced by docker-compose.yml then a restart is usually not enough to bring the change into effect. You need to make docker-compose notice the change:

$ cd ~/IOTstack
$ docker-compose up -d «container»

This type of "restart" rebuilds the container.

Alternatively, to force a container to rebuild (without changing either docker-compose.yml or an environment variable file):

$ cd ~/IOTstack
$ docker-compose stop «container»
$ docker-compose rm -f «container»
$ docker-compose up -d «container»

See also updating images built from Dockerfiles if you need to force docker-compose to notice a change to a Dockerfile.

persistent data

Docker allows a container's designer to map folders inside a container to a folder on your disk (SD, SSD, HD). This is done with the "volumes" key in docker-compose.yml. Consider the following snippet for Node-RED:

  - ./volumes/nodered/data:/data

You read this as two paths, separated by a colon. The:

  • external path is ./volumes/nodered/data
  • internal path is /data

In this context, the leading "." means "the folder containing docker-compose.yml", so the external path is actually:

  • ~/IOTstack/volumes/nodered/data

If a process running inside the container modifies any file or folder within:


the change is mirrored outside the container at the same relative path within:


The same is true in reverse. Any change made to any file or folder outside the container within:


is mirrored at the same relative path inside the container at:


deleting persistent data

If you need a "clean slate" for a container, you can delete its volumes. Using InfluxDB as an example:

$ cd ~/IOTstack
$ docker-compose stop influxdb
$ docker-compose rm -f influxdb
$ sudo rm -rf ./volumes/influxdb
$ docker-compose up -d influxdb

When docker-compose tries to bring up InfluxDB, it will notice this volume mapping in docker-compose.yml:

      - ./volumes/influxdb/data:/var/lib/influxdb

and check to see whether ./volumes/influxdb/data is present. Finding it not there, it does the equivalent of:

$ sudo mkdir -p ./volumes/influxdb/data

When InfluxDB starts, it sees that the folder on right-hand-side of the volumes mapping (/var/lib/influxdb) is empty and initialises new databases.

This is how most containers behave. But there are exceptions. A good example of an exception is Mosquitto which does not re-initialise correctly so you should avoid removing its persistent store.

stack maintenance

update Raspberry Pi OS

You should keep your Raspberry Pi up-to-date. Despite the word "container" suggesting that containers are fully self-contained, they sometimes depend on operating system components ("WireGuard" is an example).

$ sudo apt update
$ sudo apt upgrade -y

git pull

Although the menu will generally do this for you, it does not hurt to keep your local copy of the IOTstack repository in sync with the master version on GitHub.

$ cd ~/IOTstack
$ git pull

container image updates

There are two kinds of images used in IOTstack:

  • Those not built using Dockerfiles (the majority)
  • Those built using Dockerfiles (special cases)

    A Dockerfile is a set of instructions designed to customise an image before it is instantiated to become a running container.

The easiest way to work out which type of image you are looking at is to inspect the container's service definition in your docker-compose.yml file. If the service definition contains the:

  • image: keyword then the image is not built using a Dockerfile.
  • build: keyword then the image is built using a Dockerfile.

updating images not built from Dockerfiles

If new versions of this type of image become available on DockerHub, your local IOTstack copies can be updated by a pull command:

$ cd ~/IOTstack
$ docker-compose pull
$ docker-compose up -d
$ docker system prune

The pull downloads any new images. It does this without disrupting the running stack.

The up -d notices any newly-downloaded images, builds new containers, and swaps old-for-new. There is barely any downtime for affected containers.

updating images built from Dockerfiles

Containers built using Dockerfiles have a two-step process:

  1. A base image is downloaded from from DockerHub; and then
  2. The Dockerfile "runs" to build a local image.

Node-RED is a good example of a container built from a Dockerfile. The Dockerfile defines some (or possibly all) of your add-on nodes, such as those needed for InfluxDB or Tasmota.

There are two separate update situations that you need to consider:

  • If your Dockerfile changes; or
  • If a newer base image appears on DockerHub

Node-RED also provides a good example of why your Dockerfile might change: if you decide to add or remove add-on nodes.


  • You can also add nodes to Node-RED using Manage Palette.
when Dockerfile changes (local image only)

When your Dockerfile changes, you need to rebuild like this:

$ cd ~/IOTstack
$ docker-compose up --build -d «container»
$ docker system prune

This only rebuilds the local image and, even then, only if docker-compose senses a material change to the Dockerfile.

If you are trying to force the inclusion of a later version of an add-on node, you need to treat it like a DockerHub update.

Key point:

  • The base image is not affected by this type of update.


  • You can also use this type of build if you get an error after modifying Node-RED's environment:

    $ cd ~/IOTstack
    $ docker-compose up --build -d nodered
when DockerHub updates (base and local images)

When a newer version of the base image appears on DockerHub, you need to rebuild like this:

$ cd ~/IOTstack
$ docker-compose build --no-cache --pull «container»
$ docker-compose up -d «container»
$ docker system prune

This causes DockerHub to be checked for the later version of the base image, downloading it as needed.

Then, the Dockerfile is run to produce a new local image. The Dockerfile run happens even if a new base image was not downloaded in the previous step.

deleting unused images

As your system evolves and new images come down from DockerHub, you may find that more disk space is being occupied than you expected. Try running:

$ docker system prune

This recovers anything no longer in use.

If you add a container via and later remove it (either manually or via, the associated images(s) will probably persist. You can check which images are installed via:

$ docker images

REPOSITORY               TAG                 IMAGE ID            CREATED             SIZE
influxdb                 latest              1361b14bf545        5 days ago          264MB
grafana/grafana          latest              b9dfd6bb8484        13 days ago         149MB
iotstack_nodered         latest              21d5a6b7b57b        2 weeks ago         540MB
portainer/portainer-ce   latest              5526251cc61f        5 weeks ago         163MB
eclipse-mosquitto        latest              4af162db6b4c        6 weeks ago         8.65MB
nodered/node-red         latest              fa3bc6f20464        2 months ago        376MB
portainer/portainer      latest              dbf28ba50432        2 months ago        62.5MB

Both "Portainer CE" and "Portainer" are in that list. Assuming "Portainer" is no longer in use, it can be removed by using either its repository name or its Image ID. In other words, the following two commands are synonyms:

$ docker rmi portainer/portainer
$ docker rmi dbf28ba50432

In general, you can use the repository name to remove an image but the Image ID is sometimes needed. The most common situation where you are likely to need the Image ID is after an image has been updated on DockerHub and pulled down to your Raspberry Pi. You will find two containers with the same name. One will be tagged "latest" (the running version) while the other will be tagged "\<none>" (the prior version). You use the Image ID to resolve the ambiguity.

the nuclear option - use with caution

You can use Git to delete all files and folders to return your folder to the freshly cloned state.


$ cd ~/IOTstack
$ sudo git clean -d -x -f

This is probably the only time you should ever need to use sudo in conjunction with git for IOTstack. This is not recoverable!