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I think a lot of large software teams have struggled with Docker’s licensing changes for Docker Desktop. I know it was a shock for me, starting at a company where my team was bigger than the whole organisation at my previous job. Docker Desktop’s setup process is unrivaled in simplicity for configuring containers for most users.

The direction from my current company was to migrate to Podman, which don’t get me wrong, it’s okay and as a quick substitute for Docker Desktop works. However, I found it required a lot of tedious changes and extra setup and at the end of the day, I struggled to get AWS SAM to work which was my primary goal. It also didn’t quite live up to the ‘Docker replacement’ I was told it would be.

It’s important to note, the licensing changes only affect the Docker Desktop product, the CLI interface remains free for all users.


The only prerequisite is Homebrew, which if you don’t have installed, you can find instructions on their page here.

To kick things off, you’ll want to install Docker and the credential helper. The credential helper allows you to use the macOS Keychain as the credential store for remote container repos instead of Docker Desktop.

brew install docker docker-credential-helper
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You may come across an issue later on where the Docker CLI will throw an error that ‘docker-credential-desktop not installed’ which is a result of a misconfiguration (potentially from a previous installation of Docker Desktop). You can correct this by doing the following.

nano ~/.docker/config.json { "auths": {}, "credsStore": "osxkeychain", "currentContext": "colima"
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Yours might not have the current context set to Colima yet, however, the important one to update is credStore.

Next, we need to install Colima. Colima is a container runtime that supports Docker (and containerd). You can read more about over on their GitHub.

brew install colima
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Once this is installed, all you need to do is start the Colima VM.

colima start
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Now you’re good to go! You can test that everything is connected correctly by running. Where the * indicates the active context.

docker context ls
# this will return a list of docker socket configurations, example below NAME DESCRIPTION DOCKER ENDPOINT KUBERNETES ENDPOINT ORCHESTRATOR
colima * colima unix:///Users/{you}/.colima/default/docker.sock default Current DOCKER_HOST based configuration unix:///var/run/docker.sock (default) swarm
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The solution for more stubborn apps

Despite us configuring everything, some applications (such as AWS SAM) try to attach directly to the Docker socket at /var/run/docker.sock instead of respecting the active configuration for the current context. As a result, we’ll need to set up a hard symlink pointing the Colima socket to the expected Docker socket location.

# as /var/ is a protected directory, we will need sudo
sudo ln ~/.colima/default/docker.sock /var/run # we can verify this has worked by running
ls /var/run
# and confirming that docker.sock is now in the directory 
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Once this link is established, you should be free to use those more stubborn applications. It’s important to note that if you stop the Colima VM (container runtime), you may lose this symlink and you’ll need to relink to continue using those apps.

I hope this has helped you set up Docker for your development setup and given you the most familiar experience (I mean, using the official Docker CLI is about as close as you can get right?).