How to run Spice Agent

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How To Run Spice Agent in Alpine

This is a guide on how to run Spice Agent in Alpine Linux 3.12.1-standard.

The Spice Agent can be used to get some additional features when running Alpine Linux in a Qemu/Libvirt VM.



  • Client mouse mode
  • Automatic adjustment of the X-session resolution
  • Clipboard sharing

Not working:

  • The State field in Libvirt - it always shows "disconnected", even when it is working

Not tested:

  • Transferring files
  • Multiple displays/screens

Before You Start

Most features of the Spice Agent are only useful when running a graphical interface. I roughly followed the Awesome(wm)_Setup guide, but substituted awesome with i3wm as that has my preference (you have to install i3status manually, and use i3 in the .xinitrc file).

For the Spice Agent to work, don't remove the Channel spice that is automatically added by Libvirt.

Building the Spice Agent

Install the dependencies:

 # apk add alpine-sdk autoconf automake glib-dev libxfixes-dev libxrandr-dev libxinerama-dev spice-protocol alsa-lib-dev dbus-dev libdrm-dev libpciaccess-dev

Get the source code:

 $ git clone
 $ cd vd_agent
 $ git checkout spice-vdagent-0.20.0

We need this specific version because the newest version requires a newer spice-protocol version than is provided by the repositories (version 0.14.1). If you follow this guide with a later version of Alpine, you may want to get a newer version from git as well.

Build the code (still in the vd_agent directory):

 $ ./
 $ make

Install the program (should be optional when running manually, but I haven't tried it without yet):

 # make install

Running the Spice Agent

Running manually

First start the spice-vdagentd:

 # modprobe uinput
 # mkdir /run/spice-vdagentd
 # spice-vdagentd -d -x -X

You can also remove the lower-case -x flag to deamonize the spice-vdagentd.

Then start the spice-vdagent:

 $ spice-vdagent -x -d

Notice that there is no need to run this last command as root.

Running with init script

This assumes you ran make install at the end of building. If you have not, you'll have to change this accordingly. It also requires that uinput can be loaded with modprobe. If you cannot, look at #Using_the_virt_edition_of_Alpine.

To run with an init script, we will use the Gentoo init script, although we have to change the paths to make it work properly (latest commit is b3b3e1d9a13c389f17e01c78c6c1a996d08420b5 at the time of writing):

 $ wget
 $ sed 's,/var/run,/run,g;s,/usr/sbin,/usr/local/sbin,g' spice-vdagent.initd-4 > spice-vdagentd

Then we move the file to the right location, change the ownership, make it executable and add it to the default runlevel:

 # mv spice-vdagentd /etc/init.d/
 # chown root:root /etc/init.d/spice-vdagentd
 # chmod +x /etc/init.d/spice-vdagentd
 # rc-update add spice-vdagentd default

The above will start the spice-vdagentd, but not the spice-vdagent. As the spice-vdagent should be started with the de/wm you're using, there is not one general way which works for all setups. If you want to find a way that works for you, the Arch wiki has a decent page on autostarting.

Using the virt edition of Alpine

This currently does not work on the virt edition (version 3.12.1), as it doesn't have uinput enabled in the kernel. However, there are still several ways to get it working.

Run without uinput

You can make the spice-vdagentd work without the uinput module by starting it as follows, but it will disable the cursor while the spice-vdagent is running:

 # mkdir /run/spice-vdagentd
 # spice-vdagentd -d -x -X -u /dev/null -f

Build uinput as module

Underconstruction clock icon gray.svg
This material is work-in-progress ...

The following contains all necessary information, but has to be rewritten to be more clear.
(Last edited by MartinJM on 8 Feb 2021.)

Follow the steps in Setup your system and account for building packages and cd to the aports/main/linux-lts directory. Check that the kernel version you've pulled is the same that you're running with uname -r and head APKBUILD. If they mismatch, checkout the aports branch that has the same kernel version. If they are the same, continue with the following steps:

 $ abuild deps
 $ abuild fetch verify
 $ abuild unpack
 $ abuild prepare
 $ cd src/build-virt-x86_64

Now change CONFIG_INPUT_UINPUT from not being included to CONFIG_INPUT_UINPUT=m in the .config file. Then proceed as follows:

 $ make modules_prepare
 $ make drivers/input/misc/uinput.ko

This builds the uinput module in the current directory. Every time you want to use it, you'll have to load it like this (still from aports/main/linux-lts/src/build-virt-x86_64):

 # insmod drivers/input/misc/uinput.ko

After this, you can use the spice agent as described in Running the Spice Agent, except that the modprobe uinput is not necessary.

Alternatively, you can "install" the module by copying it to /lib/modules/`uname -r`/extra (which you'll most likely have to create first) and running depmod (as root). After this, you can load the module normally with modprobe uinput. This is necessary if you want to use the init script as described in #Running_with_init_script.

Rebuild the kernel to include uinput

See Custom_Kernel for pointers on how to build a custom kernel. The option you'll need to change in the config is CONFIG_INPUT_UINPUT.