Renkulab environments disappearing?

I am using renkulab for a class and students asked me if they have to create a new environment every time, which I thought should not be the case as long as they don’t remove the environment they created. However, I found that even the environment I created for the demo is gone. Do environments get removed automatically now? It takes quite a while to create a new one, and it probably drains resources, so I wonder if there is a way to avoid environments from being removed. Thanks for your help!

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hi @schymans,

thanks for your interest on Renku and for your question.
Environments on Renkulab are configured to stop automatically after 24 hours of inactivity.
Therefore, the way to avoid an environment to be killed is to keep it active. In some browsers, having an open tab would suffice, otherwise performing an action on the notebook every 24 hours should ensure the environment is not cleaned up.

Best,
Pamela

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And regarding the part of your question not addressed by Pamela, the reason it takes a while to create an environment the first time is that the docker image has to be built. But, once built, it is cached, and for most projects, future image builds are instantaneous*.

*There are cases where the changes to a project can make it look like an image needs to be rebuilt, when it in fact is not necessary. If you have one of those situations, there is a feature that lets you “pin” the image used for a project. This can be especially useful in classes were everyone is going to be using the same image. With a pinned image, it only needs to be built once and is shared by everyone (as opposed to built once for each user).

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Thanks to both of you! I didn’t realise the docker images are cached even if the environment disappears from the list. How does the pinning work?
Oh, and another question: Each environment is built based on a specific commit, but then we can push additional commits from that environment. If we stop the environment and re-connect, will our new commits still be there, or do we need to pull them first? I guess that whenever we create a new environment, even if it is based on a cached docker image, it would use the most recent commit as a base.Right?

Wow, I just tried it out. If I stop an environment with commited but not pushed changes, and then create a new one, I get a message about this, with an option to continue from there or reset.

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For pinning a docker image to a project please check this post:

As for the additional commits, after they are pushed you have the option to start a new environment from the new commit (after the image has built successfully or immediately if its pinned).
You can always choose which commit/branch you want to start your environment from (see screenshot below, drop-down menu), but you can only start one environment per commit. It is also possible to pull the latest commits in an environment that started with an old commit.
Screenshot from 2021-04-15 09-50-38

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Also note that the autosave feature is there as a backup, but we still encourage regular pushing back to the origin.

I have had the same questions/comments in my courses.

If you are using Renku with RStudio, you can add the following in the install.R file to get a Save to RenkuLab addin

devtools::install_git("https://renkulab.io/gitlab/cchoirat/renkur.git")
library(renkur)

It makes it easy for the students to commit and push from the GUI and make sure they save all the changes over the period of a term.

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Thanks, but we use jupyter. What does the addin do? I asked them to commit and click on the cloud icon to push periodically.

It’s a way to commit and push directly from the RStudio GUI.