I am starting to build up a .emacs file to be used as a development environment within Docker containers. I get this error when starting emacs-nox in a Docker container.

Error (use-package): Failed to install magit: Package `magit-' is unavailable
Error (use-package): Cannot load magit

Here is the contents of my .emacs:

;; require package
(require 'package)
;; add melpa stable
(add-to-list 'package-archives
        '("melpa-stable" . "https://stable.melpa.org/packages/"))
;; add melpa
(add-to-list 'package-archives
        '("melpa" . "http://melpa.milkbox.net/packages/"))
;; Initialise packages
;; get latest package information
;; add use package
;; so packages can automatically be installed
;; required for reuse across computer or docker containers
(package-install 'use-package)
;; add magit for git
(use-package magit
  :ensure t
    :pin melpa-stable)
  • Which emacs version are you using?
    – Kaligule
    Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 7:54
  • M-x version: "GNU Emacs 24.5.1 (x86_64-pc-linux-gnu) of 2017-09-12 on hullmann, modified by Debian" Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 14:15
  • 4
    I've run into this issue before. Run M-x package-refresh-contents and try again? Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 16:28
  • @ChakravarthyRaghunandan that did not work for me. I did M-x package-refresh-contents and then M-x eval-region on (use-package magit :ensure t :pin melpa-stable). I get the same error message. Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 17:39
  • Tried install the magit using M-x package-install RET magit ? Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 18:05

1 Answer 1


Thanks to the help of @ChakravarthyRaghunandan and @Kaligule and rereading the Melpa getting started I have been able to use use-package to install magit in a docker container in emacs-nox. The dockerfile starts with FROM debian:stable.

At Melpa - Getting Started, it says:

There are some problems using the https location with Emacs on Windows. There is currently no know easy fix for this. You can still use MELPA by using the non-SSL location by replacing https with http.

So I tried using http instead of https in the Melpa URLs.

(add-to-list 'package-archives
        '("melpa-stable" . "http://stable.melpa.org/packages/"))
(add-to-list 'package-archives
        '("melpa" . "http://melpa.org/packages/"))

That got it working.

  • 1
    I think an answer that uses https would be a better answer. Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 16:27
  • I am on Debian with emacs 27.1 and using http instead of https fixed my error of the same type when trying to install the package zetteldeft.
    – ning
    Commented Sep 2, 2020 at 2:02
  • just ran into this on a mac with same version of emacs and http:// worked for me also. Sigh.
    – sjatkins
    Commented Jan 21, 2021 at 22:08
  • trouble with http is that it doesn't solve issues with other lower level packages that have explicit https melpa get breaking with a 443 problem.
    – sjatkins
    Commented Jan 21, 2021 at 22:32

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