NixOS

by Mithrandir

This is a post suggested by the previous one and by the incidents which caused it. It is possible to be a very personal post but it will also contain some objective pieces of information. Keep this in mind while reading.

The Linux ecosystem is in a complete disarray. Multiple distributions with multiple desktop environments and multiple window managers  coming with a large set of programs in a big variety of versions. All of them targeted for a big range of people: from muggles, newbies to expert sysadmins, programmers, technical savvy people. From one point of view, this is perfect: we have Ubuntu and his derivations for one side of the scale and other distributions for the other one (Slackware, Fedora, Arch, Gentoo, etc).

There is a problem, though, caused by this diversity: the wide ecosystem doesn’t contain many well-designed, well-thought packages. From simple programs to the mammoths called desktop-environments, there are bugs and errors everywhere.

1 cinnamon wasted space
So much wasted space…

Fortunately, because of the Open Source nature of these applications, users are in control. They can submit bug reports and feature requests, they can switch to another distribution or, in the fortunate cases, they can take to hacking and patching their feature to the project. Thus, each worthy program is updated to suit the needs of users.

Yet, there is another problem: the way these updates arrive back. There are distributions where there is a year gap between a new version of program X becomes available and that update reaches the user. Yes, the advantage is that everything is tested and few bugs remain uncaught.  And there are the rolling releases where you can get that novelty as soon as you want at the cost of possible instability.

And those kind of problems are the root of my problems with Linux now. I’m still using it and I will always be using it. Right now I have a temporary Linux Mint installed for it’s rolling release approach but it will not last too much. I found about NixOS and I decided to test it before trying to go once again the Gentoo/Sabayon way.

I’ve decided to test it in a VirtualBox containers but what I got was only 100% CPU usage and a huge memory drain. I tried again using VMware and it seemed to have started:

2 host x86 64 not supporting x86 64 guest
But x86_64 is not supported
on a x86_64 system and
the error is strange

After a while, I managed to make it run, to have a X environment start:

3 finally booted into nixos
And it looks rather nice

Yet, there are still problems. After two failed attempts at installing GHC I decided to stop and write this post. I’ll try again, testing this OS during the summer. The plan is to install there everything I use and, if everything works perfectly, to install it on the real machine in October or later.

Until then, I also found an interesting thing in the NixOS thesis:

4 Research
Open question

Guess the problem is far from being solved. Maybe we’ll come to see the Year of the Linux Desktop…

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