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September 12

Nix & NixOS
The "next-gen" Linux distro

Speaker: Carsten Strotmann
(MastadonL @cstrotm@mastodon.social / GitHub)

Traditionally, Linux installations evolve in an iterative manner: install package, tweak configuration, install more software, change more configuration, repeat. The resulting system is difficult to reproduce. Over the last decade, admins started to use configuration orchestration tools such as Ansible or SaltStack to make configurations more reproducible. These tools use an declarative approach, the user declares the end state of the system that should be reached independent of the current state of the system. But the tools are add-ons that automate a process designed for interactive use. While the tools do their job well, they are alien to the Linux distribution.

Nix and NixOS rethink package and configuration management for Linux by having the declarative approach of orchestration tools built into the heart of a Linux distribution. The user does not install packages interactively, instead s/he declares how the Linux system should be.

Nix users change a few simple text configuration files and launch the Nix system, which then does whatever is required to bring the system into the defined state. As a bonus, the previous state(s) of the system still remain and the user can switch between the current and older configuration states by reboot or by switching the state on-the-fly. This makes it super easy to have dedicated system states for different tasks, like video editing, software development or gaming.

This talk will explain what Nix and NixOS are, how implemented and how the user interacts with the system. It will show "home-manager," a system to apply the Nix system to individual user home directories. Session attendees will have the opportunity to install and test Nix on virtual machines on the Internet (a modern Web-Browser required).

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