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NixOS: A Distro Focused on Next-Generation Package Management

Feb 03, 2009, 22:32 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Bruce Byfield)

"Instead, take the time to see how NixOS is structured, and to consider why. To start with, notice that the configuration file whose creation was the main feature of the installation is actually a flexible tool for administration. By running the nixos-rebuild script with various options, you can quickly create and test multiple configurations without making your system usable. Should you choose, you can maintain multiple system descriptions that appear as options in GRUB, creating different configurations for different purposes or users. Similarly, if you accidentally create an unusable configuration, you can still boot into your system using another one, or use the installation CD to create another one. No configuration is deleted unless you specifically choose to remove it.

"The same principle of redundancy applies even more strongly to packages. Within NixOS, each installed package and its configuration file is placed in a separate folder under /nix/store, rather than such usual locations such as /us, /bin or /sbin, where later versions of software generally overwrite earlier ones. Even /etc consists largely of symbolic links to /nix/store, with the exception of a few core files like passwd.

"Using such a structure, NixOS has no trouble allowing multiple versions of the same software to co-exist, any more than the rival Conary package manager does -- or, like Autopackage, another software installation system, of having non-root users install software only for themselves. Any danger from non-root installs is reduced by scripts that run only programs and other scripts that are specifically declared in the package definition."

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