First step to NixOS

Reading time ~3 minutes

Given my OS history (Windows -> macOS -> Fedora -> Arch Linux) these were the options I was interested in as a next one:

  • Gentoo (but I have no interests in compiling everything myself)
  • GNU Hurd (but I don’t think it is ready yet)
  • Arch Linux (There was nothing bad about it except the installation process)
  • Manjaro (because it is Arch with an installer)
  • NixOS (because I like writing configurations)

I decided on NixOS because I could see me using it for the next years (other then Gentoo and GNU Hurd) and it would give me the opportunity to learn something completely new (other then Arch and Manjaro that I used for a few years now).

Since my old laptop T440S was gone and beyond repair I got my hands on an old T430S (which makes it amazingly easy to swap parts) and created a bootable USB Stick. And then …

some wonderful things happened in my private live and I had no time to go further.

It has been a few months, but I finally could pick up my experiment with NixOS. Booting from the stick was easy and before you know it you get a Desktop Environment. There are some multiple tools to help you get the disk in the shape you want before the real installation begins.

While I know how my way around the commandline the same can not be said about partitioning, formating and file systems. It seems like there are multiple definitions of “device” for different programms and I wouldn’t even know how a good setup would look like. I clearly lack knowledge in this area.

The NixOS manual uses a lot of commands that sounded obscure to me (parted, mkfs and mkswap) so I choose to follow a guide from alexherbo2 that seemed more detailed and recommended “GParted for discoverability”. Unfortunatelly I got stuck when creating new partitions. I couldn’t assign any other filesystems then ‘linux-swap and ‘minix’.

Asking for help in the IRC (#nixos) got me some advice (from colemickens, thanks a lot) - he encouraged me to give the commands from the manual a try (because I didn’t have much to loose on that machine). It turned out that they did work as advertised. When I typed them in by hand I got a better understanding of what they did than from just reading/copying/pasting them.

The rest of the installation process went as expected. I had a little trouble because I hadn’t installed the network-manager before rebooting (so I couldn’t install it later because I had no network-manager to get the wifi going) but fortunately the Ethernet worked out of the box.

So now I have a working NixOS on my Thinkpad. Having managed the installation so far makes me a bit proud and I am looking forward to learn the nix way. I really like it so far, but didn’t have much time to play with it. Currently I only have emacs, network-manager, sway and firefox installed, qutebrowser will follow. That should be enough to get along for a while, the next step is to migrate my old data.

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