[talk] Idea: NixBSD

John C. Vernaleo john at netpurgatory.com
Mon Aug 17 09:24:12 EDT 2015

Internet gremlins ate my reply the first time, trying again.

On Fri, 14 Aug 2015, Malcolm Matalka wrote:

> Hello everyone,
> I'd like to throw out an idea and get peoples reactions.  This is not a
> concrete plan or anything I'm actively working on, more of a long term
> vision I'd love to see happen.
> Idea:
> A distribution of BSD that leverages the Nix package manager down to the
> OS configuration.  Roughly a BSD version of NixOS.
> Motivation:
> The effort put into the ports is fantastic but the ports system is rigid
> in that supporting multiple versions of a single package requires a fair
> amount of effort, installing/removing ports is limited to the
> administrator of the machine, each port has to produce a unique set of
> output names, source based vs binary based might have a similar source
> but are distinct package systems.
> Solution:
> The Nix package manager is a purely functional package manager that
> supports source-based, and binary-based packages.  It allows multiple
> versions of a port to be installed simultaneously and by non-admin
> users.  It supports a binary cache on source-based ports.  I believe
> that Nix packages are easier to create and maintain than ports, however
> that is clearly subjective.
> The goal would be to have a BSD distribution based on FreeBSD or OpenBSD
> that migrates the ports collection to nix and then eventually replaces
> the OS configuration with Nix as well.  This puts all of the machine
> configuration in a single place, simplifying the configuration of the
> operating system.
> This would be a lot of work, but I believe worth it in the long run.  In
> the future I hope to have some time to add FreeBSD support back to Nix
> (it was not maintained and currently does not compile AFAIK) then
> getting ports to work under it.
> I'm curious, what technical problems do people see with this idea?  What
> social problems?  IMO, Nix, while having issues, is vastly superior to
> any package manager I have used, but I'm not sure if it fixes a problem
> that anyone else in the BSD community believes exists.
> Thanks,
> /Malcolm
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It's funny you should mention that since I've been playing around with 
NixOS recently and it
has some pretty cool ideas.  I do a lot of work on Bitrig ports and there 
are definitely
features from nix that I would love to have.  It would also be interesting 
to be able to use
the same package manager on both linux and bsd (the number of times I've 
typed apt-get
install on the bitrig box and port install on the linux box is startling 

That being said, from Bitrig I've seen that keep any number of ports 
up-to-date is a huge
amount of work unless you have an army of people to help out (and I'm sure 
even then it is

If you feel like poking around with it on openbsd and/or bitrig, feel free 
to ping me
offlist or on irc cause I'd be interested in poking around a bit as well.


John C. Vernaleo, Ph.D.
john at netpurgatory.com

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