Install report from new user

@grahamc had a positive experience with NixOS on Dell 9560, described in his blog post.

Regarding the ZFS, you would have to create another installation ISO supporting ZFS (there are creation instructions in the manual - here).

I am glad that NixOS worked well for you!

Some random comments:

  • For auto-login have a look at services.xserver.displayManager.lightdm.autoLogin.enable or anything equivalent.
  • For booting logo, you could use plymouth, e.g. boot.plymouth.enable = true;

As for the Firefly devices, let me know if you can send stuff to Europe and how it would cost, you got my attention :smiley:

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We had zfs in past in the default installer, but removed it due some people having concerns regarding the license. Realistically I don’t see any company soon to sue us for that. I guess somebody could sneak in an iso image automatically build on travis-ci or so and hope for the best. I would always recommend with zfsonlinux and systemd to use the legacy mounts. Automounts are probablematic until we have a way to inform systemd that orders all the mounts to be aware of the zfs pools.

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We had zfs in past in the default installer, but removed it due some
people having concerns regarding the license. Realistically I don’t
see any company soon to sue us for that. I guess somebody could sneak
in an iso image automatically build on travis-ci or so and hope for
the best.
Why not instead offer a quick way to produce personal ISOs within the
live image? My very first NixOS install was on zfs root and I built
the iso within the live now is http://ix.io/1rf4 for zfs suffice to
substitute nilfs2 with zfs. To build the iso

nix-build '<nixpkgs/nixos>' -A config.system.build.isoImage -I
nixos-config=iso.nix

Only limitation is amount of ram needed… Perhaps live image can offer
alongside with quick docs few nix module to generate various type of
ISO, like with zfs, nilfs2, f2fs, various hw quirks, … Users can
simply “merge” them as they like. As another companion a tarball of a
minimal chrootable NixOS root can be offered to produce custom iso
directly from another distro. It will be a bit big but not much bigger
than a desktop iso and since it produce the new iso locally, eventually
downloading needed stuff it’s not much different than classic dd-ing of
an iso. To exaggerate it can also have a small curses wrapper like
Systemrescuecd iso-installer :slight_smile:

– Ingmar

We had zfs in past in the default installer, but removed it due some
people having concerns regarding the license. Realistically I don’t
see any company soon to sue us for that. I guess somebody could sneak
in an iso image automatically build on travis-ci or so and hope for
the best.
Why not instead offer a quick way to produce personal ISOs within the
live image? My very first NixOS install was on zfs root and I built
the iso within the live now is http://ix.io/1rf4 for zfs suffice to
substitute nilfs2 with zfs. To build the iso

Isn’t it enough to install the modules then modprobe them?

There are some other cases (Nvidia, I guess) where a reboot is indeed
needed; I wonder if some kexec trick could be made to work to reboot
but keep an overlay with store changes…

Default CJK font rendering in Firefox is terrible, having better default fonts could be a good idea.

I agree that NixOS could really use some better defaults for CJK fonts.

I wrote up a small explanation of how to get nice-looking Japanese fonts setup on NixOS. I bet you could easily adopt it for Chinese fonts as well:

https://functor.tokyo/blog/2018-10-01-japanese-on-nixos

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I’d write more but I’m traveling and in my phone. You don’t need to make your own ISO for ZFS support. You can enable it in the existing ISO at run time. See: https://nixos.wiki/wiki/NixOS_on_ZFS

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Yeah, that blog post is a classic for CJK users. Personally, I’ve had some good experiences with the Noto font family (noto-fonts, noto-fonts-cjk[, noto-fonts-emoji for ☆ etc.]).

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Hy,
I never tried sincerely, when I start NixOS I have used zfs but I’m
already exploring to abandon it since, unfortunately, it’s a dead
project for me… In theory you can compile zfs with dkms so load it
without reboot but I never tried. Espetially since produce a custom
and uo-to-date NixOS iso i so simple :slight_smile:

– Ingmar

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Hi everyone, thanks for the welcoming, polite and useful feedback. I will try all the suggestions over the weekend.

@joko I have just confirmed visiting the ARM board manufacturer and meeting their firmware and management teams next Thursday, I will let you know here afterwards.

Interesting. This wasn’t immediately obvious coming from another distribution (Gentoo) where the install media is not equivalent to the post-install environment with respect to kernel module installation and package management. I have added a prominent note to the bottom of the ZFS wiki page.

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Thanks, I have integrated some of your suggestions to my local configuration. The quality of inline documentation is excellent. Unfortunately I can’t seem to determine how to list the valid values for i18n.inputMethod.fcitx.engines and obvious values based on the fcitx website like pinyin and fuzzypinyin don’t seem to work.

Update: I later found some related source code but couldn’t figure out where the output was generated. Later found the awesome configuration.nix man page and determined that was the place. Voila! NixOS is consistently impressing me with its combination of clarity, tradition and precision with an overarching sense of progressive pragmatism. Great stuff!

For future users stumbling upon this post: man nixos.configuration then press / (forward slash) to search, and type fcitx.engines. You will then be presented with awesome documentation. This works for all configuration.nix options.

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Thanks. I added this information to the ZFS wiki page to help future users.

Thanks! That at least seemed to suggest one possible reason I may be experiencing crashes resuming, a BIOS option related to Wake on USB. Will check that out.

I have added this information as well as @grahamc 's reply and @Mic92 's background to the ZFS wiki page.

Also @joko @dezgeg let me know if you have any specific questions to put to Firefly, the RK3399 board manufacturer and I will make sure they are answered.

It turned out I had no idea you could simply install ZFS on the environment the installation media provides without rebooting. According to @grahamc this is possible. I have not tried it. Because I did not have that knowledge, I had no way to get ZFS running and therefore no way to access the existing pool from the installation media, which was the reason for backup and replacement. As it turned out, that wasn’t so painful and maybe was a good idea (I skipped world backup day this year…). Thanks also for your performance and other tips. Your grub2 info is great, I would have made use of it in the installation if I could have seen such a snippet. Would it be worth integrating in to the installation section of the manuall?

Hay walter,
being not on GitHub (nor wanting to be, I avoid any proprietary platform
I can avoid) I do not know how to contribute to the wiki… Anyway for
you remember nixos is functional so you can even change bootloader in
you config in a snap, simply write the snippet and run
nixos-rebuild switch and new bootloader will be installed. Any change
you made in the config can be easily applied and reverted as long as
you keep a working config around.

Even if you system became unbootable you can boot the live image and
re-run nixos-install with your last fully working config and have the
system restored without touching your home. Of course proper use of zfs
snapshots and clone may also help (poor man’s OpenSolaris/IllumOS BE),
the sole world of warning I’ve encountered: on install from the live
image /nix/store used to build final system is not placed in the final
root volume (e.g. something like /mnt/nix/store) but in live image
ram-mounted /nix/store so if you have a big config and a not so big ram
you may exhausts ram and being unable to finish install. In that case it
only suffice to comment out a (big) bunch of packages and after booting
in the new system uncomment them back and nixos-rebuild switch.

Also for upgrading NixOS, root volume should be considered around 4 time
the size of a classic root volume on Gentoo or other classic distro,
simply because when you upgrade from a release to another or made big
change or simply upgrade you do not really overwrite anything but only
download and extract/build anything aside the actual “root” resulting in
a big space occupation even if “temporary”. In case of need you can
garbage-collect by hand of course. My personal desktop recipe (in
configuration.nix) is

 # this is a system-wide settings for ANY shell you use (bash, zsh,
 # tcsh, ...) available to ALL users, root included.
  environment.shellAliases = {
    sysup = "sudo nixos-rebuild switch --upgrade && nix-env -u";
    sysclean = "sudo nix-collect-garbage -d ; sudo nix-store --gc; sudo nix-store  --optimize";
    sysbe = "sudo nix-env -p /nix/var/nix/profiles/system --list-generations";
  };

Being in the (far) past a Gentoo user I know how sometime a rebuild
world can be a bit scared, but on NixOS you do not have to be worried,
nothing can really brake to a “pain”/“long” point. Being “brave” it’s
safe enough.

– Ingmar

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Thanks Ingmar. Interesting aliases, thanks for sharing. As I mentioned in the original post I wanted to understand what the recommended filesystem structure was … it seems that in fact to make the most use of Nix one should have /home/* and /root/ on different volumes to the root partition.

As this is not explained in the install instructions, it makes modifying the current config post-facto difficult if you do not have another disk around and time for hoop-jumping (I don’t). Therefore, I will not be adventuring around boot loaders again any time soon. Very happy to have a functional system which is so fast and neat!

I also try to gravitate toward free software but I am very time constrained and sometimes there are no viable alternatives, particularly when issues like community, reputation, geographic replication, etc. are at stake and you have limited time and resources to devote. Frankly if I fervently insisted on open source at this point I wouldn’t be able to run my business. After years of running my own svn, git, gitlab and phabricator servers, CI/CD pipelines, private clusters, etc. I am now a paying enterprise customer of Github and very happy. Same for email (I avoid Google though!). I have run this stuff myself for 20+ years but simply have to give up as the bottleneck is now time, and I have enough issues to deal with between work, family, health, banks, government, etc. to try to pull it all together 24x7x365 when many times the annual service fees of these businesses are at stake every day.

Indeed, I can only find time for this type of discussion at 8:30PM on a Sunday. Must be getting old. :slight_smile:

Best, Walter

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Hi,

I wanted to understand what the recommended filesystem structure was
… it seems that in fact to make the most use of Nix one should have
/home/* and /root/ on different volumes to the root partition.
well, there is probably no “guide” because anyone decide to slice disks
so data as per personal need and taste. Normally having a separate home
volume means have their personal data separate from the system, like in
a car you have engine separated from cabin, this make easy in case of
snapshot-enabled fs/storage solution to backup the home, to modify the
system (i.e. change distro) without touch personal data etc.

My personal single-disk desktop recipe is:

  • EFI partition
  • boot partition separated because of LUKS encryption
  • LUKS volume with zpool on top in the past, lvm now
  • root
  • var
  • varhome
  • dothome
  • datahome

where var is separate to have logs and various spool separated from
the root, sometime I may would like to keep them while erasing the
system root, varhome is the /home/$myuser or the container of anything
I do not care (cache, defaults apps settings etc), dothome are my
dotfiles symlinked (in the past by hand, after with GNU stow, now I
try Nix-integrated homeManager) in /home/$myuser, datahome are the
rest of my personal data (documents, projects, images, videos, music,
…). When I have used zfs due to it’s flexible volume size I have
had many more volumes for home, one for my personal kb/wiki, another
for projects, another for docs, another for multimedia stuff etc and
for system (petc, for custom etc configs, linked in /etc like home
dotfiles).

Consider your scenario: you switch from Gentoo to NixOS and you have
both on zfs. If your home is on a dedicated volume you can simply
create a rpool/nixos volume aside rpool/gentoo volume and simply
change bootloader config. Your home remain there (backed up for safety
but untouched). Far simpler that have to backup and restore everything.
However you may encounter few problem with modern DE like Gnome/Kde
because they may badly digest you ancient DE dotfiles. So having only
the setting you care separated and an “erasable” home for other/defaults
setting may help migration, you simply wipe the “erasable home” run the
new DE and re-link back your relevant configs.

Now add a bit of complexity: you may have many different desktops for
different kind of work, for instance a personal laptop, a work laptop,
a personal desktop and a work desktop. You may want to share some data
between them, but not all. If you have different volumes for them it
may be only a matter of zfs send few volumes, or you may use unison,
my actual preferred way, for two way sync of ONLY the tree you want
too keep in sync. Here again slicing and (sym)linking/bind-mount may
help.

On proprietary systems you have no choice but keep up with limited
options, on free software you do have choices, and normally you end up
in creating your really personal setup that is so personal to surely
not fit much others, that’s the reason we do not have “slicing
suggestions” out-of-the-box.

Even your personal taxonomy and automation is normally so personal that
does not work for others, for instance typical “modern” guys have tons
of binary files divided per application (like raster image, vector
images, videos, music, …) in a vertically simple (not much nested
dirs), horizontally big (many files/dir in a single subdir), classic
unix guys tend to have tons of text spread across complex (but easy to
traverse for them) vertically big taxonomy, Emacs guys tend to have few
bigger files normally not much categorized since Emacs have a so easy
bookmark system that you tend to ignore fs layout.

As this is not explained in the install instructions, it makes
modifying the current config post-facto difficult if you do not have
another disk around and time for hoop-jumping (I don’t).
Well, if you have up-to-date and tested backups so you feel (and be)
safe, you can easy change things in a live system. For instance you
can create new volume like (zsh/fish syntax)

 # move /home/me to /home/me.old
 mv /home/me{,.old}

 # create&mount new volumes and mount in the correct place
 for vol in rpool/home{,/var,/docs,/prjs,/dotfiles}
 do
   zfs create $vol
   zfs set mountpoint=legacy $vol
   zfs mount -t zfs $vol /home/me${vol/rpool\/home}
   echo "fileSystems.\"/home/me${vol/rpool\/home}\" = \n   {  device =
 \"$vol\";\n      fsType = \"zfs\";\n   };" >> /tmp/addToHwConfig.nix
 done

 chown -R me:mygrp /home/me
 mv /home/me.old/* /home/me 
 nixos-rebuild switch

than you have your original data sliced on different volumes, without
locally copy them so without occupy too much disk space. It’s only a
matter of wait the local move on disk… Now it’s only a matter to
choose how to symlink/bind them, for instance with homeManager or
even via bind-mount that in hwconfig.nix appear as

fileSystems."/mount/point" =
    { device = "rpool/vol";
      fsType = "none";
      options = [ "bind" ];
    };

and you are done, all locally, all without secondary disk :slight_smile:

Therefore, I will not be adventuring around boot loaders again any
time soon.
Anyway do not be afraid, even bootloader change happen functionally

Very happy to have a functional system which is so fast and neat!
You have more, you can reproduce your exact system simply copying
your .nix files and install so in case of system disk failure you
can be up in a very little time and nearly zero manual work without
missing things or doing something wrong. You may also provision many
systems in lan with NixOps, like have a builtin Saltstack or Ansible
at system level, you may upgrade from a release to another substantially
issue-less (generally you have a least to adjust few pkgs names in
your config) since if anything goes wrong you still have ancient
version up and running, selectable at boot like OpenSolaris/IllumOS BE.

I also try to gravitate toward free software but I am very time
constrained and sometimes there are no viable alternatives,
particularly when issues like community, reputation, geographic
replication, etc. are at stake and you have limited time and resources
to devote.
IME it’s mostly a matter of knowledge, if you can “study” enough you
can go FOSS way full-stack in many many many cases, right now we have
even 3D parametric CAD good enough to compete with SolidWorks&c, not
a Catia/Nx/Creo level but enough for a small mechanic firm, we have
enough free FEM/FEA/EDA FOSS for not-so-complicated but not even too
simple project, for instance Purism OEM design their phone motherboard
with free software.

Sometime it’s not only a matter of knowledge since for certain jobs
FOSS support is limited and not so easy to use but in the long run
if you have knowledge you gain far more than any proprietary product
mostly because you have no tie, no imposed limitation.

The real and abruptly serious problem we have is that knowledge is
more and more “private”, we have less and less functional universities,
no more public research, even no more “open devices” to work with and
that’s a thing no less dangerous than a big atomic weapon. Fortunately
something start to move, small open OEMs start to appear, more people
who feel the need of FOSS start to “enter the game” with important
results, so I hope for at least a feature with a jailed mass-market
but a small free niche that can stand on it’s own without being
destroyed by not-really-free market.

Technology help this a bit,think about the possibility in the near
future of 3D printers good enough to print metal (low quality steel)
not only plastic, this is far far away from ancient universities and
big companies open research labs but it’s enough for a new start
especially since managerial driven companies keep going down in quality
and are less and less sustainable to a point that most of our industry
will crush in few decades at actual trend…

Freedom is power, only it does not pay immediately, it’s not easy to
get at first and must be defended continuously, however if you can
face the challenge you’ll be re-paid really well.

Sorry for the long post and poor English.

– Ingmar

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Just a minor hint: nix-store --gc is redundant as it’s already invoked by nix-collect-garbage.

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Thanks for explaining your setup. I have usually avoided LVM which IIRC used to be standard on many popular distros. Its inflexible volume sizing and thin provisioning implementation were never as good as ZFS which had true fluidity of volume size and proper COW/dedup. I had wanted to keep ZFS but now that it’s gone (I replaced it with one large ext4 volume) I think it will be awhile until I use it again on my laptop, just because I don’t have time to delve right now. I only have the one machine these days, a laptop that runs Linux. Things that require other OSs I do on other machines only occasionally. We do use open source KiCad for PCB design and firmware at work but currently closed source for mechanical, mostly for hiring reasons. I am familiar with loopback mounts and devices (losetup) plus their limitations and also agree with your political observations. After 20+ years I can also personally confirm your advice regarding investment in learning. I never take the path of least resistance, but am often forced to prioritize… I still take great joy in learning! Alas I must sleep: tomorrow I have some impressive factories to visit. Walter.

Hi,
well, zfs was a pioneer in storage, I call it instead of fs a dss, for
data storage system. And we desperately need something like that. The
sole real (and IMO better) competitor I know of is Hammer from
DragonflyBSD but unfortunately it run only on Dragonfly… It’s better
because it do substantially anything zfs do + is a logfs so you have
not only manual snapshot but also automatic one upon every write() so
you have good protection against accidental overwrite/deletion. On
GNU/Linux there is as far as I know only a project to create a poor
man’s zfs: stratis, essentially it wrap many tools to mimic a pooled
storage with (fake) auto-grow volumes like zfs. It’s in early stage
but being a wrapper it can be used on personal system without much
warning.

Personally I choose nilfs2 since it’s a log based fs on top of LVM and
while I miss zfs pool I can still live-resize (both grow and shrink)
my volumes in few step: for growing

  • grow lvm lv in it’s vg
  • grow nilfs2 (mounted and live, zero issue so far)
    for shrinking
  • shrink nilfs2 (live) volume a bit more than target size
  • shrink lvm lv at target size
  • grow nilfs2 volume to match lv size
    Nothing compared to zfs but far far lighter in system resource usage,
    safe (nilfs2 is mainline Linux since years despite it’s slow growth)
    and being a logfs I can recover any mistake quickly simply converting
    last cp (automatic snapshot created at any write and autodeleted by a
    garbage collector) to an ss (real snapshot mountable and kept as long
    as I want) and mount it somewhere.

Linux in storage (and in networking) have a long road to evolve…
However, unfortunately big’s of IT do not want anymore innovative
systems so apart of GNU/Linux, at least for desktop and desktop hw
we have no real choices anymore and I fear that the future became
even worse: think of Windows WSL, Samsung DeX, Google Crostini, now
imaging a near future in witch OEMs sell only locked devices via
secureboot&c saying “oh, but you can install GNU/Linux! Go get it
from our store!” so they can sell de-facto closed platforms with
the benefit of community-made free software keeping their users in
a jail…

I hope OpenPower and European Processor Initiative (EPI) can go
somewhere also hoping from some state-backed move like Russian’s
Baikal/Elbrus/* and why not a Chinese one if it will exists to
broke x86 monopoly and just only to succeed shake a bit actual
sorry state of jail. Even not so small factories and project are
de facto slave of few big producer form basic hw needs in IT terms
to CNC machines, any tools needed to do something at a serious and
competitive level with a sort of oligopoly/monopoly it’s a disaster.

Anyway, good night and good work :slight_smile:

– Ingmar

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