Ahmed Alsharif

NixOs impressions: first-time install

This is a verbatim recitation of how installing NixOs for the first time went.

preparing the target

I turned on the MacPro 2008 that I’ve more or less got from someone during a move to see if it still worked. It did. It also had 8GB ram, a GeForce 8800, and was still running debian like the last time I’ve touched it.

downloading the NixOs image

This was just the fairly straight forward dance of google distro, download ISO, go over the checksums, and finally dd it to some flash-drive. One thing to note was that I picked the GUI installation.

booting from the flash-drive

It took me 5 minutes to figure out how to choose the boot device on the MacPro, but once that was done (Hold Alt and turn it on) I was delighted to see the flash-drive popping up as “EFI boot” or whatever.

live installation

After booting the NixOs live image I was greeted with a tty and a message that said “type ‘systemctl start display-manager’ to launch GUI”, and so I did. And so I did again. And so nothing happened. When nothing happened I figured it’s not too bad and I can just install it from the tty since pressing Alt + F8 showed the installation guide. Trying to connect to the internet with wpa_supplicant wasn’t working though because (dmesg: wlan0: deauthenticating from ....... by local choice (Reason: 3=DEAUTH_LEAVING)), yeah no clue.

After WiFi didn’t work, I decided to tackle the display manager issue instead. I typed journalctl -x to check the logs, only to find out that if you press the End key long enough journald never stops scrolling. I spotted the issue with the display-manager, which was an X issue with the following paraphrasing of the log:

  Found (n) screens but have no clue what to do about them
  X Server didn't find any screens.

I don’t know who’s idea was to reinterpret a found screen error as a no screen found one. No hate on X though. At this point all the pain from dealing with the Nvidia card on my now deceased Thinkpad W530 came rushing quickly, a thinkpad which actually died while I was changing the GPU settings in the BIOS to choose just Nvidia instead of the bogus dual booting option. Anyways I type lsmod | grep nouveau to see if the driver was loaded. It wasn’t. I type modprobe nouveau and systemctl start display-manager afterwards, and lo and behold KDE plasma was summoned.

partioning, configuring and installing

I basically was just following the manual so partitioning was super easy, just using the parted commands from the manual and modifying them to fit my use. There was a little section about auto-generating the first configurations.nix file that’s also required for the installation. After the suggested tweaks the manual proclaimed the next step was to run nix-os install, which I did. I also rebooted just as I was told. I threw away the installation flash-drive, started drinking the kool-aid already, and was ready to google the nearest evangelist nix church while I was waiting for it to boot.

Needless to say I was a bit surprised after the boot. Not only was there no Desktop Manager installed (which I can live with), but there was also no wpa_supplicant installed. Not a single network capable package was installed. Now I wasn’t in the mood for doing all of that bare-bones, and so reinstall I did.