Getting started with NixOS on Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+
This is a step-by-step guide on diving into NixOS by installing and using it on a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+.
The official documentation on running NixOS on ARM, and more specifically, on a Raspberry Pi is quite good. But it has to cover a lot of edge cases and old revisions, plus it assumes some prior experience with NixOS. I had none. I did however have the luxury of @domenkozar hand-holding me through instructions so that I could build my first NixOS install. But not everyone has the same privilege! And for those of you, this guide tries to provide enough hand-holding so that anyone with some general Linux experience is able to follow.
To make the guide even easier to follow, it is focused only on a single board: the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+.
The end game is a robust and future-proof Media Center running on a Raspberry Pi 3.
- The development machine that you will use to work through this guide, is a MacBook or a Linux machine you know well (and you can Google Linux alternatives for MacOS apps)
- The Raspberry Pi will use wired ethernet, and will get the IP via DHCP.
- The Raspberry Pi is connected to an HDMI display.
- You have a somewhat decent Internet connection.
First, we'll do a minimal install of NixOS on your Raspberry Pi. Adding extra software on top of the minimal install is very easy and we'll do it later.
Installing NixOs on the SD card
- Go to https://hydra.nixos.org/search?query=sd_image and find the line that contains
nixos:release-18.09-aarch64. 18.09 is the current stable version of NixOs.
- Click on the
nixos.sd_image.aarch64-linuxpart of the line to see the latest builds. Click on the most recent one that has passed successfully (green checkmark).
- Click on the link in the
File sd-imageline. Mine was
nixos-sd-image-18.09beta1819.76aafbf4bf4-aarch64-linux.imgand the URL was https://hydra.nixos.org/build/86448927/download/1/nixos-sd-image-18.09beta1819.76aafbf4bf4-aarch64-linux.img.
- Use Etcher to flash the image onto your SD Card. Please use 8GB or bigger card.
Put the NixOs SD card into the Pi's SD cart slot and turn it on. If all goes well, you should be dropped into a root shell.
Copy over the contents of
[root@nixos:~]# curl https://raw.githubusercontent.com/zupo/nix/master/minimal.nix > /etc/nixos/configuration.nix
And we're ready to build our minimal configuration.
[root@nixos:~]# nixos-rebuild switch building Nix... building the system configuration... these derivations will be built: ...
The first build takes about 10 minutes, consequent ones are faster.
Reboot to see it if works.
At this point, your Raspberry Pi should boot into the minimal NixOS configuration defined in
minimal.nix. Let's do some cleanup before we continue.
[root@nixos:~]# nix-collect-garbage -d # remove old pre-built configuration and all of its dependencies [root@nixos:~]# nixos-rebuild switch # remove old boot entries [root@nixos:~]# reboot # to be on the safe side
Ready for features
Now that you have the base NixOS install running on your Raspberry PI you can browse
.nix files in the
features/ directory, copy their configuration into your
/etc/nixos/configuration.nix and re-run
Let's try one for practice: the home theater software Kodi.
Add the following to
# Enable X11 windowing system services.xserver.enable = true; services.xserver.videoDrivers = [ "modesetting" ]; # Enable Kodi services.xserver.desktopManager.kodi.enable = true; # Enable slim autologin services.xserver.displayManager.lightdm.enable = true; services.xserver.displayManager.lightdm.autoLogin.enable = true; services.xserver.displayManager.lightdm.autoLogin.user = "kodi"; # Define a user account users.extraUsers.kodi.isNormalUser = true;
rebootwhen it's done.
Where to go from here?
Check out the fully-fledged
tv.nixconfiguration I use on my Raspberry Pi. In there you have static IP configuration, automounting of NAS, importing from other
.nixfiles and more.
I really liked the one hour, hands-on tutorial when starting out. I got the basic knowledge needed to follow the official NixOS documentation.
Keep the cheatsheet handy.
- @domenkozar for not shying away from my endless harassment on IM when I got stuck. Which was often. It truly is a testament to NixOS' design that Domen was able to debug and fix my problems from 2500 kilometers away. And that's only because all "system state" is in the
configuration.nixfile and not sprinkled among tens of opaque locations around the filesystem.
- The authors of NixOS on ARM which is a treasure-trove of tips & tricks.
- Other folks on the #nixos-aarch64 IRC channel for support and insights.
- Pin the version of NixOS we are using, so we truly get a deterministic and future-proof build.
- Is this still true? How can I test it?
* Note: The mainline kernel (tested with nixos kernel 4.18.7) does not include support for cpu frequency scaling on the Raspberry Pi. To get higher clock speed, set force_turbo=1 in /boot/config.txt
- Rename repo to
arm_control=0x200in config.txt is deprecated, we should use
- IRL robot: https://www.instructables.com/id/Video-Calling-on-Raspberry-Pi-3/