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-*- mode: org; coding: utf-8; -*-
#+TITLE: Hacking GNU Guix and Its Incredible Distro
Copyright © 2012, 2013 Ludovic Courtès <ludo@gnu.org>
Copying and distribution of this file, with or without modification,
are permitted in any medium without royalty provided the copyright
notice and this notice are preserved.
* Running Guix before it is installed
Command-line tools can be used even if you have not run "make install".
To do that, prefix each command with ‘./pre-inst-env’, as in:
./pre-inst-env guix-build --help
Similarly, for a Guile session using the Guix modules:
./pre-inst-env guile -c '(use-modules (guix utils)) (pk (%current-system))'
The ‘pre-inst-env’ script sets up all the environment variables
necessary to support this.
* Adding new packages
Package recipes in Guix look like this:
#+BEGIN_SRC scheme
(name "nettle")
(version "2.5")
(method url-fetch)
(uri (string-append "mirror://gnu/nettle/nettle-"
version ".tar.gz"))
(build-system gnu-build-system)
(inputs `(("m4" ,m4)))
(propagated-inputs `(("gmp" ,gmp)))
(synopsis "GNU Nettle, a cryptographic library")
"Nettle is a cryptographic library...")
(license gpl2+))
Such a recipe can be written by hand, and then tested by running
‘./pre-inst-env guix-build nettle’.
When writing the recipe, the base32-encoded SHA256 hash of the source
code tarball, which can be seen in the example above, can be obtained by
guix-download http://ftp.gnu.org/gnu/nettle/nettle-2.5.tar.gz
Alternatively, it is possible to semi-automatically import recipes from
the [[http://nixos.org/nixpkgs/][Nixpkgs]] software distribution using this command:
guix-import /path/to/nixpkgs/checkout nettle
The command automatically fetches and converts to Guix the “Nix
expression” of Nettle.
* Porting the Guix distro on a new platform
** Introduction
Unlike Make or similar build tools, Guix requires absolutely /all/ the
dependencies of a build process to be specified.
For a user-land software distribution, that means that the process that
builds GCC (then used to build all other programs) must itself be
specified; and the process to build the C library to build that GCC; and
the process to build the GCC to build that library; and... See the
problem? Chicken-and-egg.
To break that cycle, the distro starts from a set of pre-built
binaries–usually referred to as “bootstrap binaries.” These include
statically-linked versions of Guile, GCC, Coreutils, Make, Grep, sed,
etc., and the GNU C Library.
This section describes how to build those bootstrap binaries when
porting to a new platform.
** When the platform is supported by Nixpkgs
In that case, the easiest thing is to bootstrap the distro using
binaries from Nixpkgs.
To do that, you need to comment out the definitions of
‘%bootstrap-guile’ and ‘%bootstrap-inputs’ in distro/packages/bootstrap.scm
to force the use of Nixpkgs derivations. For instance, when porting to
‘i686-linux’, you should redefine these variables along these lines:
#+BEGIN_SRC scheme
(define %bootstrap-guile
(nixpkgs-derivation "guile" "i686-linux"))
(define %bootstrap-inputs
`(("libc" ,(nixpkgs-derivation "glibc" "i686-linux"))
,@(map (lambda (name)
(list name (nixpkgs-derivation name "i686-linux")))
'("gnutar" "gzip" "bzip2" "xz" "patch"
"coreutils" "gnused" "gnugrep" "bash"
"gawk" ; used by `config.status'
"gcc" "binutils")))))
That should allow the distro to be bootstrapped.
Then, the tarballs containing the initial binaries of Guile, Coreutils,
GCC, libc, etc. need to be built. To that end, run the following
./pre-inst-env guix-build \
-e '(@ (distro packages make-bootstrap) bootstrap-tarballs)' \
These should build tarballs containing statically-linked tools usable on
that system.
In the source tree, you need to install binaries for ‘mkdir’, ‘bash’,
‘tar’, and ‘xz’ under ‘distro/packages/bootstrap/i686-linux’. These
binaries can be extracted from the static-binaries tarball built above.
A rule for ‘distro/packages/bootstrap/i686-linux/guile-2.0.7.tar.xz’
needs to be added in ‘Makefile.am’, with the appropriate hexadecimal
vrepresentation of its SHA256 hash.
You may then revert your changes to ‘bootstrap.scm’. For the variables
‘%bootstrap-coreutils&co’, ‘%bootstrap-binutils’, ‘%bootstrap-glibc’,
and ‘%bootstrap-gcc’, the expected SHA256 of the corresponding tarballs
for ‘i686-linux’ (built above) must be added.
This should be enough to bootstrap the distro without resorting to
** When the platform is *not* supported by Nixpkgs
In that case, the bootstrap binaries should be built using whatever
tools are available on the target platform. That is, the tarballs and
binaries show above must first be built manually, using the available
They should have the same properties as those built by the Guix recipes
shown above. For example, all the binaries (except for glibc) must be
statically-linked; the bootstrap Guile must be relocatable (see patch in
the Guix distro); the static-binaries tarball must contain the same
programs (Coreutils, Grep, sed, Awk, etc.); and so on.