[Nix-dev] A few questions about ARM support and NixOS on a Chromebook

Luke Clifton ltclifton at gmail.com
Wed Jan 28 02:49:11 CET 2015

Hi James,

I too am interested in getting NixOS running on ARM, but unfortunately I am
currently unable to dedicate time to the project.

My problem has always been lack of RAM in my ARM devices. I work mostly
with embedded Linux platforms where RAM is < 256MB. To provide perspective,
my Laptop (core i7) with 2GB of RAM fails to build some nixpkgs packages.
Small CPU just means longer build time, small RAM means no build.

My plan, should I ever get the time, is to set up a virtual machine, try
and bootstrap NixOS for ARM in that, set up hydra, build nixpkgs and then
serve the results to my embedded platforms. I also have dreams of creating
firmware images from a configuration.nix which are ready to flash onto the

Keep us in the loop on your progress; I'd be keen to follow along, and
maybe help out a bit where I can.



On 28 January 2015 at 08:46, James Haigh <james.r.haigh at gmail.com> wrote:

>  Hi,
>     I forgot to say, that was my first email to the list. So hi everyone!
> I was told about NixOS by Doaitse Swierstra at Summer School Utrecht 2013
> on the Applied Functional Programming course. I went to FOSDEM for the
> first time last year, seeing Domen's excellent talk, and I've been in
> Freenode/#nixos since the previous Saturday night. I subscribed to this
> list in June. I'm going again to FOSDEM this year, so hope to see some of
> you there!
>     I immediately realised the significance of NixOS and knew straight
> away that I was eventually going to use it as my primary OS, but I didn't
> get round to trying it until last year. However, so far I've only installed
> it on one device and the majority of my hardware is ARM, especially if you
> count in cores or computational performance. Here's a list:
> ARMv6 hardware:
>    - ×1, 700MHz: Raspberry Pi (Broadcom BCM2835)
> ARMv7-A hardware:
>    - ×1, 1GHz: BeagleBone Black (open hardware; Sitara AM3358/9, ARM
>    Cortex-A8)
>    - ×2, 1GHz: LG Optimus 3D (runs Android; TI OMAP4430, ARM Cortex-A9)
>    - ×2, 1.2GHz: PandaBoard ES (open hardware; TI OMAP4430, ARM Cortex-A9)
>    - ×2, 1.5GHz: Archos 101 G9 Turbo 250GB (runs Android; TI OMAP4460,
>    ARM Cortex-A9)
>    - ×2, 1.7GHz: Samsung Series 3 Chromebook (Samsung Exynos 5250, ARM
>    Cortex-A15)
>    - ×4, 1.3GHz: Acer Iconia Tab A500 (runs Android; Nvidia Tegra 3)
>    - ×4, 2.2GHz: Sony Xperia Z1 (runs Android; Qualcomm Krait MSM8974)
> That's 18 ARM cores in total! (Not counting those embedded in whatever
> other devices such as hard disk drives, and I think even my old Nokia 6300
> has an ARM9 processor.)
> x86 hardware:
>    - ×2, 1.66GHz: ThinkPad X60 Tablet (L2400, Intel Core Duo)
> x86-64 hardware:
>    - ×2, 1.5GHz: ThinkPad X60 Tablet (L7400, Intel Core 2 Duo)
> Total 4 x86(-64) cores.
> I have had other x86 devices, but they either broke or I gave away my
> working x86 hardware to family. The ThinkPad X60 Tablets are the only
> x86(-64) hardware that I actually intend to keep on using and that I'm
> willing to replace if they break, and even then, that's only until I'm
> eventually in a position to design an ARM-based motherboard for them. I'm
> also rather fond of the PowerPC I-Mac G3, despite having never owned one,
> so I may aquire one of those at some point and attempt to install GNU+Linux
> on it (NixOS?). I have a couple of 680MHz MIPS routers installed with
> OpenWrt, but they're probably not worth the effort or suitable for NixOS
> due to having only 64MiB of RAM (comparable to personal computers of the
> late 1990s or early 201st decade) and I'm unlikely to buy any new MIPS
> devices anyway, instead opting for ARM devices.
>     I intend to eventually install NixOS on all of the devices listed
> above. However, for the Android devices, that would preferably be in the
> form of a chroot so that I still have Android on those devices.
> On 26/10/14 01:26, Mateusz Kowalczyk wrote:
> [...] You'd have to find an ARM machine strong enough to build nixpkgs,
> even if only sometimes. I believe machines of that power are very
> expensive. I might be wrong. Or maybe you know someone who would be happy
> to donate such a monster ;) [...]
> So, that monster you speak of. I have 18 modern ARM cores, and counting –
> that is a fairly beastly amount of computational resource. But can it all
> be pooled together as a distributed build farm? It surely makes it easier
> if NixOS is installed or chroot'd on all of those, right?
> On 08/11/14 10:43, Tim Barbour wrote:
> [...]
> I also would prefer to avoid x86 PC hardware in the future, the problem
> being the power consumption (100-200W per box). ARM seems much better in
> this regard. From a very rough estimate, I think an MK802IV has about 10%
> of the processing power of a PC, for about 2.5% of the power consumption
> (5W max). I think we will see the day when ARM will out-perform x86,
> because it will be able to process more instructions per second without
> melting.
> Indeed. And this year will see the introduction of a plethora of ARMv8-A
> 64-bit processors, not just from AMD. Nevertheless, I'm actually pretty
> content with the typical computational performance of 201st decade PCs (as
> long as the OS can be chosen!), so I think ARMv7-A processors should still
> be supported. I'm likely to be with ARMv7-A for quite some time as I am
> boycotting nonlibre hardware. The open hardware scene will no doubt move to
> ARMv8-A but I really have no rush for this; I'd rather wait for open
> hardware to get there than to buy a nonlibre ARMv8-A device.
> [...]
> It would be really helpful if Hydra could do ARM builds, even just for the
> small channels (e.g. nixos-14.04-small).
> If packages are built for small, will those packages also be available
> from the main channel as a subset? That would at least give me a head start
> which would make the initial installation a lot easier.
>     I'm going to try to bring along at least my BeagleBone Black,
> PandaBoard ES, Series 3 Chromebook, and Xperia Z1 to FOSDEM. Please can
> people help me get going with NixOS on some or all of these?
> Best regards,
> James Haigh.
>  I would also like to know whether nixops can work cross-platform.
> Tim
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