I used NixOS for a week

I spent the week using a travel laptop with NixOS installed on it while at school. On that laptop, I fully bought into the NixOS ecosystem, including managing my /home folder + dotfiles using home-manager.1 Here’s my experience with it so far.


Tracking my i3wm in home-manager was slightly unwieldy at first, but I’m getting the hang of it. Home manager actually has a sort of i3 “templater” that lets you do tricks like this, which binds both HJKL and arrow keys to the same features, allowing me to DRY:

  forEachL = lib.forEach [ "h" "Left" ];
  forEachD = lib.forEach [ "j" "Down" ];
  forEachU = lib.forEach [ "k" "Up" ];
  forEachR = lib.forEach [ "l" "Right" ];

  # Usage: forEachDirKey (d: k: { "${mod}+${k}" = "focus ${d}"; });
  forEachDirKey = f:
    (forEachL (f "left")) ++ (forEachD (f "down")) ++ (forEachU (f "up"))
    ++ (forEachR (f "right"));
in focusDirBinds = forEachDirKey (d: k: { "${mod}+${k}" = "focus ${d}"; });

It just works (mostly so far)

Most of the software I use has worked without a hitch. This includes TeXStudio, Visual Studio Code, Neovim, Firefox, GitKraken, and more. Discord is a bit laggy, though, and I’ll be looking into that.

Declarative and Explicit

It’s super nice being able to declaratively and explicitly say which packages and configurations I want to include on the machine. On my main computer, which is running Arch right now, I’m experiencing all the configuration drift. I’ve lost track of…

  • …what programs are installed in what package managers? Keep in mind that at one point, Linuxbrew and Snap were on this list as well.
❯ neofetch
# -snip- #
             `/:-:++oooo+:               Packages: 1849 (pacman), 79 (nix-user), 9 (flatpak)
  • …what programs are installed outside of package managers? (i.e. /usr/local/bin or /opt or /usr/local/opt)
  • …what hacks have I done in /etc to get things working? I have etckeeper installed but I (admittedly) have not been maintaining discipline with explicitly committing whenever I change /etc.
  • …what configs do I have in ~astrid? I have yadm installed to check in some files, but that /home has gone from Ubuntu to another Ubuntu to Arch Linux, and probably has so many things littered around it that I’m afraid to delete stuff.

I’m considering starting the Arch machine afresh with NixOS, or at least have my Arch dotfiles managed by home-manager. I’ll probably end up trying both.


Not everything has gone perfectly well, though.

  • As mentioned earlier, Discord is laggy for no good reason.
  • I haven’t done much programming on my NixOS machine just yet, only editing LaTeX\LaTeX documents.

I’m still enjoying it though, and I’ll definitely continue using it.

  1. All my configs are contained within the infra repo.