Nix Release Notes


Release 0.10 (October 6, 2006)

Note

This version of Nix uses Berkeley DB 4.4 instead of 4.3. The database is upgraded automatically, but you should be careful not to use old versions of Nix that still use Berkeley DB 4.3. In particular, if you use a Nix installed through Nix, you should run

$ nix-store --clear-substitutes

first.

Warning

Also, the database schema has changed slighted to fix a performance issue (see below). When you run any Nix 0.10 command for the first time, the database will be upgraded automatically. This is irreversible.

  • nix-env usability improvements:

    • An option --compare-versions (or -c) has been added to nix-env --query to allow you to compare installed versions of packages to available versions, or vice versa. An easy way to see if you are up to date with what’s in your subscribed channels is nix-env -qc \*.

    • nix-env --query now takes as arguments a list of package names about which to show information, just like --install, etc.: for example, nix-env -q gcc. Note that to show all derivations, you need to specify \*.

    • nix-env -i pkgname will now install the highest available version of pkgname, rather than installing all available versions (which would probably give collisions) (NIX-31).

    • nix-env (-i|-u) --dry-run now shows exactly which missing paths will be built or substituted.

    • nix-env -qa --description shows human-readable descriptions of packages, provided that they have a meta.description attribute (which most packages in Nixpkgs don’t have yet).

  • New language features:

    • Reference scanning (which happens after each build) is much faster and takes a constant amount of memory.

    • String interpolation. Expressions like

      "--with-freetype2-library=" + freetype + "/lib"

      can now be written as

      "--with-freetype2-library=${freetype}/lib"

      You can write arbitrary expressions within ${...}, not just identifiers.

    • Multi-line string literals.

    • String concatenations can now involve derivations, as in the example "--with-freetype2-library=" + freetype + "/lib". This was not previously possible because we need to register that a derivation that uses such a string is dependent on freetype. The evaluator now properly propagates this information. Consequently, the subpath operator (~) has been deprecated.

    • Default values of function arguments can now refer to other function arguments; that is, all arguments are in scope in the default values (NIX-45).

    • Lots of new built-in primitives, such as functions for list manipulation and integer arithmetic. See the manual for a complete list. All primops are now available in the set builtins, allowing one to test for the availability of primop in a backwards-compatible way.

    • Real let-expressions: let x = ...; ... z = ...; in ....

  • New commands nix-pack-closure and nix-unpack-closure than can be used to easily transfer a store path with all its dependencies to another machine. Very convenient whenever you have some package on your machine and you want to copy it somewhere else.

  • XML support:

    • nix-env -q --xml prints the installed or available packages in an XML representation for easy processing by other tools.

    • nix-instantiate --eval-only --xml prints an XML representation of the resulting term. (The new flag --strict forces ‘deep’ evaluation of the result, i.e., list elements and attributes are evaluated recursively.)

    • In Nix expressions, the primop builtins.toXML converts a term to an XML representation. This is primarily useful for passing structured information to builders.

  • You can now unambigously specify which derivation to build or install in nix-env, nix-instantiate and nix-build using the --attr / -A flags, which takes an attribute name as argument. (Unlike symbolic package names such as subversion-1.4.0, attribute names in an attribute set are unique.) For instance, a quick way to perform a test build of a package in Nixpkgs is nix-build pkgs/top-level/all-packages.nix -A foo. nix-env -q --attr shows the attribute names corresponding to each derivation.

  • If the top-level Nix expression used by nix-env, nix-instantiate or nix-build evaluates to a function whose arguments all have default values, the function will be called automatically. Also, the new command-line switch --arg name value can be used to specify function arguments on the command line.

  • nix-install-package --url URL allows a package to be installed directly from the given URL.

  • Nix now works behind an HTTP proxy server; just set the standard environment variables http_proxy, https_proxy, ftp_proxy or all_proxy appropriately. Functions such as fetchurl in Nixpkgs also respect these variables.

  • nix-build -o symlink allows the symlink to the build result to be named something other than result.

  • Platform support:

    • Support for 64-bit platforms, provided a suitably patched ATerm library is used. Also, files larger than 2 GiB are now supported.

    • Added support for Cygwin (Windows, i686-cygwin), Mac OS X on Intel (i686-darwin) and Linux on PowerPC (powerpc-linux).

    • Users of SMP and multicore machines will appreciate that the number of builds to be performed in parallel can now be specified in the configuration file in the build-max-jobs setting.

  • Garbage collector improvements:

    • Open files (such as running programs) are now used as roots of the garbage collector. This prevents programs that have been uninstalled from being garbage collected while they are still running. The script that detects these additional runtime roots (find-runtime-roots.pl) is inherently system-specific, but it should work on Linux and on all platforms that have the lsof utility.

    • nix-store --gc (a.k.a. nix-collect-garbage) prints out the number of bytes freed on standard output. nix-store --gc --print-dead shows how many bytes would be freed by an actual garbage collection.

    • nix-collect-garbage -d removes all old generations of all profiles before calling the actual garbage collector (nix-store --gc). This is an easy way to get rid of all old packages in the Nix store.

    • nix-store now has an operation --delete to delete specific paths from the Nix store. It won’t delete reachable (non-garbage) paths unless --ignore-liveness is specified.

  • Berkeley DB 4.4’s process registry feature is used to recover from crashed Nix processes.

  • A performance issue has been fixed with the referer table, which stores the inverse of the references table (i.e., it tells you what store paths refer to a given path). Maintaining this table could take a quadratic amount of time, as well as a quadratic amount of Berkeley DB log file space (in particular when running the garbage collector) (NIX-23).

  • Nix now catches the TERM and HUP signals in addition to the INT signal. So you can now do a killall nix-store without triggering a database recovery.

  • bsdiff updated to version 4.3.

  • Substantial performance improvements in expression evaluation and nix-env -qa, all thanks to Valgrind. Memory use has been reduced by a factor 8 or so. Big speedup by memoisation of path hashing.

  • Lots of bug fixes, notably:

    • Make sure that the garbage collector can run succesfully when the disk is full (NIX-18).

    • nix-env now locks the profile to prevent races between concurrent nix-env operations on the same profile (NIX-7).

    • Removed misleading messages from nix-env -i (e.g., installing `foo' followed by uninstalling `foo') (NIX-17).

  • Nix source distributions are a lot smaller now since we no longer include a full copy of the Berkeley DB source distribution (but only the bits we need).

  • Header files are now installed so that external programs can use the Nix libraries.

Release 0.9.2 (September 21, 2005)

This bug fix release fixes two problems on Mac OS X:

  • If Nix was linked against statically linked versions of the ATerm or Berkeley DB library, there would be dynamic link errors at runtime.

  • nix-pull and nix-push intermittently failed due to race conditions involving pipes and child processes with error messages such as open2: open(GLOB(0x180b2e4), >&=9) failed: Bad file descriptor at /nix/bin/nix-pull line 77 (issue NIX-14).

Release 0.9.1 (September 20, 2005)

This bug fix release addresses a problem with the ATerm library when the --with-aterm flag in configure was not used.

Release 0.9 (September 16, 2005)

NOTE: this version of Nix uses Berkeley DB 4.3 instead of 4.2. The database is upgraded automatically, but you should be careful not to use old versions of Nix that still use Berkeley DB 4.2. In particular, if you use a Nix installed through Nix, you should run

$ nix-store --clear-substitutes

first.

  • Unpacking of patch sequences is much faster now since we no longer do redundant unpacking and repacking of intermediate paths.

  • Nix now uses Berkeley DB 4.3.

  • The derivation primitive is lazier. Attributes of dependent derivations can mutually refer to each other (as long as there are no data dependencies on the outPath and drvPath attributes computed by derivation).

    For example, the expression derivation attrs now evaluates to (essentially)

    attrs // {
      type = "derivation";
      outPath = derivation! attrs;
      drvPath = derivation! attrs;
    }

    where derivation! is a primop that does the actual derivation instantiation (i.e., it does what derivation used to do). The advantage is that it allows commands such as nix-env -qa and nix-env -i to be much faster since they no longer need to instantiate all derivations, just the name attribute.

    Also, it allows derivations to cyclically reference each other, for example,

    webServer = derivation {
      ...
      hostName = "svn.cs.uu.nl";
      services = [svnService];
    };
     
    svnService = derivation {
      ...
      hostName = webServer.hostName;
    };

    Previously, this would yield a black hole (infinite recursion).

  • nix-build now defaults to using ./default.nix if no Nix expression is specified.

  • nix-instantiate, when applied to a Nix expression that evaluates to a function, will call the function automatically if all its arguments have defaults.

  • Nix now uses libtool to build dynamic libraries. This reduces the size of executables.

  • A new list concatenation operator ++. For example, [1 2 3] ++ [4 5 6] evaluates to [1 2 3 4 5 6].

  • Some currently undocumented primops to support low-level build management using Nix (i.e., using Nix as a Make replacement). See the commit messages for r3578 and r3580.

  • Various bug fixes and performance improvements.

Release 0.8.1 (April 13, 2005)

This is a bug fix release.

  • Patch downloading was broken.

  • The garbage collector would not delete paths that had references from invalid (but substitutable) paths.

Release 0.8 (April 11, 2005)

NOTE: the hashing scheme in Nix 0.8 changed (as detailed below). As a result, nix-pull manifests and channels built for Nix 0.7 and below will now work anymore. However, the Nix expression language has not changed, so you can still build from source. Also, existing user environments continue to work. Nix 0.8 will automatically upgrade the database schema of previous installations when it is first run.

If you get the error message

you have an old-style manifest `/nix/var/nix/manifests/[...]'; please
delete it

you should delete previously downloaded manifests:

$ rm /nix/var/nix/manifests/*

If nix-channel gives the error message

manifest `http://catamaran.labs.cs.uu.nl/dist/nix/channels/[channel]/MANIFEST'
is too old (i.e., for Nix <= 0.7)

then you should unsubscribe from the offending channel (nix-channel --remove URL; leave out /MANIFEST), and subscribe to the same URL, with channels replaced by channels-v3 (e.g., http://catamaran.labs.cs.uu.nl/dist/nix/channels-v3/nixpkgs-unstable).

Nix 0.8 has the following improvements:

  • The cryptographic hashes used in store paths are now 160 bits long, but encoded in base-32 so that they are still only 32 characters long (e.g., /nix/store/csw87wag8bqlqk7ipllbwypb14xainap-atk-1.9.0). (This is actually a 160 bit truncation of a SHA-256 hash.)

  • Big cleanups and simplifications of the basic store semantics. The notion of “closure store expressions” is gone (and so is the notion of “successors”); the file system references of a store path are now just stored in the database.

    For instance, given any store path, you can query its closure:

    $ nix-store -qR $(which firefox)
    ... lots of paths ...

    Also, Nix now remembers for each store path the derivation that built it (the “deriver”):

    $ nix-store -qR $(which firefox)
    /nix/store/4b0jx7vq80l9aqcnkszxhymsf1ffa5jd-firefox-1.0.1.drv

    So to see the build-time dependencies, you can do

    $ nix-store -qR $(nix-store -qd $(which firefox))

    or, in a nicer format:

    $ nix-store -q --tree $(nix-store -qd $(which firefox))

    File system references are also stored in reverse. For instance, you can query all paths that directly or indirectly use a certain Glibc:

    $ nix-store -q --referrers-closure \
        /nix/store/8lz9yc6zgmc0vlqmn2ipcpkjlmbi51vv-glibc-2.3.4

  • The concept of fixed-output derivations has been formalised. Previously, functions such as fetchurl in Nixpkgs used a hack (namely, explicitly specifying a store path hash) to prevent changes to, say, the URL of the file from propagating upwards through the dependency graph, causing rebuilds of everything. This can now be done cleanly by specifying the outputHash and outputHashAlgo attributes. Nix itself checks that the content of the output has the specified hash. (This is important for maintaining certain invariants necessary for future work on secure shared stores.)

  • One-click installation :-) It is now possible to install any top-level component in Nixpkgs directly, through the web — see, e.g., http://catamaran.labs.cs.uu.nl/dist/nixpkgs-0.8/. All you have to do is associate /nix/bin/nix-install-package with the MIME type application/nix-package (or the extension .nixpkg), and clicking on a package link will cause it to be installed, with all appropriate dependencies. If you just want to install some specific application, this is easier than subscribing to a channel.

  • nix-store -r PATHS now builds all the derivations PATHS in parallel. Previously it did them sequentially (though exploiting possible parallelism between subderivations). This is nice for build farms.

  • nix-channel has new operations --list and --remove.

  • New ways of installing components into user environments:

    • Copy from another user environment:

      $ nix-env -i --from-profile .../other-profile firefox

    • Install a store derivation directly (bypassing the Nix expression language entirely):

      $ nix-env -i /nix/store/z58v41v21xd3...-aterm-2.3.1.drv

      (This is used to implement nix-install-package, which is therefore immune to evolution in the Nix expression language.)

    • Install an already built store path directly:

      $ nix-env -i /nix/store/hsyj5pbn0d9i...-aterm-2.3.1

    • Install the result of a Nix expression specified as a command-line argument:

      $ nix-env -f .../i686-linux.nix -i -E 'x: x.firefoxWrapper'

      The difference with the normal installation mode is that -E does not use the name attributes of derivations. Therefore, this can be used to disambiguate multiple derivations with the same name.

  • A hash of the contents of a store path is now stored in the database after a succesful build. This allows you to check whether store paths have been tampered with: nix-store --verify --check-contents.

  • Implemented a concurrent garbage collector. It is now always safe to run the garbage collector, even if other Nix operations are happening simultaneously.

    However, there can still be GC races if you use nix-instantiate and nix-store --realise directly to build things. To prevent races, use the --add-root flag of those commands.

  • The garbage collector now finally deletes paths in the right order (i.e., topologically sorted under the “references” relation), thus making it safe to interrupt the collector without risking a store that violates the closure invariant.

  • Likewise, the substitute mechanism now downloads files in the right order, thus preserving the closure invariant at all times.

  • The result of nix-build is now registered as a root of the garbage collector. If the ./result link is deleted, the GC root disappears automatically.

  • The behaviour of the garbage collector can be changed globally by setting options in /nix/etc/nix/nix.conf.

    • gc-keep-derivations specifies whether deriver links should be followed when searching for live paths.

    • gc-keep-outputs specifies whether outputs of derivations should be followed when searching for live paths.

    • env-keep-derivations specifies whether user environments should store the paths of derivations when they are added (thus keeping the derivations alive).

  • New nix-env query flags --drv-path and --out-path.

  • fetchurl allows SHA-1 and SHA-256 in addition to MD5. Just specify the attribute sha1 or sha256 instead of md5.

  • Manual updates.

Release 0.7 (January 12, 2005)

  • Binary patching. When upgrading components using pre-built binaries (through nix-pull / nix-channel), Nix can automatically download and apply binary patches to already installed components instead of full downloads. Patching is “smart”: if there is a sequence of patches to an installed component, Nix will use it. Patches are currently generated automatically between Nixpkgs (pre-)releases.

  • Simplifications to the substitute mechanism.

  • Nix-pull now stores downloaded manifests in /nix/var/nix/manifests.

  • Metadata on files in the Nix store is canonicalised after builds: the last-modified timestamp is set to 0 (00:00:00 1/1/1970), the mode is set to 0444 or 0555 (readable and possibly executable by all; setuid/setgid bits are dropped), and the group is set to the default. This ensures that the result of a build and an installation through a substitute is the same; and that timestamp dependencies are revealed.

Release 0.6 (November 14, 2004)

  • Rewrite of the normalisation engine.

    • Multiple builds can now be performed in parallel (option -j).

    • Distributed builds. Nix can now call a shell script to forward builds to Nix installations on remote machines, which may or may not be of the same platform type.

    • Option --fallback allows recovery from broken substitutes.

    • Option --keep-going causes building of other (unaffected) derivations to continue if one failed.

  • Improvements to the garbage collector (i.e., it should actually work now).

  • Setuid Nix installations allow a Nix store to be shared among multiple users.

  • Substitute registration is much faster now.

  • A utility nix-build to build a Nix expression and create a symlink to the result int the current directory; useful for testing Nix derivations.

  • Manual updates.

  • nix-env changes:

    • Derivations for other platforms are filtered out (which can be overriden using --system-filter).

    • --install by default now uninstall previous derivations with the same name.

    • --upgrade allows upgrading to a specific version.

    • New operation --delete-generations to remove profile generations (necessary for effective garbage collection).

    • Nicer output (sorted, columnised).

  • More sensible verbosity levels all around (builder output is now shown always, unless -Q is given).

  • Nix expression language changes:

    • New language construct: with E1; E2 brings all attributes defined in the attribute set E1 in scope in E2.

    • Added a map function.

    • Various new operators (e.g., string concatenation).

  • Expression evaluation is much faster.

  • An Emacs mode for editing Nix expressions (with syntax highlighting and indentation) has been added.

  • Many bug fixes.

Release 0.5 and earlier

Please refer to the Subversion commit log messages.