NixOS is a Linux distribution that is entirely different than what one can expect from a regular Linux distro. It’s a Linux distribution which takes a unique approach to package and configuration management, because it’s built around Nix tool. So let me first explain what the NIX tool is.
NIX is a package manager and it could be used on any Linux distribution on top of the distribution package manager. To put things simple, NixOS is an operating system, and Nix is a package manager.
Now, everything in NixOS down to the kernel, is built by the Nix package manager with a declarative functional build language. The whole system configuration: fstab, packages, users, services, firewall, etc., is configured from a global configuration file that defines the state of the system.
Furthermore, NixOS is probably even more complex than Arch Linux or Gentoo, that lacks a graphical user interface for managing installations. So, if you are new to Linux and you are not comfortable typing commands into a terminal window, probably NixOS is not distro you want to try any time soon.
Yesterday the NixOS development team announced the release of NixOS 21.11 “Porcupine” operating system. So let’s see what’s new.
What’s New in NixOS 21.11
NixOS 21.11 places a focus on stabilizing the core system, but it’s a little disappointing that the default Nix version remains at 2.3.16, and Nix has not been updated to version 2.4. The reason – regressions in non-experimental behavior.
The good news is that NixOS 21.11 allows you to upgrade to Nix 2.4. You need to use the
nixos-unstable branch or set the
nix.package option to either of
Additionally, the distro includes many changes and upgrades that will help keep users in front of the latest technologies. Some of them are PHP 8.0, Python 3.8, PostgreSQL 13, spark 3, an so on. On top of that Bash shell defaults to major version 5 and iptables now uses nf_tables backend.
Under the hood, NixOS 20.11 arrives with the Linux kernel 5.10. Systemd was updated to version 249 and OpenSSH was updated to version 8.8p1, which enhances security and adds new features. It’s important to note that LXD support was also greatly improved. Building LXD images from configurations is now directly possible with just nixpkgs.
On the desktop side, KDE Plasma now finally works on Wayland. Of course, the GNOME fans are not forgotten either. NixOS 21.11 offers the latest GNOME 41 desktop which comes with its own set of new features that are sure to please many users.
For detailed information about all changes in NixOS 21.11, you can refer to the release notes. The distro will be supported until the end of June 2022, handing over to 22.05.
As already mentioned, NixOS does not have a user-friendly graphical installer. Hence, you must be careful while installing it.