NixCon 2017 In Munich

in Event 666 minutes read

At HolidayCheck we started using Nix and NixOS roughly 1.5 years ago. After humble beginnings with nothing but a default.nix to provide the correct nodejs version via nix-shell, we are now running a NixOps deployed CI server for building nixified frontend projects. Obviously we were thrilled to find out that NixCon would finally take place again. NixCon took place a mere 15min train ride from our office in Munich. Two days of talks followed by a two day hackathon.

The Conference Days

NixCon2017 was announced to officially start on Saturday morning. That didn’t keep around 25 of us to already meet up for dinner on Friday evening. What started out as a Twitter conversation quickly made it to the official schedule on the NixCon2017 website and we soon after ran out of seats. With multiple attendees having to finish slides for their talks on the day after, this evening ended much earlier than the ones that were to follow - which is a good thing because sleep was a scarce resource in the days after.

During Saturday and Sunday there were a total of 17 interesting talks. The ones that stood out the most for me on Satuday were:

  • Releasing NixOS - History, Hummingbird, and Henceforth: fpletz and globin did a lot of number crunching to present insights into the activity of our community. Among others the plots included metrics like the number of contributors, ratio of opened/closed issues and PRs over time or number of PRs towards a release date. The talk was concluded with a description of the responsibilites of the release manager and the announcement of the next release manager - Thank you vcunat :)

  • Quo vadis, NixOS? – Let Us Become a Professional Distribution: Peter Simons (peti, the wizard behind the Nix-Haskell infrastructure) gave us an introduction to the openSUSE build service and challenged us to improve our tooling and make it as accessible as the OpenSUSE Build Service.

  • NixOS Security - Vulnerability Roundup n+1: grahamc gave us a retrospective on the community endeavours to make NixOS a distribution that is safe to use and where vulnerabilities are patched as soon as possible. After having to deal with some drawbacks the team around Graham is now working on getting subscribed to an important security mailing list. Said list shares vulnerabilities with representitives of selected distributions early on, giving them additional time to secure affected packages. Getting on the list will require quite some effort but the team is making good progress.

  • Nix 1.12: edolstra received some well deserved cheers while demoing an unfinished version of the much polished and anticipated nix 1.12 release. The nix cli will finally receive a major overhaul with a much better user experience (I <3 progress bars and omitting superfluous output).

In the evening we met for dinner again. After drinks, food, hours of chatting and just about enough sleep to keep on going the conference continued on Sunday. I will again pick my personal favorites:

  • Nix on Darwin - History, challenges and where it’s going: copumpkin described the challenges of creating a pure Nix environment for Darwin. Without a bootstrapped and fully controlled toolchain Nix would be at the mercy of Apple and their arbitrary updates. This sets Nix apart from homebrew where macOS upgrades almost always break everything completely. Fortunately we have a growing number of active darwin users that keep on improving the Nix experience on macOS.

  • Nix at Lumiguide: basvandijk let us have a look at how Lumiguide is using Nix: developer laptops, ci servers, embedded machines - Nix is everywhere at Lumiguide and apparently it is working very well for them.

The conference day was followed by another dinner event and a “Pre-Hackathon Hacknight”. Suffice to say I didn’t get much sleep that night either.

The Hackathon Days

The two conference days were followed by two days of hacking for which we changed to a new venue near the city center. Both days were packed with a mixture of hacking and discussions.

The huge benefit of having so many contributors under one roof simply cannot be overestimated. I was going through old issues on the github issue tracker and in several occasions I could walk over to the author and we would just chat about it - amazing ;) I couldn’t possibly give a full overview of what everyone has been working on during these two days but here are couple of things that I am aware of:

  • My colleague Mathias (lo1tuma) and MoreTea were working on a NixOps PR to create a route53 resource

  • copumpkin and lnl7 were working on sandboxing support for Nix on darwin

  • sphalerite was working on getting NixOS to work on his Chromebook - which he promised to document properly for others ;)

  • propfpatsch did a PR which adds signed/unsigned integer types to nixpkgs

  • globin was working on nixbot which might soon improve our nixpkgs PR/testing workflow!

  • roberth created a PR that prints function documentation comment blocks in the nix-repl

  • ericson2314 gave a presentation on his work with cross compiling nixpkgs

  • fpletz was working on support for NixOS - which according to him “needs some more perl hackery” - uh oh ;)

  • johbo actually even blogged himself what he did during those two days: blog

  • Several of us started #nixos-docs on freenode. We want to work on improving the Nix/NixOS documentation and you are welcome to join us if you want to

  • Two people conspired to work on a cool project that you will hear more about soon … ;)

Undoubtedly there was even much more than this going on but it’s all I could gather for now. Feel free to ping me if you want to be added.


NixCon 2017 was fantastic event. I met a lot of people that I had previously only known from github or irc and also got to know many people I hadn’t interacted with before at all. Apparently next year NixCon will take place in London. I will definitely be there.

PS: Youtube Videos

You can find a playlist with recordings of all talks on youtube here.