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Update from the Summer of Nix

Train and work program packages customizable browser and open food database

The Summer of Nix train and work project is only a month underway and the first free and open source software packages are already available to try out. Projects funded by the Next Generation Internet initiative like the fully customizable browser Nyxt and the open food database OpenFoodFacts will be more widely available, reproducible and reliable. Here we summarize the experiences of participating packagers.

As you may know, NLnet spearheads a unique collaboration of non-profit organizations known as NGI Zero, which offers funding and a range of support services to free and open source software and open hardware projects. One of these partners is the NixOS foundation which supports the development and use of Nix, a unique approach to software package management and system configuration.

Nix is a cross-platform functional package manager, where each software or service is built in an isolated way. Software packaged in Nix can be easily installed across different systems and used on desktops, servers, mobile phones, routers, or deployed in hypervisors and containers. And because these packages do not rely on each other to run, you are free to mix and match software across different technological layers: if you want to use Reowolf (rip and replace for BSD socket insecurity) within your fork of SCION (a clean-slate internet architecture) to run Cryptpad (real-time collaborative editing with client-side encryption), you can - which you would not easily be able to do with container-based or VM-based solutions.

The Summer of Nix is a huge packaging effort in support of NGI Zero where an enthousiastic group of about 45 people divided across 6 teams spends the summer packaging as much NGI-related projects into Nix as possible. A number of cutting edge free and open source applications in the field of privacy and trust enhancing technologies as well as tools aimed at search, discovery and discoverability are targeted. Established community members are available for questions and mentoring where needed.

So how is the Summer of Nix going? Below we share some experiences that packagers shared with us along with some links to their work, so you can go and try out Nix for yourself, using some awesome free and open source software.

Packaging update on Nyxt, Plaudit and Chipflasher

Packager ambroisie offered a status update in the week of August 17th. Their team amongst others packaged the latest release of Nyxt, a browser you can completely customize as it is running, and investigated Zerocat, a tool to remove proprietary BIOS firmware from laptops. Here is an overview of more than a hunderd(!)NGI-projects currently being packaged in Nix.

A longer writeup of packager thomasSDK gives some insight into what you can learn during the Summer of Nix. They were interested in packaging OpenFoodFacts, a collaborative open database providing detailed information on more than 1 million products around the world. The blog post is a lengthy dive into how Nix interacts with modules of the Perl programming language and how after some failed attempts, the packager managed to turn things around and solve the problem (and discover some relevant insights as well). Check out the entire blog post soon to be published on the website of Summer of Nix.

Want to know more? We will keep you updated on the experiences and progress made by packagers as the Summer of Nix continues and point you to packages you should not miss out on. Keep an eye out for new updates (or simply subscribe). Of course also visit the Summer of Nix-website to learn about this unique program.