[Top][All Lists]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: How did you handle making a GNU/Linux distribution?

From: Sage Gerard
Subject: Re: How did you handle making a GNU/Linux distribution?
Date: Mon, 23 Aug 2021 18:24:09 +0000

Thank you for the links!

I miss which problem Xiden is solving and how it does. 

You are not the first to say so, and I'm happy to learn more about why.

I'll try to explain in a different way here, so forgive the text wall. I'll incorporate any feedback here to improve the white paper. I'd also like to hear more about Guix's philosophy on what I'm going to talk about, because I had reasons to end up with a different model.


If we each use a program to distribute software, then those programs are probably incompatible in some way (e.g. Cargo vs. Nexus' Vortex). Xiden addresses this by decoupling the subjective elements of software distribution from the objective ones.  That means modeling software distribution as (partly) a semantics problem. Racket didn't do this with its own package managers. Which is ironic, because it's hard to guarantee that that an arbitrary Racket program will get the dependencies they mean to use. I've written about this at length [1][2][3], and spoke about it last year [4]. Xiden has changed a bit since the speech to be more flexible, and it is no longer limited for use in Racket projects. Apologies if you see something that looks contradictory.

What does that mean? Let's say Alice and Bob each write a Xiden launcher.



These preferences are valid in Xiden's DSL for writing launchers. The invariants for each launcher can differ as much as Cargo and Vortex differ. What I wanted to do was allow users to declare their own invariants explicitly, but only when those invariants are wanted for subjective reasons. I can't just write an overly-opinionated tool in this space because opinions have shelf-lives, and they can't interrupt our ability to get the content we need on demand, with our own safety guarentees.

Xiden launchers have advantages over shell scripts in that we can both still download and install dependencies from the same servers, and create reproducible builds in terms of the same (bit-identical) state on disk. We just differ on details that shouldn't impact how we work. It also helps us patch holes faster, since if (say) a catalog maintainer tells us that a CHF was compromised, we can immediately revoke trust in the CHF independently in our own clients. The package definitions are all expressed in terms of what the launchers allow.

So what problem does this solve? I'm trying to preserve an element of walk-away power in any tech community. Maybe your community goes in a questionable direction. Maybe your desired software is in a different ecosystem. Maybe the maintainers are abusive jerks. Maybe you have a `leftpad`/`event-stream` incident and the developer is unable/unwilling to patch the problem. You'd probably want a way to escape to a new community or distribution model without giving up content or doing complex integration work. If Xiden can do that, users don't have to depend on the same middlemen to share work. This is also better for developers because it doesn't oblige them to do everything their users want, while knowing users will adapt to inevitable distribution problems. Everyone's consent becomes explicit, such that Xiden's "real" invariant is that consent between any two parties be mutually compatible. I hope to improve user freedom from this angle, and my approach is biased by my experience with Racket's limitations in this space.

The subjective parts I talk about go further into details like what name canons, versioning schemes, trusted certificate chains, and even specific approaches to an exact diamond dependency. The objective parts include integrity checking, signature verification, safety limits, automatic dependency resolution, patches, protocols, and other concerns that a decent package manager normally cares about. By keeping these separate, all of the below features become cheap to write, without sacrificing trust & safety in the abstract.

I hypothesize that Xiden can "abstract over" package managers in the same way that Racket can abstract over languages. I think people are used to package managers deciding things for them.

So what is Xiden for? Well, it's not for deciding an SOP for you. It's for giving everyone the option to change the SOP for themselves with minimal politics.

> what you would like to bootstrap?

All binaries related to creating a GNU/Linux distribution, such that I can reproduce an exact OS, Racket installation, and Xiden instance. I want a trusted initial state on GNU/Linux.

To be clear, I don't need to do this for functional reasons. Xiden's already operational. I just can't claim that you can trust a given Xiden instance with the same confidence as a Guix instance right now.


If you mean a trusted seed in order to start a package collection, you could use the current Guix binaires---as a starting point.

I'm reading GNU Mes' manual. I am confident that it will help me find the answers I'm looking for, including all of your helpful replies!


reply via email to

[Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread]