Guix—like other GNU/Linux distributions—is traditionally bootstrapped from a set of bootstrap binaries: Bourne shell, command-line tools provided by GNU Coreutils, Awk, Findutils, ‘sed’, and ‘grep’ and Guile, GCC, Binutils, and the GNU C Library (see Bootstrapping). Usually, these bootstrap binaries are “taken for granted.”
Taking the bootstrap binaries for granted means that we consider them to be a correct and trustworthy “seed” for building the complete system. Therein lies a problem: the combined size of these bootstrap binaries is about 250MB (see Bootstrappable Builds in GNU Mes). Auditing or even inspecting these is next to impossible.
x86_64-linux, Guix now features a
“Reduced Binary Seed” bootstrap 35.
The Reduced Binary Seed bootstrap removes the most critical tools—from a
trust perspective—from the bootstrap binaries: GCC, Binutils and the GNU C
Library are replaced by:
bootstrap-mescc-tools (a tiny assembler and
bootstrap-mes (a small Scheme Interpreter and a C compiler
written in Scheme and the Mes C Library, built for TinyCC and for GCC).
Using these new binary seeds the “missing” Binutils, GCC, and the GNU C Library are built from source. From here on the more traditional bootstrap process resumes. This approach has reduced the bootstrap binaries in size to about 145MB in Guix v1.1.
The next step that Guix has taken is to replace the shell and all its utilities with implementations in Guile Scheme, the Scheme-only bootstrap. Gash (see Gash in The Gash manual) is a POSIX-compatible shell that replaces Bash, and it comes with Gash Utils which has minimalist replacements for Awk, the GNU Core Utilities, Grep, Gzip, Sed, and Tar. The rest of the bootstrap binary seeds that were removed are now built from source.
Building the GNU System from source is currently only possible by adding
some historical GNU packages as intermediate steps36. As Gash and Gash Utils mature,
and GNU packages become more bootstrappable again (e.g., new releases of
GNU Sed will also ship as gzipped tarballs again, as alternative to the
hard to bootstrap
xz-compression), this set of added packages can
hopefully be reduced again.
The graph below shows the resulting dependency graph for
gcc-core-mesboot0, the bootstrap compiler used for the
traditional bootstrap of the rest of the Guix System.
The only significant binary bootstrap seeds that remain37 are a Scheme interpreter and a Scheme compiler: GNU Mes and GNU Guile38.
This further reduction has brought down the size of the binary seed to
about 60MB for
Work is ongoing to remove all binary blobs from our free software
bootstrap stack, working towards a Full Source Bootstrap. Also ongoing
is work to bring these bootstraps to the
aarch64-linux architectures and to the Hurd.
If you are interested, join us on ‘#bootstrappable’ on the Freenode IRC network or discuss on firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
We would like to say: “Full Source Bootstrap” and while we are working towards that goal it would be hyperbole to use that term for what we do now.
tar-1.22, and some others. For details, see
Ignoring the 68KB
mescc-tools; that will be removed later,
Not shown in this graph are the
static binaries for bash,
xz that are used
to get Guile running.