5.1 Guix Profiles in Practice
Guix provides a very useful feature that may be quite foreign to newcomers:
profiles. They are a way to group package installations together and all users
on the same system are free to use as many profiles as they want.
Whether you’re a developer or not, you may find that multiple profiles bring you
great power and flexibility. While they shift the paradigm somewhat compared to
traditional package managers, they are very convenient to use once you’ve
understood how to set them up.
If you are familiar with Python’s ‘virtualenv’, you can think of a profile as a
kind of universal ‘virtualenv’ that can hold any kind of software whatsoever, not
just Python software. Furthermore, profiles are self-sufficient: they capture
all the runtime dependencies which guarantees that all programs within a profile
will always work at any point in time.
Multiple profiles have many benefits:
- Clean semantic separation of the various packages a user needs for different contexts.
- Multiple profiles can be made available into the environment either on login
or within a dedicated shell.
- Profiles can be loaded on demand. For instance, the user can use multiple
shells, each of them running different profiles.
- Isolation: Programs from one profile will not use programs from the other, and
the user can even install different versions of the same programs to the two
profiles without conflict.
- Deduplication: Profiles share dependencies that happens to be the exact same.
This makes multiple profiles storage-efficient.
- Reproducible: when used with declarative manifests, a profile can be fully
specified by the Guix commit that was active when it was set up. This means
that the exact same profile can be
set up anywhere and anytime, with just the commit information. See the
section on Reproducible profiles.
- Easier upgrades and maintenance: Multiple profiles make it easy to keep
package listings at hand and make upgrades completely frictionless.
Concretely, here follows some typical profiles:
- The dependencies of a project you are working on.
- Your favourite programming language libraries.
- Laptop-specific programs (like ‘powertop’) that you don’t need on a desktop.
- TeXlive (this one can be really useful when you need to install just one
package for this one document you’ve just received over email).
Let’s dive in the set up!