Note1 (Nov-05-2020): We have been informed that Nutyx has converted to full use of systemd. There will be no more coverage of this distribution on this site. Unless this is an unofficial fork of Nutyx which replaces its init with systemd. If you know whether this is true or false please comment below and we would be happy to correct the record.
Note2 (Dec-17-2020): Unfortunately this is true and our final story on Nutyx is published in a new article.
A few days ago, while I was scanning through the site’s statistics I noticed that a search in google had lead here and the search term was Nutyx. I remember seeing the name on the long list of Linux without systemd and the more recent one based on distrowatch but I never had a chance to take a closer look. So the search had caught the name on the list and I decided I should give it a spin.
As it is described by Distrowatch it is “built from Linux From Scratch and Beyond Linux From Scratch, with a custom package manager called “cards”. The package manager can install individual binary packages, a group of related binary packages (e.g. desktop packages, such as KDE or Xfce), and compile source packages from “ports”. The distribution is designed for intermediate and advanced Linux users.”. The choice of installer images are: a 32bit and 64bit base and live installer system and a Mate-64bit system. I went with the base to try and get my usual minimalist openbox. The choice of available desktops is xfce4, mate, kde/plasma, lxde, and lxqt. So openbox is included as the base for some of those.
The installer seems pretty straightforward but unless you read in advance the simple instructions you may experience a couple of failures before you get it right. Once you do figure out its peculiarities it only takes minutes to install Nutyx and boot it. The live image boots up and goes straight into the initial setup which affects the installation as well, so be careful. The live system goes in ram and the cd/usb/vm-image is ejected/unmounted. Once it installs the base it automatically shifts into a chroot environment of the actual installed system. If you haven’t read the instructions you may think you are just on the console of the live system. Make sure you take the necessary steps before rebooting to make sure you have a bootable system. The package manager is called cards (hence the play with words in the title). You start with a simple command “check” which updates the repositories. You can install one pkg at a time with a command “sudo cards install openbox” for example or you can use “get” to have bundles installed (ie # get lxde, # get xorg-xinit, … ). We went with minimal X, opebox, consolekit2, setup a ~/.xinitrc file with “exec ck-launch openbox-session”, installed a terminal and a filemanager, and gave it a try without xorg-xdm. Surprisingly it worked, as it should, and unlike many others that demand either a display manager or xorg-xdm (lxdm and slim are also readily available)! (Note: elogind does not exist in Nutyx, not that we miss it, but wayland stuff are present).
Once on a desktop and using a terminal you can add more goodies. One thing we tried was the cards gui-wrapper called flcards. Simple and functional. Not as complicated as debian’s synaptic, nowhere as flaky as manjaro’s pamac, cleaner than arch’s octapi, … you get the picture I hope. The repositories are split in big groups of base, cli-tools, gui-tools, mate, lxde, lxqt, xfce,kde. If you are used to editing configuration files in console and like me dislike vi, you better download nano. This is the very first distribution I have seen that you have to install nano, which I thought it was extreme “vi-ism”. In any case it is beneficial to take a look at /etc/cards.conf. You can comment out the repository sections of desktops that do not interest you and this makes updating faster and your search db smaller, I think. It also gives you a sense of how simple and clean Nutyx is. For example, you look at /etc/default and the only thing there is useradd, the defaults of creating a new user with the usual /home/user directory, userid, shell, descriptions. No grub configuration found in default, but there is an /etc/grub.d that has some files to play with.
Yes, Nutyx is simple in an Alpine kind of way, or in old-old unix kind of way, but it is very very up to date in packages. Almost on par with Arch. Kernels are available in vanilla-lts 4.14.76 and the latest 4.18.14 (lts 4.14.78 and 4.18.16 as of 10/21), which are very current today. We also tried lxde in a virtualbox, and tried running binaries from neighboring debian-based (antix), and arch-based (artix and obarun) installation inside nutyx. For example palemoon and waterfox run fine. (firefox, chromium, dillo, midori, vivaldi, and console-based browsers are all in the repository, as is the french version of tor-browser). For sound we tried apulse and a click on a youtube video had good sound. Volumeicon was the only gui related sound pkg. Alsa-tools also had a functional alsamixer to adjust volume from console. Is pulseaudio available? Yeah, we saw that crap somewhere in there too 🙂 . Apart from a weather plugin on lxpanel that kills lxpanel, we did not find anything on Nutyx that was dysfunctional, desktop wise. Odd note on lxde stuff: Everywhere else we tried lxterminal is lxterminal, here it is lxde-terminal (package name), as are lxde-appearance, lxde-panel, lxde-task … Scary moment there, that openbox and lxde existed but lxterminal had no hits in the repository. Yes, libreoffice is there too. What else can you ask for?
Now off to setting up grub and rebooting. One peculiarity we noticed was that grub makes a linux line that sets root via root=/dev/sdxx instead of the very common by now root=UUID=xxxxx Since we have many installations and our partitioning is constantly changing, what may be sda23 today may be sda26 or sda19 tomorrow, we prefer UUIDs. Not on Nutyx. The kernel goes into panic if you do that and I triple checked I did not make a mistake on the number or syntax.
Also, network interfaces. Nutyx likes the long names. If you want the short ones like ( eth0, wlan0, etc) you better hit TAB on the bootup screen of the installer and add “net.ifnames=0” to the linux line. If not, after installation you would have to run “setup-nutyx -cn” if you add the same tag on your grub. This “setup-nutyx” has many options and it is very handy and simple. It is the same cli/tui that runs on the installer’s setup.
Nutyx doesn’t like you working on root. It gives the user sudo rights (wheel group) by default, and you have to setup root and give her/him a password afterwards, if you decide you want to have a password for root. It must be a safety/security issue for Nutyx. We will investigate such peculiarities because the more we thought about some of them the more sense they made.
In general it brings memories of arch, it has hints of influence of gentoo (as many packages that exist upstream you will have to compile on your own to use in Nutyx), it has the speed and simplicity of Alpine (it is glibc based but musl is available in the Nutyx repositories if you want to built things against it instead) but it is ages ahead in functionality, and the init system although described as sysvinit (the only init system available in the repositories) we thought it is simple and has some OpenRC influences. On this last observation we are not very sure, as we are new to Nutyx we will do more investigating.
In general, unlike many other distributions, we did not think that installing Nutyx was a waste of time, and one of the very few that passed from the virtual installation stage to a hard metal installation. Nutyx is a keeper and we will follow it and its development. Nutyx is fast, it uses little resources to start up, and it is very stable. We look forward in learning more about Nutyx. We have a hunch that although LXDE and openbox worked fine, xfce and kde must be more developed and looked after as they seem to have an extensive variety of packages. Mate is something we refuse to play or deal with as we believe it is too closely related to the gnome/freedesktop disease of the systemd gang. We would have preferred not to see it available. Sorry mate-fans.
Good job Nutyx guys and gals.
PS Here is a screenshot of flcards as it was asked by someone in the comments section