Starting out with Nix - A Misguided Adventure

Ever since I saw this black magic technology that we use at KeepTruckin to drastically improve developer productivity by basically removing the dependency installation process, I was hooked and determined to learn more.
I’ve been trying to write a blog post about how we use Nix at KT by asking the domain experts at our company but I thought it would also be worthwhile if I installed it on my system and tried to go about my normal workflow using it.
Note that I didn’t go “all in” by installing NixOS but instead opted to just install Nix on a Lubuntu distro. I still want to play games 😅.

So without further ado, here is my notes and struggles on the learning and using Nix.

Installing Nix

So as I mentioned I didn’t want the NixOS distro but simply the package management tool called Nix. So I went ahead and downloaded it using the instructions from this page:

sh <(curl -L --daemon
nix-env --version
# nix-env (Nix) 2.3.15

Getting VSCode

The next thing I needed was VSCode so I could start this blog post…
I actually ran into some trouble following the instructions from this page. If I simply use: nix-env -iA nixos.vscode
I get the error below:

nix-env -iA nixos.vscode
# error: attribute 'nixos' in selection path 'nixos.vscode' not found

[From this forum post], I figured out that I’m supposed to prepend the channel that I AM registered to.

nix-channel --list
# nixpkgs

# Okay so like this right?
nix-env -iA nixpkgs-unstable.vscode 
# Nope: "error: attribute 'nixpkgs-unstable' in selection path 'nixpkgs-unstable.vscode' not found"

# How about this
nix-env -iA unstable.vscode 
# Nope: "error: attribute 'unstable' in selection path 'nixpkgs-unstable.vscode' not found"

# Third time is the charm ☑️
nix-env -iA nixpkgs.vscode

Question: Should I edit the documentation on to explain this detail? Or is it not relevant in the NixOS documentation? Where is Nix specific documentation?


  • Where is my configuration.nix!
    • Managing extensions in VSCode requires putting code in there
  • Having a hard time figuring out how to get zsh shell


So HILARIOUSLY enough I learned that this is NOT the optimal way to manage your environment setup because it’s not declarative; Which is what Nix is all ABOUT.
I’ve seen moved on to using home-manager, which I will detail in my next blog post.