How to Share /gnu/store between a Host and a Guest Guix System

Introduction

If you've ever tried out guix system vm, you've probably found that running Guix commands in the guest system simply don't work.

root@test-vm# guix build hello
guix build: error: opening lock file /gnu/store/...-mirrors.lock: Read-only file system

These do, however, work using guix system image, which is a much heavier, fully independent VM image. However, these are a lot slower, requiring every package to be built from scratch. Doing any Guix command requires downloading and rebuilding many many packages that you already have on your host machine.

One approach to avoid this could be to reuse your existing Guix daemon process. This way, you only build what you don't already have in your main system, saving a lot of time.

This post explains how you can share /gnu/store/ with a guest Guix System VM instance. The approach was suggested by Ludovic Court├Ęs in 2020. It assumes that you are running Guix System, but can be followed if you have Guix installed on any machine.

This method works by connecting the guest Guix commands to the hosts Guix daemon through TCP. This is possible through making just two changes:

  1. Allow Guix daemon to accept connections through TCP using --listen.
  2. Set the GUIX_DAEMON_SOCKET environment variable inside the guest to connect to this socket.

Make guix-daemon listen over TCP

The first step is to change your Guix daemon to accept connections over TCP. To do this you need to pass in the --listen parameter to Guix daemon.

To add parameters to Guix daemon on your host Guix System, you need to edit your services to add the --listen parameter to the guix-service-type, like so:

(operating-system
  ...
  (services
    (cons* ...
           (modify-services %desktop-services
             ...
             (guix-service-type config =>
                                (guix-configuration
                                  (inherit config)
                                  (extra-options '("--listen=localhost:44146"
                                                   "--listen=/var/guix/daemon-socket/socket")))))))

Port 44146 is the default for Guix protocol, and /var/guix/daemon-socket/socket is the default UNIX socket location.

Here we're using modify-services, which goes through all of the %desktop services and makes a specified change. If you don't have a modify-services already, then you'll need to create one if you're current services depends on %desktop-services or %base-services or similar, having the modify-services expression go in the place %desktop-services used to go.

If you already have a guix-service-type rule, then you'd want to simply add the (extra-options ...) to that existing rule. Otherwise, you can use the format above as-is.

For reference, here's links to where you can find the documentation for: Guix System, modify-services, guix-service-type, and --listen.

If you're running Guix on a foreign distro, then you can edit the init script. As an example, if you run a 'normal' distro that runs Systemd, then you'd add the --listen flags to the ExecStart line, like so:

# /etc/systemd/system/guix-daemon.service
# This is a "service unit file" for the systemd init system to launch
# 'guix-daemon'.  Drop it in /etc/systemd/system or similar to have
# 'guix-daemon' automatically started.

[Unit]
Description=Build daemon for GNU Guix

[Service]
ExecStart=/usr/bin/guix-daemon --build-users-group=_guixbuild --listen=localhost:44146 --listen=/var/guix/daemon-socket/socket
Environment='GUIX_LOCPATH=/var/guix/profiles/per-user/root/guix-profile/lib/locale' LC_ALL=en_GB.utf8
RemainAfterExit=yes

# See <https://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/guix-devel/2016-04/msg00608.html>.
# Some package builds (for example, go@1.8.1) may require even more than
# 1024 tasks.
TasksMax=8192

[Install]
WantedBy=multi-user.target

Declaring the guest system

Next we want a Guix System declaration that we can use to boot up a VM with. This guide should work regardless of what you use for this. For this tutorial we'll use a rather minimal VM definition, useful for singling out errors.

Save the following as test-vm.scm. Include any packages or services that you desire.

;; ~/test-vm.src
(use-modules (gnu))
(use-service-modules networking)
(use-package-modules bootloaders)

(define %keyboard-layout
  (keyboard-layout "gb"))

(operating-system
  (locale "en_GB.utf8")
  (timezone "Etc/UTC")
  (keyboard-layout %keyboard-layout)
  (host-name "test-vm")
  (packages (cons* (specification->package "net-tools")
                   %base-packages))
  (services
  (cons* (service dhcp-client-service-type)
          %base-services))
  (bootloader
  (bootloader-configuration
    (bootloader grub-bootloader)
    (targets '("/dev/vda"))
    (terminal-outputs '(console))
    (keyboard-layout %keyboard-layout)))
  (file-systems
  (cons* (file-system
          (mount-point "/")
          (device "/dev/vda1")
          (type "ext4"))
          %base-file-systems)))

Now it's time to build the VM. The following builds the VM image and starts it up in one command.

sudo $(guix system vm test-vm.scm) -nic user,model=virtio-net-pci --enable-kvm

This runs a script that wraps a call to qemu-* so the options after the $() are interpreted by QEMU (typically qemu-x86_64), so you can consult their documentation for more.1

Connecting to the Guix daemon from inside the guest

If that succeeds then we're inside the VM. You can login as root without a password. Here we can use the default host gateway IP, which is typically 10.0.2.2. This address from the guest corresponds to the host's local IP. So writing the following ensure Guix connects to your machine's Guix daemon.

# export GUIX_DAEMON_SOCKET=guix://10.0.2.2:44146

If this works then you should be able to run any Guix command successfully. As mentioned before, 44146 is the default port of the Guix protocol.

# guix build hello
/gnu/store/6fbh8phmp3izay6c0dpggpxhcjn4xlm5-hello-2.12.1

Conclusion

This setup streamlines development and testing workflows, making it a valuable tool for Guix users. Stay updated with Guix's evolving ecosystem to make the most of this powerful package manager.

In this guide, you've learned how to efficiently share the /gnu/store directory between a host and guest Guix System, saving time and compute. By configuring the Guix daemon to listen over TCP, you can seamlessly steal packages from the host without anyone noticing they're missing!

If you encounter issues or have suggestions for improvements, please reach out at cdo@mutix.org.

Happy hacking!

Footnotes:

1

If you get an error like /dev/kvm is not found, then it means that virtualization isn't enabled in hardware. If you get an error saying that qemu-kvm is missing, then it's to do with hardware virtualization, not a missing package, as qemu-kvm is always installed with qemu on Guix. Instead it means that you'll need to reboot into BIOS settings and enable 'vmx' or 'svm' under the CPU menu. Alternatively, you can remove the --enable-kvm altogether.