NixOS on ARM/Raspberry Pi

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Raspberry Pi Family
A Raspberry Pi 3 with enclosure.
Raspberry Pi
Architecture ARMv6
Raspberry Pi 2
Architecture ARMv7
Raspberry Pi 3
Architecture AArch64 + ARMv7
Raspberry Pi 4
Architecture AArch64 + ARMv7

The Raspberry Pi family of devices is a series of single-board computers made by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. They are all based on Broadcom System-on-a-chip (SOCs).

Status

Only the Raspberry Pi 3 Family is supported upstream, with the AArch64 effort. Other Raspberry Pis are part of @dezgeg's porting efforts to ARMv6 and ARMv7.

The Linux kernel in use, except for the Raspberry Pi 1 family, is the mainline Linux kernel, and not the Raspberry Pi Foundation's fork. This could reduce compatibility with some add-on boards or third-party libraries[expanded explanation needed].

The following table is intended to be updated by the NixOS contributors with the current status of the boards. For a list of products, see the Products Archive.

Board name Architecture Support
Raspberry Pi 1
Raspberry Pi 1 Model A+ armv6 C*
Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+ C
Raspberry Pi Zero C*
Raspberry Pi Zero W C*
Raspberry Pi 2
Raspberry Pi 2 Model B armv7 C*
Raspberry Pi 3
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B AArch64
+ armv7
YES
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ YES
Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+  ?
Raspberry Pi 4
Raspberry Pi 4 Model B AArch64
+ armv7
 ? (GitHub issue)

Support

  • YES: Supported architecture by Nixpkgs downstream and tested to be working.
  • C: Community supported, and tested to be working.
  • C*: Community supported, unverified but should be working.
  •  ? : Unverified, unknown if it will work.

The Raspberry Pi 3 Family is only supported as AArch64. Use as armv7 is community supported.

Board-specific installation notes

First follow the generic installation steps to get the installer image and install using the installation and configuration steps.

Raspberry Pi (1)

The ARMv6 image boots out-of-the-box.

Raspberry Pi 2

The ARMv7 image should boot out-of-the-box, though the author hasn't personally tested this.

Raspberry Pi 3 / 3B+

Both the AArch64 and ARMv7 images boot out-of-the-box. Using the 64-bit AArch64 image is highly recommended, as the availability of binaries is much better and allows the use of the 64-bit instruction set.

For the UART console, edit /extlinux/extlinux.conf on the boot partition of the SD card to set console=ttyS1,115200n8 in the kernel boot parameters, and use the following GPIO Pins with an USB-TTL connector:

GND         - 3rd in top row, black cable
GPIO 14 TXD - 4th in top row, white cable
GPIO 15 RXD - 5th in top row, green cable

Use nix-shell -p screen --run "screen /dev/ttyUSB0 115200" to connect to the console.

Note: The mainline kernel (tested with nixos kernel 4.18.7) does not include support for cpu frequency scaling on the Raspberry Pi. To get higher clock speed, set force_turbo=1 in /boot/config.txt
Note: As of today (2018-01-13) the stable channel contains fixes for wifi for both the stable and the latest linux kernel. Check out Issue.png#53747
{
  hardware.enableRedistributableFirmware = true;
  networking.wireless.enable = true;
}

Serial console

Your configuration.nix will need to add console=ttyS1,115200n8 to the boot.kernelParams configuration to use the serial console.

Breeze-text-x-plain.png
/etc/nixos/configuration.nix
{ config, pkgs, lib, ... }:
{
  boot.kernelParams = [
    "console=ttyS1,115200n8"
  ];
}

Camera

For the camera to work, you will need to add the following code to your configuration.nix:

Note: Two pull requests (Issue.png#38490 and Issue.png#38342) are required to make this configuration.nix and the camera working.
Breeze-text-x-plain.png
/etc/nixos/configuration.nix
{ config, pkgs, lib, ... }:
{
  boot.loader.raspberryPi.enable = true;
  # Set the version depending on your raspberry pi. 
  boot.loader.raspberryPi.version = 3;
  # We need uboot
  boot.loader.raspberryPi.uboot.enable = true;
  # These two parameters are the important ones to get the
  # camera working. These will be appended to /boot/config.txt.
  boot.loader.raspberryPi.firmwareConfig = ''
    start_x=1
    gpu_mem=256
  '';
}
Note: A reboot is required to load the new firmware configuration.

To make the camera available as v4l device under /dev/video0 the bcm2835-v4l2 kernel module need to be loaded. This can be done by adding the following code to your configuration.nix:

Breeze-text-x-plain.png
/etc/nixos/configuration.nix
{ config, pkgs, lib, ... }:
{
  boot.kernelModules = [ "bcm2835-v4l2" ];
}

Binary Cache

Depending on the architecture used, binary caches availability varies. Binary caches instructions are on the main NixOS on ARM page. The following table describes the architectures supported by each board.

Raspberry Pi 1 armv6
Raspberry Pi 2 armv7
Raspberry Pi 3 armv7
AArch64
Raspberry Pi 4 armv7
AArch64

Notes about the boot process

It takes approximately 1 minute to boot a Pi 3B.

Raspberry Pi (all versions)

USB keyboards and HDMI displays should work, though some issues have been reported (see Troubleshooting below).

Using the 3.3v serial port via the pin headers (exact location depends on hardware version) will get u-boot output and, when configured, a Linux kernel console.

Troubleshooting

Power issues

Especially with the power-hungry Raspberry Pi 3, it is important to have a sufficient enough power supply or weirdness may happen. Weirdness may include:

  • Lightning bolt on HDMI output "breaking" the display.
  • Screen switching back to u-boot text
    • Fixable temporarily when power is sufficient by switching VT (alt+F2 / alt+F1)
  • Random hangs

This problem is a hard problem. It is caused by the Raspberry Pi warning about power issues, but the current drivers (as of Linux 4.14) have a hard time dealing with it properly. If the power supply is rated properly AND the cable is not incurring too much power losses, it may be required to disable the lightning bolt indicator so the display driver isn't messed up.[1] The lightning bolt indicator can be disabled by adding the line avoid_warnings=1 in config.txt[2]

Note: A properly rated USB power supply, AND a good cable are necessary. The cable has to be short enough to not incur power losses through the length. Do note that thin and cheap cables usually have thinner copper wires, which in turn accentuates power losses.

HDMI

HDMI issues have been observed on the 18.09 AArch64 image. The display would hang on "Starting Kernel...", then act as if the HDMI cable was unplugged. Re-plugging the HDMI cable after boot fixed the issue, as did a different monitor and HDMI cable.

Early boot messages

To show boot messages from initrd with the mainline kernel, add this to configuration.nix.

{
  boot.initrd.kernelModules = [ "vc4" "bcm2835_dma" "i2c_bcm2835" ];
}

Additional Troubleshooting

Additional troubleshooting information may be found at elinux.org.


  1. https://logs.nix.samueldr.com/nixos/2017-12-20#1513784657-1513784714;
  2. https://www.raspberrypi.org/documentation/configuration/config-txt/README.md