Online / 5 & 6 February 2022


Chimera Linux

A BSD/LLVM distro from scratch

Chimera Linux is a new distribution I started in the middle of 2021, after years of thinking and vague planning. After getting a bunch of real world maintenance experience managing the POWER architecture support in Void Linux, I have decided to make those ideas a reality - a distribution with the Linux kernel, but FreeBSD userland, LLVM/Clang system toolchain and core runtime, musl libc and a fair amount of custom tooling. Right now, it is a bootable system targeting a variety of CPU architectures (aarch64, ppc64le, riscv64, x86_64...) that is easily bootstrappable (and capable of building itself), testable, lightweight and fast (but still in heavy development). It uses the apk package manager (of Alpine Linux) and a completely custom source packages collection and build system written in Python, allowing for sandboxed, fully unprivileged package builds.

The distribution follows a rolling release model for its simplicity and ease of release management, but without insisting on bleeding edge versions. The build tooling is capable of bringing the system up from scratch using any other musl-based distribution as a base (and without requiring any GNU components beyond currently their make implementation) - the system rebuilds itself 3 times for that purpose. Link-time optimization (specifically Clang's thin LTO) is enabled for nearly all packages. The lightweight, dependency-based, supervising 'dinit' service manager takes care of boot, and Wayland is the preferred display server. The system aims to be general purpose, not niche; a primary goal is breaking up some status quos in the Linux ecosystem and provide a truly viable alternative. It should be community driven, open, welcoming and unorthodox, without any pointless dogmatism.

In the talk I will cover my journey towards having a system capable of boot, what it took to bring up a distribution from scratch and how I dealt with various obstacles, and what I learned on the way, as well as the future of the project. Some basic Linux administration knowledge will be required from the audience, but any somewhat tech-savvy person should be able to follow.


Daniel Kolesa