Brussels / 4 & 5 February 2023


Chimera Linux

A BSD/LLVM distro from scratch

Chimera Linux is a new Linux distribution started in mid-2021. It's a general-purpose operating system based on binary packages that aims to be practical and clean, while addressing various shortcomings of an average Linux distro. One of the things making it unique is that it's a non-GNU distribution, utilizing a combination of userland utilities originating from FreeBSD, the LLVM/Clang toolchain and musl libc, besides other things. On top of that, it is not based on any existing distribution and comes with its own packaging infrastructure and various custom software that was needed to fill in the gaps. It's also highly portable, already supporting x86_64, POWER, AArch64 and RISC-V, with more possibly coming. In the presentation I will cover the progress made in the last year, as well as give a general overview of the system and what it takes to create a distro from scratch.

The distribution follows a rolling release model and by default uses the GNOME desktop with Wayland. The custom package building infrastructure was created after having learned from the shortcomings of equivalent systems in other distros, aiming to be flexible and fast, while emphasizing correctness and allowing for fully sandboxed, unprivileged builds. The result is binary packages/repositories for apk-tools, which Chimera uses as a frontend package manager. The build tooling can also bring the system up from source using a foreign musl-based distribution as a base, making it easily bootstrappable. The resulting repositories utilize LLVM's ThinLTO for nearly all packages, and special emphasis is also placed on security hardening (including CFI and others). Service management is based on the Dinit suite with a custom set of core services and is fully supervising, dependency-based and aims to provide practical parity with systemd, while remaining lean and grokkable (and most importantly, portable). A major aspect of the project is to also improve software portability across the stack, improving the state of matters for both Linux and the BSDs. We also aim to contribute code improvements back to FreeBSD.

Most importantly, this is not any kind of dogmatic, niche effort. It's a system that tries to be pragmatic, providing a complete package that is polished and has well-defined defaults, while establishing its own identity and not being like something else. We also want to establish a community that is open and welcoming, without pointless elitism, and most importantly have fun doing all of this.

This is a follow-up presentation to last year's FOSDEM, but I will try my best to make it standalone and as easy to understand as possible for the general audience. Some basic Linux administration knowledge may be necessary for some of the information.


Daniel Kolesa