Using stack on NixOS

September 22, 2015, by Felipe Lessa (meteficha)

I’ve got myself a new laptop recently and decided to try NixOS. It’s been a great experience so far, but there are some rough edges. One of them is stack not completely working out of the box for my projects.

The reason is that some Haskell packages depend on system C libraries, but neither stack nor Cabal-the-library are able to find them on NixOS. As an example, you won’t find /usr/lib/ on my system. Instead, right now it’s at /nix/store/2zmlykvqx69q5bh1l3jqyhrj2493vqdx-zlib-1.2.8/lib/

Being a NixOS newbie, I’ve tried some solutions but none of them worked. I’ve then asked for Peter Simon’s help, which he gladly and swiftly provided (thanks, Peter!). For my use case, I’ve adapted his suggestions into the following script:

#!/usr/bin/env bash
ZLIB="$(nix-build --no-out-link "<nixpkgs>" -A zlib)"
PSQL="$(nix-build --no-out-link "<nixpkgs>" -A postgresql)"
exec stack                                                             \
     --extra-lib-dirs=${ZLIB}/lib --extra-include-dirs=${ZLIB}/include \
     --extra-lib-dirs=${PSQL}/lib --extra-include-dirs=${PSQL}/include \

My transitive dependencies need zlib and postgresql libraries, so I use nix-build to find out where these packages are and pass their directories to stack explicitly.

This solution is not without drawbacks. The biggest one is that your built Haskell libraries will be hardcoded to these C libraries, but NixOS doesn’t know anything about this dependency. If you upgrade your system and garbage collect the old C libraries, you’ll have to recompile the Haskell libraries (probably with rm -R ~/.stack/snapshots). However, I quite like its conciseness, and one doesn’t need to understand much about NixOS’s internals to use it.

At the moment this hack is serving me well. If you’re reading this blog post more than a couple of months after I wrote it, take a look around to see if a better solution has been developed in the mean time :).