$ nix-build -A ext4 /nix/store/0980hnbfklkxb0gi0nvvf6rpm46zmjxf-ext4-fs.img
The ext4 derivation, defined as
config.system.build.ext4, creates a rootfs image in the ext4 format. It contains the closures of toplevel and a registration file.
The rootfs is also available as a squashfs image.
To explore the result, we can extract the content of the rootfs in a temporary directory as follow:
$ mkdir -p tmp/ext4-root ; cd tmp $ sudo mount $(readlink -fn ../result) ext4-root $ find -maxdepth 2 . ./ext4-root ./ext4-root/5f18ah2yzyf4mmnn8jqqb7aws91rw55v-ssh_host_rsa_key.pub ./ext4-root/wqfpawgsigwnz2bk1ygkfya7802jxl9c-iputils-20180629 ./ext4-root/p54mjqlrngzzyb2892489b4hffgz03g2-aws-sdk-cpp-1.5.17 ./ext4-root/jaiq6xgyhhl84826lrsxbgdy5sm9n8wx-nixos.conf ...
The derivation is defined as a call to
nixpkgs/nixos/lib/make-ext4-fs.nix, passing toplevel as argument. The closure is constructed by
nixpkgs/build-support/closure-info.nix. The ext4 file system is populated using the
debugfs command-line tool provided by
e2fsprogs. The beauty of using debugfs is that no root privilege nor loop device are required.
A call to
nix-store --load-db with the registration file found in the rootfs is done in a runit script. I wonder if it could be done directly when the rootfs is mounted.