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gokrazy Go appliances

With gokrazy, you can deploy your Go programs as appliances to a Raspberry Pi or PC (→ supported platforms).

For a long time, we were unhappy about having to spend so much time on each of our various Raspberry Pis, taking care of security updates and other general Linux distribution maintenance.

Then, we had a crazy idea: what if we massively reduced the overall system complexity by getting rid of all software we don’t strictly need, and instead built up a minimal system from scratch entirely in Go, a memory safe programming language?

Turns out this is feasible. gokrazy is the result.

Your app(s) + only 4 moving parts

  1. the Linux kernel
    • new versions are typically available < 24h after upstream release!
  2. the Raspberry Pi firmware files
  3. the Go compiler and standard library
  4. the gokrazy system (minimal init system, updater, DHCP, NTP, …)

Uniformity

What’s appealing about building an appliance entirely in Go? You get the same advantages you get when building Go software elsewhere:

  • All components mentioned above (except for the Go compiler) are managed as Go modules, using the same tooling you’re already familiar with.
  • Go has very quick compilation times; the gok run command allows for a fast edit-run loop.
  • Go’s tracing and profiling support can be used on the entire system
  • With Go’s replace directive, you can quickly modify any part of the system with the same workflow.

Web status interface

On a regular Linux distribution, we’d largely use systemctl’s start, stop, restart and status verbs to manage our applications. gokrazy comes with a convenient web interface for seeing process status and stopping/restarting processes.

Debugging

Sometimes, an interactive busybox session or a quick tcpdump run are invaluable. breakglass allows you to temporarily enable SSH/SCP-based authenticated remote code execution: scp your statically compiled binary, then run it interactively via ssh.

Due to no C runtime environment being present, your code must compile with the environment variable CGO_ENABLED=0. To cross-compile for the Raspberry Pi 3 or 4, use GOARCH=arm64. If your program still builds, you’re good to go!

Network updates

After building a new gokrazy image on your computer, you can easily update an existing gokrazy installation in-place thanks to the A/B partitioning scheme we use. Just use the gok update command.

Minimal state and configuration

A tiny amount of configuration is built into the images (e.g. hostname, password, serial console behavior). In general, we prefer auto-configuration (e.g. DHCP) over config files. If you need more configurability, you may need to replace some of our programs.