I'm reading through the manual, and just realized something (I think):

The way Guix sets up `substitutes` means that I could compile everything from source on my powerful desktop* and then set that as a substitute for my laptop—which would then pull down the binary packages from there.

(*NOTE: I don't have a powerful desktop, but I have hopes/plans to get one)

This seems like it's pretty close to the advantages of without (as much of) the pain!

@codesections this is very much how I use Nix/NixOS, often also taking advantage of -- not sure if guix and cachix work easily, even with guix using nix at lower level. Might work trivially, dunno :). Anyway yep substitution is great and is made possible by having builds reproducible and isolated enough that they are safely (among trusted peers) substitutable with confidence everything will work regardless.

@codesections how is this different from adding your powerful desktop as a repository on any other distro?

If builds are reproducible, you don't need to trust the desktop machine, it acts like a mirror, but with everything built from source. If builds aren't reproducible, you'll have to authorize the desktop machine anyway, so not that different :)
It's just easier to have it work as a build machine I guess.

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