I spent the first week of 2021 learning an OS called Plan 9 from Bell Labs. This is a fringe Operating System, long abandoned by it’s original authors. It's also responsible for a great deal of inspiration elsewhere. If you’ve used the Go language, /proc, UTF-8 or Docker, you’ve used Plan 9-designed features. This issue dives into Operating System internals and some moderately hard computer science topics. If that sort of thing isn’t your bag you might want to skip ahead. Normal service will resume shortly.
This week’s music comes from Jefferson Airplane. Press Play and read on. Screenshots come from various Plan 9 builds. Memes are sourced from the Internet. Renee French drew Glenda the Plan 9 bunny.
Plan 9 From Bell Labs is an Operating System designed by many responsible for Unix. It’s more an exploration of ideas than a complete OS. Much of Plan 9 made it into the Google ecosystem, the Go language, Windows and Linux. I wanted to spend a few hours a day over the course of a quiet week learning the bits of Plan 9 that interest me.
There are several Plan 9 distributions available. The most well-known is 9Front. I settled on Richard Miller’s Raspberry Pi port. While he saw 9Front as a fork, I’d consider significant novel innovation versus a filling the base userland with cruft as a key distinction between fork and distribution. Semantics aside, Richard Miller’s port features wifi support and other Pi-specific features. Miller’s distribution is also the original Plan 9 4th Edition with minor changes. I’ll let him explain: