Plan 9 blues

So, I can boot Plan 9 on the Raspberry Pi but I cannot get the keyboard or the mouse to work, which seems to be a reasonably common problem. Seems the kernel is still pretty experimental at the moment. (NB I am using the 7 December kernel too, so that fix is not working for me.)

Raspberry Pi successfully booted with Plan 9

It’s true, Plan 9 will boot on a Raspberry Pi. Simply a matter of copying the image to the SD card and powering the thing up.

Didn’t seem to like my USB keyboard though. Whether that is because of a problem with the keyboard, with my Raspberry Pi’s hardware or with the Pla 9 port will have to wait – as I am going out now.

The one thing that also seemed clear is that the display driver doesn’t play too well with a television. So I better use a proper monitor too.

But the system worked and was plainly alive (ie it was updating its output).

Plan9 on the Raspberry Pi

Glenda, the Plan 9 Bunny
Glenda, the Plan 9 Bunny (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Plan 9 from Bell Labs” was meant to be the successor system to Unix and like the original was designed and built by AT&Ts engineers at Bell Labs(the title is, of course, a skit on what is supposedly the best worst-ever film – “Plan 9 from Outer Space”).

Plan 9 never really made it. Linux came along and gave us Unix for the masses on cheap hardware for free and the world moved on. (Though some of the ideas in Plan 9 were retro-fitted into Linux and other Unix-like systems.)

The increased speed of commodity computers – latterly sustained via SMP – meant that computing power that once seemed only available to the elite could be found on the High Street and easy to use and install clustering software meant scientists and others could build super-computers using cheap hardware and free software. The multi-computer idea at the heart of Plan 9 seemed to have been passed-by as we screamed along the Moore’s Law Highway.

But now Moore’s Law is breaking down – or rather we are discovering that while the Law continues to apply – in other words we can still double the number of transistors on silicon every 18 – 24 months – other factors (heat dissipation essentially) mean we cannot translate a doubling of transistors into a computer that runs twice as fast. And so the multi-computer idea is of interest once more.

Plan 9 is not likely to be the operating system of the future. But as an actually existing multi-computer operating system it could still have a lot to teach us.

Now it has been ported to run on the Raspberry Pi single board computer I have decided to order another three of these things (I already have one running as a proxy server) and use them as Plan 9 nodes. The boards should be here in about three weeks (I hope), meaning I will have them as a Christmas present to myself.

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