Plan 9 from Bell Labs was meant to be the successor of unix. Unfortunately, it is hard to make users replace something that is good enough by something better. It is free software.
Plan 9 has a really nice text editor called acme. It has been ported to unix/X11 in Plan 9 from User Space, and there also is a clone called wily. I prefer running acme in its natural environment.
In this entry, we’ll install Plan 9 on QEMU. It is recommended that you install kqemu (non-free ) or qvm86(free but discontinued), otherwise installation will be even slower than it would be with one of those. We’ll use the instructions from here. “(Enter)” means you have to press the Enter key. Don’t type it.
Create a 2 Gigabyte disk image file. 1G should be enough, but it’s always good to have some extra space. Do not use a different image format than raw, otherwise installation will be very slow. You can convert the image to a different more space-saving format later.
qemu-img create plan9.img 2G
Boot QEMU from the iso of the installation CDROM…
qemu -boot d -cdrom plan9.iso plan9.img
Most questions can be answered with the default choice, which you can choose by hitting (Enter). Partitioning also offers sane defaults (twice!), which you confirm with w(Enter)q(Enter). Only selecting the “distribution disk” is a bit unintuitive: when you are asked for it, type /dev/sdD0/data. After that, the installer will want to know which directory on that disk to use. It’s probably safe to type /, but I did (Enter)([browse])exit.
The right boot method is plan9, and you do want to install a master boot record.
At the end of the installation, you are told “Feel free to turn off your computer.”. Close QEMU in the proper way: (ctrl-alt-2)quit, then boot your virtual computer without the CDROM:
qemu plan9.img root is from ... : (Enter) user[none]: glenda
Once you get a graphical desktop, do the following with your mouse:
right-hold on desktop, select new, release
right-drag a big rectangle
9fat: sam /n/9fat/plan9.ini
… right-hold in window, select plan9.ini …
right-hold, select write
right-click the place where you just edited
right-hold, select close, right click
That editor was sam, not acme. Also, we could have selected these values earlier in the installation. It’s most likely safe to use acme or configure the monitor earlier, but remember we’re following instructions, and we don’t want to mess up because starting over takes a long time. Speaking of messing up, do make sure you get that monitor configuration right, otherwise you will have to fix it from the commandline.
Now we will reboot to apply the new monitor configuration. Run the command fshalt, which should always be executed before shutdown or reboot, otherwise you may lose data. This does not shut down Plan 9, it just stops all filesystems.
(ctrl-alt-2) system_reset (ctrl-alt-1) root is from... : enter user[none]: glenda
Use (ctrl-alt-f) to enter and leave QEMU fullscreen mode.
Final hint: to open an email in acme, right-click the message number, or right-click the face of the sender (yes, that little rabbit…).
A lot can be done to integrate Plan 9 with your host system. I’ll probably write a blog entry about that too, after I try it…