Plan 9 From Bell Labs – Installation Instructions How to

I finally got around to installing an operating system that you may never have heard of. Yes, that is right Plan 9 from Bell Labs. I installed this free operating system on an old Compaq Evo N180.

This is a laptop with just a Pentium III processor. I will share with you what I learned and the basics to installing this operating system. The first thing you will need is obviously a computer to install this UNIX based operating system on.

I was able to install it on an IDE laptop hard drive. Plan 9 does support SATA hard drives. You can use old school serial and PS2 type mice. Also, you can use old school PS2 style keyboards.

This UNIX operating system supports USB devices ie. USB flash drives, mice, keyboards, etc. I hooked up a three wheel USB mouse to this old laptop. Also, I just used the built in keyboard.

You can try Plan 9 by booting off of a Live CD-ROM. Also, you can use this same Plan 9 Live CD-ROM to install to your hard drive. Also, you can create a Live USB flash drive instead.

I choose to burn a CD-RW with Plan 9 instead of USB. I was able to successfully boot off the live CD-ROM. I choose the default settings but had to specify the video setting correctly.

When I accept the default XGA, Rio, which is Plan 9’s windowing manager failed to start. I typed in “vesa” for the video configuration and Rio successfully started. I had to also manually type in “vesa” when I installed Plan 9 on a 30 gigabyte laptop IDE hard drive.

Also, when installing Plan 9 I had to choose the default of [browse] and then immediately press exit, during the mountdist portion of the installation. I have no idea why, but the Plan 9 installation does not detect the distibution path. Thankfully, I read through the documentation and figured this out.

By accepting the default [browse] option, this allows you to browse the installation media. However, you do not want to change to any directories, otherwise this will change the mountdist path. If you do move around the installation media file structure, make sure you return back to where you began.

I thought this was not necessary and a bit odd of a way to tell Plan 9 where to mount installation files from. These two revelations, both vesa and typing exit when selecting [browse] saved me potentially a lot of time. I was eventually able to get Plan 9 installed successfully.

You will need to perform these main categories:

* configfs: choose file system type
* partdisk: edit partition table
* prepdisk: create partition table
* fmtfossil: format file system
* mountfs: mount file system
* configdisg: choose installtion source
* mountdist: mount installation source
* copydist: copy files to hard disk

I referred to Plan 9 from Bell Labs official documentation and this how to install Plan 9 from Bell Labs blog post. I was able to add a user account and create a home folder.

I was able to obtain a local ip address using DCHP. However, I was not able to get domain name server addresses to resolve to their Internet protocol addresses correctly. I could ping out to the Internet using an IP address.

I learned how to add, resize, delete, and move windows. I learned how to use a sam editor. However, I could not figure out how to save changes to files.

Even after installing Plan 9, you can use the default account by typing in glenda when prompted to enter the default of [user]. Glenda is a built in account with a home folder already created. Also, four windows are already configured for you.

Meter, date, readme file, and email file. If you want to just open a terminal, your right click the background and choose “Add”. Your mouse cursor will turn into a cross +.

Right click and then move your mouse to configure how big you want this window. You will see term% |. This is your command prompt.