Plan9 – what I do after an install

This was written in Markdown using acme on Plan9 with an sshfs mounted folder of my NextCloud setup (via a Linux host). Tidied up in Drafts, then posted on macOS using Marsedit! This post is for me really. will also be a WIP.

initial post install stuff

Create a new user

Everybody seems to use the default user, Glenda (from Plan9 from outer space). This is the equivalent of a root* unix user. Except I do not like that.

*Well almost. There is no root user that is all powerful in plan9

This also shows how you run a lot of command stuff by cat’ing text to the running process. cwfs.cmd is the file server process that runs the CWFS filesystem (it’s different if you run another filesystem). You can do this in one step with the “con” tool. But i prefer to do each step one by one as I remember it better.

echo newuser chris >>/srv/cwfs.cmd

You also need to add the new user to the sys and upas groups.

echo newuser sys +chris >>/srv/cwfs.cmd

echo newuser upas +chris >>/srv/cwfs.cmd

Various how to pages also suggest the “adm” group too. I think this is equivalent to root. I have not yet added my user to it and not found any errors.

term% cat /adm/users

I’ve no idea what the other groups are for!

Then reboot, login as this user. You will see errors. But run the newuser script to setup your $home folder and profile


customise plan9.ini

This requires you to mount the 9fat filesystem which contains a plain text file (hey everything is plain text file!) that configures the boot process.

9fs 9fat
cd /n/9fat

“9fs” is equivalent to mount and “9fat” is the partition.

Nice and simple.

You now need to familiarise yourself with a text editor. Acme is the best. I have found myself having to use “ed” a streaming text editor. It’s Ok, but very basic and quite painful to do anything other than simple emergency edits. Keep backups!

acme plan9.ini

Setup plan9.ini to boot straightway into my user account

Once you have your user then you can bypass which filesystem to boot and which user to boot into.
Remembering that at anytime you are promoted for options in the boot process then you can type “!rc” at a prompt to launch a minimal terminal to fix the issue. ..and booting from the USB install image always allows you to easily mount the 9fat partition and fix things.

change the video driver to IGFX

customise your desktop – rio

Rio is the windowing application.

To customise Rio you need to edit your profile

acme $home/lib/profile

I now configure my profile to load a “$home/bin/rc/riostart”, which autostart a few tools and a few “rc” shells.



rio -i riostart

Mine is:

#!/bin/rcwindow 0,0,161,117 stats -lmiscewindow -miny 130
window bar
# run a system shell on the serial console
~ $#console 0 || window -scroll console`

Bar is a cool little tool you will have to compile and install.

Change the font

Change the following line. There are many different fonts in /lib/font:



Add this line just before loading rio:

cat /sys/lib/kbmap/uk > /dev/kbmap


Setup SSH

The instructions are here. However, there is an omission in that first line as “role=client” needs to be added.

auth/rsagen -t 'service=ssh role=client' >$home/lib/sshkey # generate private key
auth/rsa2ssh $home/lib/sshkey >$home/lib/ # generate public key, if you need to share it
cat $home/lib/sshkey >/mnt/factotum/ctl # put the private key in the password manager
echo 'ssh sha256=DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD server=scotgate.pixies' >> /usr/chris/lib/sshthumbs

a few useful tips

Mounting a linux filesystem over SSH

sshfs is useful.

sshfs chris@scotgate.pixies
cd /n/ssh

..will mount your $home folder on the remote host as /n/ssh

Note if you are using Drawterm then /srv/ has your root filesystem of the host already.

Software to install


Plan9 continues

So Plan9 is becoming a very large time sink! After playing with a VM/QEMU I decided to buy a cheap minipc and install on some real hardware (Lenovo ThinkCentre with 16GB Ram and an i5 – £70 from eBay).

Installing the 9front fork of Plan9 is really easy. I did decide to complicate matters and use two drives so I had to manually partition them as the install script is quite simplistic (but really does make life easier!). Plan9 is a distributed OS. It needs a CPU server a file server, and auth(entication) server and then clients. Due to it’s quite ancient heritage the file system (CWFS) uses a cache and a WORM (write once read many) partition. Which in times gone by could have been an optical drive jukebox. As the name suggests this partition is read from, but writes are instead done to the fscache drive.

Other partitions are:

  • 9fat (DOS partition where the boot parameters are stored in a file called plan9.ini)
  • other
  • nvram (used to simulate a real NVRAM storage where authentication stuff is stored).

Drive/partition naming is very similar to linux


So for some inane reason I put the WORM partition on one largish SATA spinning drive and the rest on a different drive. Of course I made life harder for myself. plan9 prides itself on a simple filesystem. It does not really have command completion as the philosophy is that files should not be squirrelled away in hard to remember locations (you do have simple filename completion with CTRL – f). Not sure I quite agree with that, but what it does is automatically find portions and mount then (no stab needed here). But of course since my main partitions are on a separate drive which I went and attached to the second SATA port, then it cannot find them so I do have to specify them in plan9.ini

9fs 9fat
cd /n/9fat
acme /n/9fat/plan9.ini

(More on acme later. A quick to learn but wacky text editor).

Of course I found this out the hard way with an unbootable system in configuring the system to allow remote connections (see next section). But a quick reboot from the install USB stick. I mounted the 9fat partition. Unfortunately without a graphical environment none of the text editors worked. But sed does. A quick reboot later and all was well. But now I do create backups when I edit plan9.ini!

Now how do I connect to this headless plan9 server. With Drawterm of course! Drawterm is an emulated plan9 client. Calling it emulated is not really accurate as it runs natively on whatever OS you install on (for me that was Linux) and it brings the 9p protocol to connect.

But to do this you need to configure the authentication server and allow remote connections

Anyway with the networked OS model I got Drawterm working on Linux and the CPU, file and auth servers are all running on the ThinkCentre.

So after quite a few hours I find myself with this!

Drawterm on the right, Plan9 under QEMU on the left

Plan9 running under QEMU, with Drawterm on the right connected to a real Plan9 server.

Spot the difference?

No, me neither!