First 9front release of the year is called DO NOT INSTALL

9front, the most active project continuing development of the sequel to Unix, Plan 9 from Bell Labs, emitted a new version. We did not follow its advice.

The first new version of 2024 boasts the helpful name – or possibly warning – of “DO NOT INSTALL.” If you are hoping for a newer, better Linux, take the hint. If you want to see how Unix-like OSes should have evolved, rather than reinventing bigger and shinier wheels – we’re staring meaningfully at the BSDs and Linux here – then read on.

We looked at “The Golden Age of Ballooning” in 2022, talked more generally about 9front when “Humanbiologics” appeared late last year, and, of course, there was a series of articles earlier this year.

DO NOT INSTALL has support for Linux’s ext4 disk format (as well as the older ext3) thanks to a new ext4srv. This replaces the old ext2srv, which we guess had to go – the in-development Linux kernel 6.9 marks ext2 as deprecated. DO NOT INSTALL also has better USB audio and Wi-Fi support, which now includes on the Raspberry Pi.

This driver came to 9front from Richard Miller’s port of Plan 9 to the Raspberry Pi, which you can see demonstrated by the man himself. An element to the story of that port that The Reg FOSS desk particularly appreciates is that this is the same brilliant programmer who in 1976 did the first port of Unix [PDF] to a new computer – Unix 6th Edition to the University of Wollongong’s new Interdata 7/32. We also recommend his own account, “Unix – a Portable Operating System?” [PDF]. (We especially like the question mark in the title.)


Plan 9 is what Unix wanted to be when it grew up. It’s Unix, reimagined for the era of networked graphical workstations instead of standalone text-only minis with dumb terminals. It’s also Unix in the sense that it’s crypic, terse, intimidating, and famously unfriendly. Its creators went on to create Inferno, and then some of them went to work for Google and created Go. In the meantime, several teams are still working on Plan 9. One group spent a while moving it to GCC, and have now moved on to rewriting it in Rust.

Meanwhile, 9front is keeping it old school – but modernizing it to work in a Linux-dominated world. That modern FOSS Unix world remains indifferent, and in that light, we find the 9front team’s rather, um, confrontational attitude entirely understandable. For instance, while those who aren’t native British English speakers may not realize that “Git” is not an acronym but an established word, the robustly named 9front code repository has a rather more “fragrant” name. Possibly temporarily, this has a more attractive alias to celebrate this release. So get a move on and visit Only9Fans. ®


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