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Plan 9 Operating System

Published on Apr 02, 2024


An operating system is a collection of programs and procedures that help the user to work with the computer efficiently. To enable an efficient and productive use with the system of any sort, the prorating system used must be so designed such that it gives all the necessary facilities to work for the users. Many operating systems have been designed over the years for different classes of users. But most of them were designed for single user workstations.

By the mid 1980's, the trend in computing was away from large centralized time-shared computers towards networks of smaller, personal machines, typically UNIX `workstations'. People had grown weary of overloaded, bureaucratic timesharing machines and were eager to move to small, self-maintained systems, even if that meant a net loss in computing power. As microcomputers became faster, even that loss was recovered, and this style of computing remains popular today.

In the rush to personal workstations, though, some of their weaknesses were overlooked. First, the operating system they run, UNIX, is itself an old timesharing system and has had trouble adapting to ideas born after it. Graphics and networking were added to UNIX well into its lifetime and remain poorly integrated and difficult to administer.

Plan 9 began in the late 1980's as an attempt to have it both ways: to build a system that was centrally administered and cost-effective using cheap modern microcomputers as its computing elements. The idea was to build a time-sharing system out of workstations, but in a novel way. Different computers would handle different tasks: small, cheap machines in people's offices would serve as terminals providing access to large, central, shared resources such as computing servers and file servers. For the central machines, the coming wave of shared-memory multiprocessors seemed obvious candidates.

The problems with UNIX were too deep to fix, but some of its ideas could be brought along. The best was its use of the file system to coordinate naming of and access to resources, even those, such as devices, not traditionally treated as files. Plan 9 is designed around this basic principle that all resources appear as files in a hierarchial file system, which is unique to each process. As for the design of any operating system various things such as the design of the file and directory system implementation and the various interfaces are important. Plan 9 has all these well-designed features. All these help to provide a strong base for the operating system that could be well suited in a distributed and networked environment.

The different features of Plan 9 operating system are:

1.The dump file system makes a daily snapshot of the file store available to the users.

2.Unicode character set supported throughout the system.

3.Advanced kernel synchronization facilities for parallel processing.

4.Security- there is no super-user or root user and the passwords are never sent over the network.

Plan 9 exploits three basic technical ideas: first, all the system objects present themselves as named files that are manipulated by read/write operations; second, all these files may exist either locally or remotely and respond to a standard protocol; third, the file system name space - the set of objects visible to program - is dynamically and individually adjustable for each of the programs running on a particular machine.

The first of these two ideas were foreshadowed in UNIX, while the third is new. It allows a new engineering solution to the problems of distributed computing and graphics. Plan 9's approach means that application programs don't need to know where they are running; where and on what kind of machine. To run a Plan 9 program is an economic decision that doesn't affect the construction of the application itself. The unusual properties of plan 9 stem from these consistent, aggressive application of these principles.

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