Installing 9front in VMware

These steps may vary with different versions of 9front, as well as the virtualization software that is used (VMware Workstation, VMware Player, VirtualBox, QEMU, etc). For this guide I will be installing 9Front “Solar Eclipse” as a virtual machine in VMware Workstation 14.

Why install 9front? To explore an updated port of the Plan 9 operating system which has some very unique design features and historic significance.

For more details on 9front and Plan 9, you may review the project’s FQA (FAQ): 

What you will need:

  1. Virtualization software such as VMware Workstation
  2. A 9front ISO from
  3. A file archiver utility capable of decompressing gzip archives. I will be using 7-Zip which is free and open-source software.

Let’s get started.

  1. Download the 9front ISO either directly or by torrent from
  2. The file name ends in .gz which indicates it is gzipped. Use 7-Zip to decompress the contents of the .gz, with 7-Zip installed on Windows this should be as simple as right clicking on the file 9front-6165.2a79d5dddf41.iso.gz, navigating to the 7-Zip option on the right-click menu, and then selecting Extract Here.
  3. Launch VMware Workstation and create a new virtual machine by navigating to File -> New Virtual Machine…
  4. For “What type of configuration do you want?” select Custom.
  5. The default Hardware Compatibility options are fine.
  6. Select I will install the operating system later.
  7. For “Guest Operating System” select Other with Version Other.
  8. Name the virtual machine as you wish, I named mine 9front Solar Eclipse.
  9. Select the default processor configuration.
  10. You may adjust the memory allocated to the virtual machine, however, 9front is a fork of Plan 9 which was developed in the 1990’s and does not require much memory at all. You should be able to run it on 32 MB of RAM, though I have my installation a bit of breathing room with 256 MB, the default recommended memory in VMware workstation.
  11. For the Network Type I went with the default of Use network address translation (NAT).
  12. For I/O controller types I selected the default, BusLogic.
  13. For Virtual disk type use the default, IDE (Recommended).
  14. For Select a Disk I chose to Create a new virtual disk.
  15. The default of 8 GB will be more than sufficient for installing 9front. Plan 9 required ~300 MB of disk space, and if we have room to spare it gives us space to install additional software and move files around on 9front without worrying, especially since I have chosen NOT to allocate disk space now. I went with the default option of Split virtual disk into multiple files so it would be easier to move the virtual machine if needed.
  16. For Disk file I went with the default file name based on the virtual machine name I chose earlier.
  17. At the last step select “Customize Hardware…
  18. Select the New CD/DVD (IDE) device and choose to Use ISO image file.
  19. Browse for the 9front ISO which was uncompressed from the .gz archive earlier, 9front-6165.2a79d5dddf41.iso
  20. Select Close and Finish
  21. Power on this virtual machine
  22. The virtual machine should BOOT from the 9front ISO and eventually prompt you for bootargs at a black screen with white text. From here you can follow the 9front Installation Guide, picking up at the step titled – Bootargs. Alternatively, I will continue to list the steps here.
  23. At the bootargs prompt press enter to choose the default option which is local!/dev/sdD0/data
  24. At the user prompt you may change the username that will be used. I went with the default of glenda, the Plan 9 bunny.
  25. vgasize can be adjusted later, for the install I went with the default of 1024x768x16, if you have a screen smaller than 1024×768 then you may want to chose 640x480x16 instead.
  26. For the monitor type select the default, vesa.
  27. For mouseport select the default, ps2. Even if your mouse is not plugged into a PS/2 port on your computer it will still translate to PS/2 in VMware.
  28. You should now be met with a graphical user interface running rio, the Plan 9 windowing system. A terminal is open for you to begin the installation.
    9front Solar Eclipse Install Cirno
  29. Click inside the term window and type inst/start and press enter.
    9front Solar Eclipse inst/start
  30. Select the first of the three unfinished tasks, configfs, by pressing enter.
  31. If you created the virtual machine with a disk size of less than 12GB, it is recommended to use the experimental hjfs file server. I decided to go with this since I chose 8 GB for the installation. Type hjfs at the prompt and press enter.
  32. Press enter again to proceed with the partdisk task.
  33. At the partdisk menu it will list your disk devices, at the least there should be a VMware Virtual IDE Hard Drive, and  VMware Virtual IDE CDROM Drive. With my virtual hardware configuration the VMware Virtual IDE Hard Drive that I want to install 9front to is listed as sdC0 so I typed sdC0 at the Disk to partition prompt and pressed enter.
  34. For the master boot record I specified mbr and pressed enter.
  35. The suggested paritioning listed by fdisk should work fine, press w and enter, then q and enter.
  36. Press enter to proceed to the next task, prepdisk.
  37. There is likely only one partition found from the previous step, press enter to select it to be subdivided.
  38. Again the suggested defaults should work fine, press w and enter, then q and enter.
  39. Press enter to proceed to the mountfs task.
  40. Press enter to proceed with the default partition that is selected.
  41. If prompted for RAM filesystem cache size, the default should be fine. For my hjfs filesystem it is 38 MB.
  42. Press enter to proceed and “ream” (format) the filesystem.
  43. Press enter to continue to the configdist task.
  44. Since the installation media we have is an ISO mounted as local media, press enter to proceed with the default distribution media of local.
  45. Press enter to proceed to the confignet task.
  46. Since I chose to set up the virtual machine using NAT, I also chose to go with the default network configuration of using dhcp.
  47. Press enter to proceed to the mountdist task.
  48. This task will scan your storage devices and detect storage media, it should detect the cdrom and you can press enter to select the default option of /.
  49. Again press enter to select the default option, the directory that contains the distribution is the root directory of the cd image, /.
  50. Press enter to proceed to the copydist task.
  51. You will see the text “processing /sys/lib/sysconfig/proto/allproto”, this indicates that the distribution files are being copied from the install media to the hard disk. There is no progress bar and this step may take some time. Once it is complete it will prompt you with the next task.
  52. Press enter to proceed to the ndbsetup task.
  53. The Setup network configuration prompt will now ask you for the sysname, the hostname of your system. It provides a default of cirno, the 9front mascot. I specified a new hostname of felloff. One of the 9front slogans is that the “plan” fell off, a reference to a Clarke and Dawe sketch – The Front Fell Off.
  54. Press enter to proceed to the tzsetup task.
  55. Being in the Central timezone, I specified US_Central at the prompt and pressed enter.
  56. Press enter to proceed to the bootsetup task.
  57. Press enter to proceed with the default boot partition.
  58. When prompted to Install the Plan 9 master boot record, type yes and press enter.
  59. When prompted to Mark the Plan 9 partition active, type yes and press enter.
  60. All that’s left now is to reboot, press enter to select the finish task.
  61. The virtual machine will now reboot. From the VMware Workstation menu select VM -> Removable Devices -> CD/DVD (IDE) -> Disconnect, this will unmount the 9front ISO from the virtual CD drive.
  62. 9front will reboot to a black screen with white text again, do not fret, simply press enter to select the default bootargs, then enter again at the user selection.
  63. You will now be prompted with the graphical user interface of your new 9front installation.
    9front Solar Eclipse fresh install

    Have fun exploring the operating system. I recommend reviewing the manual for basic information on how to interface with rio and navigate the operating system.

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