Re: [9fans] sad commentary - Plan9

This is a discussion on Re: [9fans] sad commentary - Plan9 ; Hi 9fans, I'm writing this in an "open letter" style because I find eric's original post and the follow-up quite "on-topic" with respect to my unsuccessful Plan 9 experience. To provide context, let me describe myself as a "serious hobbyist," ...

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  1. Re: [9fans] sad commentary

    Hi 9fans,

    I'm writing this in an "open letter" style because I find eric's original
    post and the follow-up quite "on-topic" with respect to my unsuccessful
    Plan 9 experience. To provide context, let me describe myself as a "serious
    hobbyist," which means I know my way around Windows and at least 2 other
    (UNIX-like) OS's--I can set up a reasonably secure sendmail and BIND
    installation, write a little Perl or C program to do my bidding, and
    wouldn't gawk at you if you talked about using xmllint to check a
    document's well-formedness but I'm not a kernel "hacker" or a "hacker" of
    any sort for that matter. I can Get My Personal Job Done (tm) but you
    wouldn't hire me as an admin.

    When I downloaded the Plan 9 4e ISO image I thought to myself "one more OS
    adventure." It turned out to be a very frustrating one. Plan 9 wouldn't
    work fine, or work at all, on a number of freeware virtualization platforms
    which I am "sure" weren't especially rigged to run the other OS's they
    happened to run fine. It eventually worked on QEMU. Since I'm a "serious"
    hobbyist "bad" installation experience is hardly a deterrent to me--not
    anymore.

    When I came to actually "use" Plan 9 I found out the two interfaces I'd
    heard about, i.e. rc and rio, are both awkward despite how everybody on
    9fans thought they were such glorious climaxes of simplicity and usability
    and how everybody would bash Bash. If I were to save one interface (textual
    or graphical) out of all interfaces that exist today that'd be Bash.
    Perhaps I'm a brainwashed FSF zombie in thinking so but I am once again
    "sure" rc or rio won't even be on my top ten list and that's no FSF zombie
    attitude.

    Some 9fans members may remember my original zeal to participate in 9fans
    and learn about Plan 9. That zeal was subdued when I went through the first
    few chapters of Francisco Ballesteros' fine book. Since then I've only been
    quietly reading 9fans posts and "not" using Plan 9.

    I believe this reasoning from Eris Raymond's "The Art of UNIX Programming"
    (a book that is more than a little on the snob side, by the way) is mutatis
    mutandis appropriate:

    "The long view of history may tell a different story, but in 2003 it looks
    like Plan 9 failed simply because it fell short of being a compelling
    enough improvement on Unix to displace its ancestor. Compared to Plan 9,
    Unix creaks and clanks and has obvious rust spots, but it gets the job done
    well enough to hold its position. There is a lesson here for ambitious
    system architects: the most dangerous enemy of a better solution is an
    existing codebase that is just good enough."

    --20.2 Plan 9: The Way the Future Was

    Let me say that Plan 9 didn't seem to me, as a user and not a "hacker," to
    even cover any meaningful "rust spots," for example, of FreeBSD. Rio is
    actually a failure despite whatever the 9fans people and Rob Pike may say.
    Fossil/Venti, however brilliant it may look like to the code junkie, does
    not offer anything for me but added complexity. Plan 9 neither fulfills
    previous functions nor defines new ones for any "end user" or even
    "hobbyist," except perhaps the most sturdy of them. It is probably a
    wonderful research platform for computer science students but it cannot and
    will not support even the simpler tasks a student of, say, mathematics
    expects of their PC these days, e.g. symbolically solving an equation
    system (without going through implementing or porting a computer algebra
    system or learning some twisted Lisp, of course). Good software--to a
    mathematics student--like Maple will never become available on Plan 9, as
    it did on Linux, and for the third time I am "sure" this isn't because
    Maplesoft has any special affiliation with the Linux people. It's simply
    because Plan 9 is not the user's OS, it isn't even the geek's OS, or the
    nerd's OS, it is only the CS/CE OS Design student's OS, with a little
    margin kept to accommodate a few sturdy geeks and professionals interested
    in special applications.

    In fact, I suspect Bell/Lucent made Plan 9 publicly available because they
    found no better use for it. Plan 9 was not released to the public, instead
    "jettisoned" into the public's care. Of course, this "accusation" of mine
    remains as undocumented as any conspiracy theory but I'm inclined to
    believe it.

    No one should wonder why Plan 9 isn't remembered or used even in such geeky
    communities as Slashdot. It just isn't "our" kind of OS and by "us" I mean
    lowlifes like me in contrast to the "grand exalted" Plan 9 user.

    Best wishes,
    Eris Discordia

    P.S. Heck, this "is" some sad commentary.


  2. Re: [9fans] sad commentary

    well, Eris, it is quite possible that you're right. It is also
    possible that you never quite got it.

    Or both are possible.

    ron


  3. Re: [9fans] sad commentary

    On Mon, Jun 30, 2008 at 2:12 PM, Eris Discordia
    wrote:
    > Fossil/Venti, however brilliant it may look like to the code junkie, does
    > not offer anything for me but added complexity.


    i'm using p9p venti on linux, and it's been a total breeze to
    configure and administer. the utility of hist and yesterday in my
    opinion far outweigh the couple megabytes of memory that venti needs
    to be running all the time (i run it on my desktop machine, not a
    dedicated file server). i'm curious to know what backup system you're
    using that is simpler than venti. my interest in plan 9, inferno,
    octopus, &c stems mainly from my using venti for backups and finding
    it to be far better that anything unix had to offer. so it you really
    do have a backup system simpler and more robust than venti, i'd love
    to try it out

    --
    i apologize in advance if gmail has in anyway mutilated this messege.
    stay beautiful!


  4. Re: [9fans] sad commentary

    > Plan 9 neither fulfills
    > previous functions nor defines new ones for any "end user" or even
    > "hobbyist," except perhaps the most sturdy of them.


    this blog-style opinion piece does not offer anything constructive.
    for example, would utf-8 qualify as a functionality that didn't exist
    before plan9?

    there are many plan9 ideas that have been adopted by other os --
    though the results often are Frankenstein-esque.

    > Eris Discordia
    >
    > P.S. Heck, this "is" some sad commentary.


    what's sad is that unless there's a dummy's guide to
    something, that something is not considered a success.

    -Skip



  5. Re: [9fans] sad commentary

    On Mon, Jun 30, 2008 at 3:42 PM, Skip Tavakkolian <9nut@9netics.com> wrote:
    >>
    >> P.S. Heck, this "is" some sad commentary.

    >
    > what's sad is that unless there's a dummy's guide to
    > something, that something is not considered a success.
    >


    Its worse than that Skip -- I imagine many would rank Apple's time
    machine greater than venti just because it puts a pretty GUI on top of
    crap methodology versus doing something clever under the hood. You
    can't be a success unless you have an animated 3D GUI consuming most
    of your CPU resources and expending all sorts of power. We should
    have spent the last 20 years working on movie-OS versus actually
    trying to do systems research.

    -eric


  6. Re: [9fans] sad commentary

    Not a very kind comment. Though, it is possible that it's true.

    What was there for me to understand about Plan 9 that I did not? Barring a
    "mystical" bond with its exquisite kernel, of course.

    --On Monday, June 30, 2008 1:01 PM -0700 ron minnich
    wrote:

    > well, Eris, it is quite possible that you're right. It is also
    > possible that you never quite got it.
    >
    > Or both are possible.
    >
    > ron
    >







  7. Re: [9fans] sad commentary

    On Mon, Jun 30, 2008 at 6:20 PM, Eris Discordia
    wrote:
    > Barring a "mystical" bond with its exquisite kernel, of course.
    >


    it seems you have done much kernel programming, eh?

    iru


  8. Re: [9fans] sad commentary

    On Mon, Jun 30, 2008 at 2:20 PM, Eris Discordia
    wrote:
    > Not a very kind comment. Though, it is possible that it's true.
    >
    > What was there for me to understand about Plan 9 that I did not? Barring a
    > "mystical" bond with its exquisite kernel, of course.
    >


    Let's pretend I want to try out the C compilers at
    plan9.bell-labs.com. i want to see what they do, maybe differently
    than my local ones do.

    How do you do that?

    ron


  9. Re: [9fans] sad commentary

    Not to mention quoting ESR is not going to win you any friends
    anywhere, except for ESR's house...
    jcw

    On Mon, Jun 30, 2008 at 11:01 PM, ron minnich wrote:
    > well, Eris, it is quite possible that you're right. It is also
    > possible that you never quite got it.
    >
    > Or both are possible.
    >
    > ron
    >
    >



  10. Re: [9fans] sad commentary

    Haha, sarcasm at it's finest.
    Eris, you are my hero.

    --
    hiro


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