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Computing (FOLDOC) dictionary
Plan 9
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operating system (Named after the classically bad,
exceptionally low-budget SF film "Plan 9 from Outer Space") An
operating system developed at Bell Labs by many
researchers previously intimately involved with Unix.
Plan 9 is superficially Unix-like but features far finer
control over the name-space (on a per-process basis) and is
inherently distributed and scalable.
Plan 9 is divided according to service functions. CPU servers
concentrate computing power into large multiprocessors; file
servers provide repositories for storage and terminals give
each user of the system a dedicated computer with bitmap
screen and mouse on which to run a window system. The sharing
of computing and file storage services provides a sense of
community for a group of programmers, amortises costs and
centralises and hence simplifies management and
The pieces communicate by a single protocol, built above a
reliable data transport layer offered by an appropriate
network, that defines each service as a rooted tree of files.
Even for services not usually considered as files, the unified
design permits some simplification. Each process has a local
file name space that contains attachments to all services the
process is using and thereby to the files in those services.
One of the most important jobs of a terminal is to support its
user's customised view of the entire system as represented by
the services visible in the name space.