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Dreamcast Could Pick Up Inferno And Plan 9 63

woggo writes: "I just got the Vita Nuova newsletter for February. It appears that they are planning a port of Plan 9 and Inferno (the recently open-sourced operating systems from Bell Labs) to the Hitachi SH3 and SH4. I quote: "It would be good to hear from readers that have a suitable board to target for a reference port. Failing that, we have got our own ideas!)" Guess it's time to vote for everyone's favorite $99 MIPS computer...." According to the Vita Nuova site, "First, we are working on a port of the compiler suite to generate code for the SH series [of Hitachi chips]. Once that is done, we can start on an Inferno port (it being easier to port Inferno than Plan 9)." Update: 02/07 04:15 PM by T : Mitch Davis of the Linux on SuperH team wrote:"[this] article called the DreamCast "everyone's favorite $99 MIPS computer". Just so you know, the DreamCast is powered by a Hitachi SuperH processor, not a MIPS." Thanks for the correction, Mitch.
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Dreamcast Could Pick Up Inferno And Plan 9

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  • I mean, let's face it, if someone could persuade Sega to put it into production again, but with a keyboard, mouse, some sort of storage (hmmm, Plan 9 is based around WORM storage, wonder how much WORM drives are these days? Mind you, a CD-RW might be able to do much the same for less), you'd have a system that would rock.

    I'd buy one.
    Keep attacking good things as "communist"

  • Another port of an operatiing system nobody uses to a platform nobody wants! :-)

    (Moderators, I'm trying to be ironic/sarcastic here.)

    Now a serious question. Aside from the value of "We did it because we could", what purpose would something like this serve? Anyone have any ideas?
  • Seriously, they must have a better business reason to be thinking about porting it to SH-3/4 than old dreamcasts... surely? Who would want Inferno or Plan 9 on a Dreamcast anyway? Surely the esoteric-OS and Dreamcast markets are almost entirely separate? What are they really targetting here?


  • Well, they already have a keyboard and mouse available. I dunno if you know or not, but there were talks of a zip drive for the DC, although it went under a long time ago....too bad..
  • (sorry for the off topic post!)
  • I remember reading in some Linux magazine that there was going to be a console that used Linux. It has OpenGL, can play games and DVDs, has an open architecture (so that people can write programs for it), and can do a couple of other things. Can anyone refresh my memory?
  • I don't think this is realy going to get all that meny people interested. After all the average Joe won't have any interest in this OS. On the other hand just about every one has hurd of linux.
  • Inferno and Plan9 are known for their distributed processing capability. Specifically on Plan 9 it's something like all devices are open and managed not locked and released.

    Now before I go back to planning my Jihad on publishers I'd like to ask a couple of things. Was it necessary, that condescending tone? You really hve no idea what headache so called modern technology is. But worst of all you have the mind boggling need to criticize people for being interested in pursuits you'd rather not be involved in. Give it a rest if you have nothing better to comment.
  • The name of the company is Indrema [], and if you look real quick before they get slashdotted, you'll see a picture and specs of the gaming console they're working on.

  • Erm, Plan9 isn't actually based around WORM storage. It's just that some capabilities of the whole system are done by special servers. No need to keep several gigs of mass storage in every workstation, just a central file server. (Or SMP workstations, just us a cpu server, etc.)

    Back in the days of yore, a file server with massive storage capacities and good access times meant WORM. Those days have passed...
    To quote Rob Pike, all-around programming god and one of the heads behind Plan 9

    With 82GB IDE drives going for about $300, WORMs aren't worth it.
    Buy a monster disk drive and configure it as your backup device.
    By the time it fills up, buy another; it'll be 500GB for $200 then.

    The Amiga-comparison is a little bit shaky, as it never was meant for networks, which is the prime concept of Plan9 ("Build a Unix out of a lot of little systems, not a system out of a lot of little Unixes").

    So how does the dreamcast fit in?

    Well, it probably won't replace your main PC, but it'll make some nice terminals...

  • You're probably referring to the Indrema Entertainment System [].
  • Yes, it will. I've found that the disc has to be properly finalized in order for it to work reliably.
  • by Sc00ter ( 99550 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2001 @06:16AM (#449632) Homepage
    The dreamcast would make a wonderful settop box. It's got a keyboard, modem, ethernet.. what more could you want? NFS mount you mp3 drive off your linux box and it's an MP3 player too. NFS mount all your videos and play mpegs on your TV.

    I think this is all very cool, once they get a good set top suite going for it it would be worth it. Put in your CD and surf the web, check your email... save all your settings (ip address and whatnot) on the VMU and you're good to go...


  • Looks like DC is turning into a cheap fun machine. Maybe Sega should think about releasing a DC as a tech-toy for those people who want to do things like this with the machine (with more developer friendly hardware). I am sure a lot of people will find a good use for it. And they can play great games on it too!

  • Actually, with Plan 9 it's even better.

    Plan 9 does distributed processing inherintley - the planned Plan 9 network topology had the idea of 'CPU Servers' analoguous to File Servers, which would make thier CPU time available for other hosts to use.

    This would kick ass.... I loved Plan 9, and would love it more if I could use it on a regular basis. Such a wonderful interface...

  • thats the indrema console, but hard to say if its really going to come out. []

    hope that helps

  • get a card w/TV out. I think it would probably be less money, faster, and definitly less space.
  • I mean, come on... the DC has no storage medium, and is in no way the "ideal $99 computer". And have you looked at Vita Nuova's [] site? The OS is far less advanced then Linux (to be fair: it was designed that way), looks rather unintuitive, and currently costs $150 for an Academic license, and $300 for the personal!!

    So why, pray tell, would I spend more for a possibly useless OS for a system I bought for $200? Thanks but no thanks...

  • Not sure why you're equating me with Hannibal, but anyway...

    Read my message again. Note the smiley face after the first sentence. See the note regarding me trying to be ironic. Look at my request for a practical use for a system like this.

    You are correct in saying I have no idea what a headache modern hardware is. I don't, that's why I asked. The AC who responded to me gave me more useful information than you did.

    And how the hell did I use a condescending tone? I think you need to turn down your sensitivity settings and go out to a pub for a drink. It's all just a bunch of 1s, 0s, and silicon, relax willya?
  • Erm, Plan9 isn't actually based around WORM storage. It's just that some capabilities of the whole system are done by special servers. No need to keep several gigs of mass storage in every workstation, just a central file server. (Or SMP workstations, just us a cpu server, etc.)
    The Amiga-comparison is a little bit shaky, as it never was meant for networks, which is the prime concept of Plan9 ("Build a Unix out of a lot of little systems, not a system out of a lot of little Unixes").
    Actually, the original Amiga (in this instance, compare with the "Dreamcast" part of the proposal) was intended as a games console, and the basis for AmigaOS, Tripos, (compare with the Inferno/Plan 9 part of the proposal) was originally developed as a network distributed operating system. Which is partially why AmigaOS is so IPC based, with files read by sending packets to handlers that send packets to device drivers which, ok, is all hidden from you because you'd use dos.library anyway to hide the details of what was going on underneath.

    Most users never got to saw AmigaOS as a network based operating system because Amiga didn't include any networking hardware until late in the day and left the networking side of the operating system out of AmigaOS.

    I'd see the Dreamcast with a kick-arse OS, be it Plan 9 or Inferno, neither of which I've delved into beyond the documentation so can't comment too much on, or AROS, Be, Athena, etc, as being a potentially hot, nice to program, cheap multimedia console. There's no such thing on the market at the moment. It'd be wonderful to see one come out.
    Keep attacking good things as "communist"

  • I'm guessing that you're referring to the Indrema console:
  • Yeah, but some peopld don't want a computer in their living room. The DC is already there, it has more then enough power, you don't need a whole other machine.

    I'm speaking more in terms of people that already have a DC. If you have one already it's the cost of the ethernet adapter, some cable, and once the sofware to do all this is around just a CD to burn. That's got to be less then the cost of a whole new machine with a TV out card.

  • I am a huge fan of Plan 9, and I'm sure I'll be modded down for saying this, but... what is the fucking point of this? Dreamcast users have no need for Plan 9, and Plan 9 users in need of a cheap NC can do much better. By the way -- just because Plan 9 will run on those two CPUs doesn't mean it will run on the Dreamcast... you're forgetting about the graphics chipset, et cetera. Plan 9 doesn't have very stellar or far-reaching support on any architecture right now. IMNSHO, the developers should spend more time enhancing Plan 9's hardware support on SPARC and x86 platforms instead of porting to others. (Before it turns into another NetBSD, ie "runs on everything imaginable, but no one gives a shit".)

    Porting your favorite niche OS to a toaster may be a fun way to spend a few weekends, but is it really valid material for a "news" site visted by millions of Windows users and dozens of Linux-wannabes every day?

    I know I shouldn't expect any better, and I should just stop visiting the site if all I'm going to do is bitch, but wtf is up with Slashdot lately? Most of the front-page stories in the past month would have only ranked as "Quickie" material a year ago. I don't believe that there's a lack of non-trivial news. So what's the deal? Are you guys depressed over your worthless VA stock? Do you miss Hemos, since he left for the UK to become a FreeBSD user? [] Or are busy writing a version of Slash that actually works?

  • You make wonderful points about there not being a need to port the OS Dreamcast.

    Betcha wouldn't get modded down if you didn't rant at the end either.... oh well...

  • by fatphil ( 181876 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2001 @06:47AM (#449644) Homepage
    SH3 is fairly common in the embedded telecomms world as a general purpose processor. (Nowhere near the variaous ARMs and Moto processors though, and I'm not talking about the DSP side either - Moto and TI and AD have that side sown up).

    -- Real Men Don't Use Porn. -- Morality In Media Billboards
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I know they're working on a port of Plan 9 to the iPaq. Some WinCE devices use SH-3/SH-4 chips, so I'm guessing the real reason is for another port to WinCE devices, to make portable terminals that they can carry around the office. Now I think the Sega Saturn used the SH-3 processor (predessor to the SH-4), so if SH means Dreamcast, does it mean Saturn, too?
  • by slim ( 1652 )
    I have never tried Plan9, but I read a white paper on it a while ago. Isn't one of the innovations of the OS that you can transparently run processes on remote machines over the network, regardless of architecture? Sort of like a remote X client, but neater?

    In which case, a headless Dreamcast on the network would be a prefectly acceptable workhorse for a few of your processes...
  • it was about Dante's Inferno! Dante was there in the outer part of hell, gettin' it on with Plato and his greek buddies. It was sick. And to know that you bastards want it on your Dreamcasts is just fuckin' queer! Get a life! Go piss on an electric fence! Get a date! Get laid! Get out of your parent's basement! Just fucking GO AWAY!

  • who's this atrowe guy? people seem to think I'm him, and/or that I'm you. of course, some of those people have been smokin' a bit to much crack, but that's beside the point.

    really, its all kinda funny.


  • Yes, it does. And here are detailed instructions on how do do it, using Linux and cdrecord:

    Dreamcast Programming []

    I have done it for the DreamSNES [] Port and I know it works. Just create a directory on your hardrive with the DreamSNES and the ROMS. Make an ISO image using mkisofs and burn away!

    I know this will also work with the Net/BSD for SH3/4 but I haven't got that working yet. I want to get a keyboard and broadband adaptor.


  • The DreamCast is powered by a Hitachi SuperH processor, not a MIPS.

    (For the Linux on SuperH team)
  • thank you.

    you may have saved my life, or was that your life? I can't remember.

  • 1. Ok sorry, I'm in a death wish sort of mood over the library thing.

    2. The fact is every other article I see a hundred posts kinda similar to yours. It pisses me off because normally I'm in the mood to help and I see comments where people are litterally beating each other over the head, not because they envy what the other guy has, but because they'd never actually use that product they're fighting over.
  • Burn, baby, burn
    Dreamcast Inferno
    Burn, baby, burn

  • Hm... PS2 pushes 6.2 GFLOPS and a Memory Bus Bandwidth of 3.2 GB per second kicks the living crap out of any x86 intel based PC on the planet.

    These little boxes pack a hell-of-a lot of punch man... not only that they put it where it counts...

    Would you like a Python based alternative to PHP/ASP/JSP?

  • The dreamcast lacks the competitive features in this arena. Sure, it's got an artificially-low price of $99, which is like the iOpener- sold at a loss with the goal of making money off licensing fees (subscription fees in the case of iOpener). But it doesn't have the hardware, support for hardware, or features that products like Tivo have. Tivo is poised to really dominate the set-top box arena. It should be trivial for the company to add a web browsing interface, keyboard, mouse, etc. Just like the iOpener, if Sega found that a substantial number of people were buying the dreamcast to convert it to some use that doesn't net them licensing fees from game makers, then they'll quickly squelch that little party.

    The other compelling aspect of the tivo is that it's running on x86 linux. Porting games and apps should be a breeze once tivo offers an api for the interface. This is an advantage tivo has over web tv. In order to get games and other apps on webTV, microsoft is going to have to start from a standstill in convincing developers to work on the platform. "But Bill, we've already got our coders working on the WinCE, PocketPC, X-box, Win2k versions of SuperBlammo Invaders. Now we've got to also get this thing to deploy on webTV? Ok, if you promise this is the next big thing..."

  • The games for it are just fine, if not great. If you don't believe me, pick up Shenmue, MSR, and Sonic Adventure.

    As for the case, yeah, you're right.

    But there's just as many Nintendo and Sony zealots, so that argument doesn't hold water.
  • Yes it does play CD-Rs...however, in my experiece, I have yet to get it to play CD-RWs.
  • IIRC the TiVo uses one of the embedded PowerPC variants, not x86.
  • The Amiga had the CD32 unit which had games and I think a few educational apps. Needless to say, it flopped, but was a pretty cool system. Think of the Atari XE gaming system.
  • Which is why you want open-source OSes on your DC too. Face it -- the Dreamcast is dead, and that's why it only costs $99. But at the same time that's a great incentive to buy one and start hacking away. Open Source OS means that Dreamcast owners might still be getting new games (at least as shareware/freeware) years from now.

    BTW, does anyone know if the Dreamcast CD-ROM can read CD-RWs (at least the unhacked ones that haven't had CD support removed)?

  • not GNU, but still open source.
  • Plan 9 on the Dreamcast would be a beautiful thing, actually...

    I've been contemplating the old /. joke about "I'd love to see a beowulf of those things!". At $160 a pop ($99 + the price of a broadband adapter) a Dreamcast could be an excellent network computer or node in a cluster. I don't quite remember the specs on the thing, but they're quite impressive, and you can do all your file storage via NFS (or, on Plan 9, just using the distributed capabilities of the system)...

  • Hang on, i thought that the SH series were a licensed modified version of the MIPS core?
  • I've been thinking I might do that myself, actually; I'm not a big Basic fan at all, but I do have source code to an old Basic interpreter, and I'd like to do a bit of DC development, and it *is* traditional to have Basic on old computers like that...

    So, if anyone who happens to be reading this happens to have a CD-R, I've been thinking of doing a Dreamcast Basic but I don't have the ability to download either netBSD/dreamcast or Dreamcast Linux; contact me if you're interested...

  • . It might sound far fetched but PSX2 has all the power and memory of a medium pc, plus it has a hard disk. think about it...

    I don't know where you bought your PS2, but MINE doesn't have a hard disk. Sony says they are coming out with one, but that's a bit different.

    Josh Sisk

  • You are absolutely right. I forgot about that. Ok. So there isn't so much available software for it (this coming from a SuSE PPC 7.0 user), but still it would be more than webTV or this crazy dreamcast port.

  • by deno ( 814 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2001 @10:24AM (#449667) Homepage
    I do not really care about Plan 9 (then again, why not), but a cheap game console with integrated network card, which could also be used as an X-terminal would have my full attention.

    Even an console which would just offer me ssh-shell would be interesting, since most of the time I just use pine. X would be better though.

  • Could a DC owner tell me: are they completely silent when not reading CDs? Are there any moving parts whatsoever apart from in the GD-ROM thingy?

    Also, are the things warm to the touch when they've been switched on for a long time?

  • Well like I said to the other comment.. If you already have a Dreamcast. And somebody came out with a CD that gave you set top box programs (all nice and opensource) they would take off. Linux and NetBSD already run on it, it can be to far behind to have a nice email app and web browsing app.
  • N64 costs about 150 bucks and PS2 is yours for 550 (yes you CAN get one here)
    ...and they wonder why so many folks in here are into pir8 stuff and warez
    BTW i've seen SNES in local Tesco with 150 price tag
    * all prices in USD
  • um, Plan 9 isn't based around WORM storage, really. the file server itself is designed to run with an optical jukebox, and does some really neat things with it, but Plan 9 (even the above-mentioned file server) can be run off regular magnetic disk (or out of nvram, or off CD, or whatever) just fine. Plan 9 (and Inferno) also doesn't care whether that storage is local or not, making it much nicer for a set-top box i don't want to store thigns on, and want to be able to swap out on demand.
  • hey, I use it. i'm osting the message from Charon, the Inferno web browser, running hosted on Plan 9. Inferno and Plan 9 are the only OSs i use (aside from a remote Solaris box once in a while).
    more to the point, i think the focus of Vita Nuova's original statement was getting Inferno running on the SH[34], not the DreamCast specifically. the SH[34] chips are used in a whole bunch of WinCE and other handheld devices. there's also a NetBSD port (no, really?) to those chips, and various things that use them.
  • i doubt Vita Nuova plans on making much money with Inferno on Dreamcast, no. the SH[34] chip is used in loads of handheld devices (last i checked, the majority of WinCE devices were SH[34] devices, with a large chunk being MIPS). the DreamCast was suggested (by a /. reader, not by Vita Nuova) as a reference platform for doing the port, which would have the nice side effect of getting us a really cool OS for our DreamCasts.
  • you're kidding, right? ah, i'm continually amazed by the incredibly insular nature of the tech community, and even more by the tech-elite community.
    my mother doesn't have a clue what linux is. neither does my sister. nor anyone my mother works with (a bunch of elementry school teachers). neither has most of the world, or even most of america. that's a far cry from "just about every one".
    the average person doesn't know anything about operating systems, doesn't care, and shouldn't need to. if people are ever going to buy set top boxes, it won't be "because it runs linux". people want it to do certain things, in a way they can understand. the technical details are beyond most people, and that's fine: i don't know the details of how my car works, but i know i want it to do certain things. if Inferno can provide a good interface to functions people want, "the average Joe" isn't going to care whether it's Inferno or linux.
  • a few corrections.
    first, the DreamCast does indeed have a storage medium: two, in fact. it's got a fairly large read-only one in the form of a CD-ROM drive, and a fairly small read-write one in the form of NVRAM.

    also, even if it had no persistant storage, that doesn't detract it from being an excelent network computer. ever used an NCD X-terminal or a diskless workstation? typically, these things even get their kernel over a network (some NCDs use PCMCIA memory cards instead), and those that need more get their file system over the network. this is an established practice, and it is actualy a plus for network computers, reducing maintenance costs, time spent on a specific peice of hardware, and total cost of ownership. it also makes admining the boxes a lot more fun.

    and it is neither fair nor acurate to say Inferno is "far less advanced" then Linux. it doesn't have as much stuff, i'll grant that. and some of that "stuff" is even good: wide applications support, diverse hardware (specifically peripherials) support. but plenty isn't (X, for starters, or NFS... i know they do useful things, and are better than having nothing, but they're not the best answers to the questions). Inferno has much better solutions to a specific set of problems (see Inferno's draw interface, or the file protocol, Styx), and is much smaller, more consistantly designed, and easier to understand to boot.

    and to clarify the price issue, Inferno can be had for free, with the exception of some core OS code. that means i can ship DreamCast CDs around for free just fine, thank you. and i can ship out source for most of the system (including every app) to go with it.

    hey, maybe it's not for you. but to say that makes it a weak story is a little narrow minded, wouldn't you say?
  • It says on the logo on my Dreamcast box, SuperH - MIPS. Thanks for the second correction.

    And if you think the Dreamcast doesn't have an sh4 you're wrong. Linux/NetBSD for DC is a novalty, but it's cool enough to mess around with.

  • There is a cooling fan inside, mine is very quiet though until it reads the gdrom. Also its only noisy with certain games or parts of games, where it has to load lots of little files and it goes crazy. As for temp, depends on what game, if its reading the gdrom a lot it can get hot, if its not it should stay pretty cool. My DC never gets that hot, but I heard of people saying their DCs get extremely hot in a short period with any game, that may be a fauly system or something because mine is fine (got it nov 1999)

    hope that helps

  • As usual, I stand corrected. You make some wonderful points anothy. Thanks for setting me straight.


  • not without tricks like adjusting the pot so the laser inensity is raised.
  • Wouldn't the DC make a good ethernet internet appliance? WebTV etc are slightly cheaper but if you already have a cable modem $160 ($99 console, $59 BB adaptor, $2 burned OS CD) is a good deal for an ethernet-connected netappliance.
  • you might notice it's a port to the processor not the machine
  • Thanks for the info. I was really interested in making a router with absolutely no moving parts (once it has booted and read the stuff from gdrom into memory). Shame it has a cooling fan. NetBSD will be ported to the PS2 soon, but that has a massive cooling fan after all the problems with the original Playstations overheating.

You are in a maze of little twisting passages, all different.