One thing that I consider fun but wouldn't necessarily recommend to other people is running GNU/Linux on "interesting" hardware. Most of the time it's old 386 stuff that either my Dad or one of the places I work was getting rid of, but in early 2000 I did some "under the table" consulting work and was paid with a Sun Ultra5 workstation. The u5 is an interesting beast - if you're familiar with old Sun hardware it won't look anything like what you're used to, but if you're familiar with PC hardware you'll feel right at home. It uses PC memory, PCI bus cards, IDE hard drives, PC monitors, and in general doesn't feel as solid as the old Sun stuff. On the other hand, replacements and upgrades (especially disk and memory) should be very cheap.
Here are my notes from getting Debian Woody running on the u5. It's still a work in progress.
I couldn't find woody media for the sparc (tho I didn't look very hard) - apt-get makes upgrades so easy I thought that I'd start from the potato media. It turns out that the floppy and
cdrom are both FUBAR so you've got to use the RARP/TFTP method. Floppies don't boot, and the cdrom boots but panics when it can't mount the root filesystem.
set up RARP, ARP, and TFTP. Luckily I already had TFTP set up to support my diskless LTSP X terminal, so that wasn't a big deal, except that the U5 asks for a somewhat unique file. In my case it was
although evidently it varies from machine to machine. Don't bother with BOOTP, it appears as if RARP is necessary. BTW, if RARP doesn't work then the openboot proms will let you know, but if TFTP fails they just hang there and don't give you any feedback.
You need a pretty good monitor for the u5. I have a 15" which claims to be able to do 1280x1024 but it was totally confused. My 19" ViewSonic had no problem, though. Turns out it runs at 1152x864, 61.5Khz, and 66 Hz.
The on-board ethernet controller is called a "Happy Meal" controller and it's recognized by the kernel at boot time. I'd like to run two ethernet cards, though, so I can use the machine as a firewall. I've got two different cards - a Kingston KNE110TX
(which uses a clone of the Digital Tulip chip) and a totally generic card which uses an Intel chip which is (supposedly) supported by the eepro100 driver. No such luck. The version of
that comes with Debian's 2.2.19 kernel doesn't seem to do much besides make every program that uses the controller dump core.
(Postscript: this machine just flat-out died not long after I got Debian up and running so this is all I learned about using it)
- 01 Jan 2002