Up Overview Hardware Sparc20 Ultra5 Lessons


A few years ago I installed Solaris 9 on a pair of Sun Sparcstation 20's and a pair of Sun Ultra 5 workstations using the CD install. The supported hardware list for Solaris 10 drops the SS20. I've intended to install Debian on both workstations for some time, so this has given me a further incentive. After all, Debian has supported Sun workstations for a long time.

This page is a chronology of this attempt and some notes to remind myself how to do this again. For example if one of the hard drive's fail. It's starting to click so I know it's not much longer until it does.


Details of SS20 and Ultra5 Workstations
Type Model CPU RAM HD
sun4m SS20 2 X 390Z50 320 2 x 9G
sun4m SS20 1 X 390Z55 320 9G
sun4u Ultra 5 UltraSPARC-IIi 333MHz 256 9G
sun4u Ultra 5 UltraSPARC-IIi 333MHz 256 9G

Each workstation has a single integrated network interface. All four workstations are physically stacked on top of each other with a single Sun monitor, keyboard and mouse shared thru a KVM switch. The NIC for both SS20's runs at 10Mbps while the NIC for both Ultra 5's runs at 100Mbps.

April, 2007

Since I installed Solaris 9 via CD-ROM (a few years ago), it would make sense that installing Debian would involve downloading a CD image, making a CD and installing it. Of course you would be mistaken.

First, I downloaded the latest RC2 image for Etch which is still in Testing. This was dated 17 MAR 2007. On the SS20 after a full power cycle and issuing the boot cdrom command an error about missing the Sun disk label appears and that's it. The SS20 does have two graphics cards so it may be trying to output on the card I don't have hooked up. So on to the Ultra 5. This one gets a little farther, letting me enter expert or rescue to select the install type but then it drops me back to the boot prompt, rather abruptly. Perhaps it's not finding the appropriate 64-bit kernel to execute?

I'd like to try the network boot option. So this weekend I'll look into the net boot steps and try again.

I'd also like to look into setting up a serial boot. That way if my one remaining Sun monitor dies I'll still be able to boot and install via a serial console.

I've downloaded the stable version of Debian, the net install CD dated 19 FEB 2007. I'll try this first, then try the net boot.

General Setup For Sun Serial Console

Since using the Sun attached keyboard and monitor seem to cause problems, perhaps becuase they're connected thru a KVM switch, my next attempt is to attempt this with a serial console. If nothing else it will allow me to log all the output and analyze it later instead of staring at the screen as everything whips by.

Both the SS20 and Ultra5 use a DB25 connector for ttya. On the Ultra5 this is a standard connector, while on the SS20 it combines ttya and ttyb. However, the SS20 will work with a standard DB25 serial cable but will only give access to ttya. To use ttyb on the SS20 requires a special "Y" cable. The part number is X985A or 530-1869 and it runs about $40.

I purchased a 6 foot null modem cable with a DB25 male connector on one end and a DB9 female on the other. The Provantage SKU number is CBTC01F. The Cables To Go part number is 03019. It cost $1.27.

For the following testing and install I used a Debian x86 laptop and minicom.

  1. Changed the auto-boot? option in the OpenBoot PROM.
    # eeprom auto-boot\?=false
  2. Now power-off the system.
    # shutdown -y -i5
  3. At the OpenBoot PROM prompt enable ttya temporarily.
    ok ttya io
  4. After confirming this works, set the input and output devices to ttya.
    ok setenv input-device ttya
    ok setenv output-device ttya
  5. Insert the CD and execute boot cdrom.

By default ttya is setup as 9600,8,n,1,-

SparcStation 20 Attempt

Tried using a sarge stable and an etch testing CD.

Results of sarge and etch on SS20 #1.

SPARCstation 20 MP (2 X 390Z50), Keyboard Present
ROM Rev. 2.15, 320 MB memory installed, Serial #xxxxxxx.
Ethernet address x:x:x:x:x:x, Host ID: xxxxxxxx.

Testing Memory
Initializing Memory 
Type  help  for more information
<#0> ok boot cdrom
Boot device: /iommu/sbus/espdma@f,400000/esp@f,800000/sd@6,0:d  File and args: 
Can't read disk label.
Can't open disk label package

Can't open boot device

<#0> ok 

Results of sarge and etch on SS20 #2.

SPARCstation 20 (1 X 390Z55), Keyboard Present
ROM Rev. 2.15, 320 MB memory installed, Serial #xxxxxxx.
Ethernet address x:x:x:x:x:x, Host ID: xxxxxxxx.

Testing Memory
Initializing Memory
Type  help  for more information
ok boot cdrom
Boot device: /iommu/sbus/espdma@f,400000/esp@f,800000/sd@6,0:d  File and args: 

ok reset
Resetting ...

Analysis of Failure

It appears to start reading the CD then stalls. There is no output on the framebuffer or bw video sources. The input device reverts back to keyboard and no input from the serial console is accepted.

Ultra 5 Attempt

Results of sarge on Ultra5 #2.

Sun Ultra 5/10 UPA/PCI (UltraSPARC-IIi 333MHz), Keyboard Present
OpenBoot 3.15, 256 MB memory installed, Serial #xxxxxxxx.
Ethernet address x:x:x:x:x:x, Host ID: xxxxxxxx.

Initializing Memory 
ok boot cdrom
Boot device: /pci@1f,0/pci@1,1/ide@3/cdrom@2,0:f  File and args: 
SILO Version 1.4.9
Allocated 8 Megs of memory at 0x40000000 for kernel
Loaded kernel version 2.4.27
Loading initial ramdisk (3027316 bytes at 0x10800000 phys, 0x40C00000 virt)...
Remapping the kernel... done.
Booting Linux...
PROMLIB: Sun IEEE Boot Prom 3.15.2 1998/11/10 10:35
Linux version 2.4.27-3-sparc64 (steve@brick) (gcc version 3.3.5 (Debian 1:3.3.5-13)) #1 Fri Jun 2 07:35:41 UTC 2006
Ethernet address: x:x:x:x:x:x
On node 0 totalpages: 31885
zone(0): 49047 pages.
zone(1): 0 pages.
zone(2): 0 pages.
Found CPU 0 (node=f006d098,mid=0)
Found 1 CPU prom device tree node(s).
Kernel command line: root=/dev/rd/0 cdrom ramdisk_size=16384 devfs=mount rw
Calibrating delay loop... 665.19 BogoMIPS
Memory: 250432k available (1880k kernel code, 296k data, 160k init) [fffff80000000000,0000000017f2e000]

And we're off!

Took all defaults when possible.

Wiped the hard drive and setup everything in one partition.

Did not select any additional packages, going for a minimal system without running X or any servers.

After reboot, tried to enable getty's on tty1..6 but doesn't work.

Change PROM values back to keyboard and screen for in/out devices and commented out the line for a getty on ttyS0. Now on reboot I get getty's on tty1..6.

Installed minicom, connected the null modem cable to ttyb and setup a console to SS20.

What We Learned

On the Ultra5, with Solaris on the hard drive, you need to drop down to the OpenBoot PROM and set the input/output devices to ttya before you can install Debian from CD.

On the SS20's we may have CD drive issues. Net boot may be the best option.

Up Overview Hardware Sparc20 Ultra5 Lessons