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Advice about SPARCStation IPX

Discussion in 'Sun Hardware' started by EKP, Jan 20, 2006.

  1. EKP

    EKP Guest

    Hi all,
    I am retrocomputers lover, and I recently got a Sun IPX.
    I don't know very much about Sun's hardware.
    The problem is that the machine doesn't boot and it even doesn not
    print anything at all: monitor is blank.
    Moreover monitor's led initially becomes green then it starts
    blinking... as if just no signal reaches the monitor.
    I thought that video board is not working. Am i right or wrong?
    I tried to remove Ram, and reinsert every module step by step, to check
    for damaged banks, but nothing changed.

    Now, as you surely know, video board is itegrated in the mainboard. So
    I wanted to understand firt of all if it's possible that this problem
    is causated from the video board, or if there can be another cause.
    Then If it's only a video problem, I'd like to know if there's a way to
    solve it.
    I mean... if another video board is pluggable to the expansion's
    slots... or... i don't know...

    any help will be appreciated.
    thanks a lot in advance

    EKP, Jan 20, 2006
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  2. HI,
    Try and connect a terminal program to the serial port A on the IPX and
    unplug the keyboard.

    A guess is the NVRAM(CMOS battery backedup) memory is faulty, I have a
    bunch of IPC/IPX and and the all have been in a need for a new memory.

    Michael Laajanen, Jan 20, 2006
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  3. I hate to say it, but I think the best action is to throw it. It is very
    old and I doubt you will find it too pleasant to use.

    I am not one of those people that has to have the latest and greatest.
    Main main box is only 4 x 450 MHz and I have other machines with
    processors from 195 to 400 MHz. But I think the IPC is just a bit too
    old to bother with.

    I suspect you could find a newer machine for nothing, or perhaps a few
    $/$'s or whatever your local currency is.

    I'm sure others will disagree with me however.

    Dave K


    Please note my email address changes periodically to avoid spam.
    It is always of the form: [email protected] Hitting reply will work
    for a couple of months only. Later set it manually. The month is
    always written in 3 letters (e.g. Jan, not January etc)
    Dave (from the UK), Jan 20, 2006
  4. OK, its an IPX, but I think the same comment is still valid.

    Dave K


    Please note my email address changes periodically to avoid spam.
    It is always of the form: [email protected] Hitting reply will work
    for a couple of months only. Later set it manually. The month is
    always written in 3 letters (e.g. Jan, not January etc)
    Dave (from the UK), Jan 20, 2006
  5. Check out docs.sun.com - there may be something there still on the IPX.
    Also look at www.sunshack.org. He has links that might be appropriate
    for you.
    You have to wait quite a few minutes for ANYTHING to appear on screen.
    Also, that screen must support 80x34 text mode. Sun monitors do...
    Even with graphics up dont expect much. 1152x900 but only 256 colors.
    Better to run X remotely on one of these.
    Its probably OK. If not a CG6 card can be eBayed for next to 0 Euros.
    Someone mentioned serial cable usage which is a good suggestion.
    Plug a null modem cable into serial port A. Monitor the output with
    TeraTerm or even HyperTerm. Cabling? An old "high speed" Mac
    cable works perfectly if you can find one.
    I dont agree that this machine is worthless. Such a box can still do
    useful work, more the most recent Wintel XP "Pro" box if you cut it
    down to
    same amount of RAM (64 MB or less) I suspect.
    Solaris 7 runs on it which aint too bad if you keep the box firewalled.
    [email protected], Jan 20, 2006
  6. EKP

    John Reddie Guest

    I'm running a Classic (next model on) as a single database web-server
    with Debian 3.1, Apache 1.3, MySQL4 and PHP4 - it's slow but for the
    occasional queries it serves it's robust and sits unnoticed in a corner!

    I agree there's a certain satisfaction to be had from keeping these
    retro things going, and show me a Windows box or even a Mac of that age
    that can hack it with (almost) the latest software and still do
    something useful... :)

    RAM was the critical issue to get anything useful running. Mine has 72Mb
    out of a possible 96, I think 64 should be seen as a minimum for
    anything like my configuration.

    Now if anyone has some 16Mb SIMMs lying around... ???

    I think the IPX/IPC will be similar and if I'm not mistaken I think I
    read somewhere that there's a potential cpu upgrade for these older
    machines (Weitek???) that takes them past the Classic/LX spec machines.
    But it'll still be slow!!!

    John Reddie, Jan 20, 2006
  7. I wouldn't chuck it, but then I like old stuff. This is the deciding
    factor, really: are you wanting to use it for fun, because it's an old
    computer, or do you just want a computer to use? I had a Commodore 32
    which was great fun to use, but ultimately I ran out of space and gave
    it to a guy who collects old computers. It depends on your interests.

    I had the same problem with a SPARCstation 4 a year or two ago. It
    turned out that one of the three RAM modules was bad, but you say
    you've already checked that? When I got my Ultra 2 I gave the
    SPARCstation 4 to a guy who employed it as some kind of server. It was
    only 110 MHz but he was still using it last year.

    Best wishes,

    christopher.tidy, Jan 20, 2006
  8. EKP

    DoN. Nichols Guest

    You don't mention lights blinking on the keyboard, so I'm going
    to presume that you don't have a Sun keyboard connected to it. In that
    case, the behavior you have observed is normal. It initializes the
    monitor (when the LED turns green), and then shuts it back down when it
    discovers that there is no keyboard, and shifts all input and output to
    the TTYA serial port. (IIRC, on that box, the two serial ports share a
    single DB-25 connector, with TTYA being on the normal pins, and a
    special connector needed to access TTYB.

    Hook up some other computer or terminal to it with a null-modem
    cable (connect pin 7 straight across to both, pin 2 on one to pin 3 on
    the other and vice versa. I *think* that you may need the CTS or DSR
    terminals pulled true by default as well.

    And -- the monitor which you use (once you add a Sun keyboard)
    needs to be able to display 1152x900 resolution, as that is the default
    of the video card.
    Yes -- you can install an alternative framebuffer (the Sun term
    for graphics cards) and use it by default. But I suspect that the primary
    problem is that you don't have a Sun keyboard attached, so it is
    switching over to talk to the serial ports instead.

    Good Luck,
    DoN. Nichols, Jan 20, 2006
  9. EKP

    EKP Guest

    Really thanks to everyone answered my questions in a so short time!
    I'll try to do everything you suggested.
    I'm going to get a mouse and keyboard very soon, and I'll try to get
    the null-modem serial cable in the meanwhile.
    Thanks again.

    ...and of course if you have other advices i'll be grateful!

    Thanks again.

    Bye, Lele
    EKP, Jan 20, 2006
  10. Usually unnecessary. I've done a lot of work with "3 wire" cables (only
    TX, RX, and GND).
    Darren Dunham, Jan 20, 2006
  11. EKP

    Winston Guest

    I believe it was the "pizza boxes" (Sparcstations 1 and 2) that had the
    DB-25 connectors that needed a splitter cable if you wanted to use both.
    The IPX has separate DIN-8 plugs for TTYA and TTYB, so you needed either a
    "hardware flow control capable" Apple Mac cable or a Sun cable to convert
    to a DB-25 connector.

    I agree that if you don't have a Sun keyboard, monitor, and 13W3 cable,
    unplugging the Sun keyboard and using TTYA is probably your best bet for
    getting started. Try 9600 bps, even parity, and 1 stop bit first.
    Usually, but not exactly. The on-board cg6 (GX) expected there to be a
    Sun 13W3 cable connecting it to the monitor. That cable has three "sense
    bits" which the monitor was expected to use to indicate its capabilities to
    the GX/cg6 framebuffer. Resolution is determined at boot up / reset time
    from the sense pins. EEPROM/setenv overrides are ignored.
    13W3 cable pinout (signal type: analog)
    Pin A1 - Red / Red Ground
    Pin A2 - Green / Green Ground
    Pin A3 - Blue / Blue Ground
    Pin 1 - N/C
    Pin 2 - N/C
    Pin 3 - Sense 2
    Pin 4 - Sense Return
    Pin 5 - Composite Sync
    Pin 6 - N/C
    Pin 7 - N/C
    Pin 8 - Sense 1
    Pin 9 - Sense 0
    Pin 10 - Composite Sync Return

    Monitor Sense Bits Defined:
    Value S2 S1 S0
    0 GND GND GND 1024x768 77hz
    1 GND GND 1600x1280 76hz
    2 GND GND 1280x1024 76hz
    3 GND 1152x900 66hz
    4 GND GND 1152x900 76hz 19"
    5 GND 1024x768 60hz
    6 GND 1152x900 76hz 16-17"
    7 1152x900 66hz
    where GND is pin 4.
    If you use a 13W3 to DB9 adapter, I think you get case "7" (since none of
    the sense lines will be grounded).
    Agreed. The IPX is designed so that any frame buffer you've added as an
    SBUS card will be "found" as the system default before the on-board frame
    buffer. Some of these other frame buffers also obey EEPROM settings.
    For example, the TGX+ frame buffer can do up to:

    setenv output-device screen:r1280x1024x76

    See http://www.obsolyte.com/sunFAQ/faq_framebuffer/framebuffer.html
    for more.
    Winston, Jan 20, 2006
  12. Stokely/SunHELP have a list (although I don't see a SS1 on
    there.. same as SS2? and the SS5 stuff seems inconsistent)


    Nether the IPX or the SS2 use a dual signal serial port.

    I always forget about the DIN-8 ports. I used to have a ton of useful
    cables from old Mac serial work, but I'll bet I'd have a hard time
    finding one now...
    Darren Dunham, Jan 21, 2006
  13. HI,

    Yes there was a CPU upgrade(2xclock) for IPC/SS2, I purchased a couple
    of them must have been 93-94 I guess.

    Did come with a very nice and expensive CPU mounting tools which
    included a screwdriver and a flashlight, I stillhave the flashlight :)

    For normal work Idid not notice that much speed improvement but during
    compilation and simulation it almost did make it twice as fast.

    48MB is max RAM on a IPC and 64 on a IPX/SS2.

    Michael Laajanen, Jan 21, 2006
  14. HI,
    Hook up the serial line and see what you get using kermit or similar
    from your linux box.

    I don't know where you are located I am in Sweden and I have brand new
    CMOS memorys which I could post to you if you need one.

    Michael Laajanen, Jan 21, 2006
  15. EKP

    EKP Guest

    I really didn't think a so big help! :)
    You all are great.
    I'm in Italy, Rome.
    By the way before disturbing you I want to try to connect with serial
    I hope to find a Mac cable or I'll make one my own as soon as possible.

    Thanks again,

    EKP, Jan 21, 2006
  16. HI,
    Almost perfect, I you would be in Milano(Arese) it would be perfect
    since I now and then need spareparts for my Alfa's ;)
    Let me know if you need assistance in some way, anything shipped out of
    the house is a blessing for my wife ;)

    Michael Laajanen, Jan 21, 2006
  17. EKP wrote:

    |> By the way before disturbing you I want to try to connect with serial line.
    |> I hope to find a Mac cable or I'll make one my own as soon as possible.

    Look on www.stokely.com for "Unix Serial Port Resources".
    Volker Borchert, Jan 22, 2006
  18. EKP

    DoN. Nichols Guest

    Probably so -- but IIRC the earlier systems wanted to see CTS or
    DSR (I forget which) from the terminal, or from a jumper wire on the
    connector to the computer's RS-232 port.

    IIRC, on at least some of them, you could convince it to ignore
    that pin, once you could talk to the OBP -- but if you need the serial
    port to talk to it, you may be in a catch-22. :) That is why I
    suggested pulling CTS or DSR true.

    DoN. Nichols, Jan 22, 2006
  19. EKP

    DoN. Nichols Guest

    Not just them. My LX (same basic case style as the IPX, but
    newer system and different connector arrangement) uses the split-use
    DB-25 as well. I never had an IPX, but I did run an IPC for a while.
    Yes -- but as you show in what I'm trimming, if you don't have a
    Sun monitor (or have an older one with BNCs and a separate cable) you
    don't have the sense pins connected to anything, so the default is

    [ ... ]
    Aha -- a good resource.

    DoN. Nichols, Jan 22, 2006
  20. EKP

    Rob Stampfli Guest

    Heavens, those Classics ans LXs are still quite viable in
    some server applications. Unfortunately, the IPX is probably
    at end-of-life: It tops out at Solaris 7, whereas the Classics
    will go up to Solaris 9, and it only takes 64 Mb of memory.
    If you really want to run an IPX today, I'd look at loading
    one of the free *BSDs, perhaps NetBSD?

    I run several Classic/LXs in various capacities. They have a
    small footprint when run headless, draw only about 30 watts,
    are rock solid, and for small sites handle email, simple web
    serving, and serving up DNS with aplomb.

    Were you aware that the first slots (physically the 1st and 4th)
    can take a pair of 32 Meg memory DIMMs (as long as it is with
    parity)? That allows up to 128 Meg total on the box -- a quite
    serviceable amount if you aren't running an X-server.

    Sure, they certainly are slow -- something that must be taken
    into account. Any an attempt to run something like PHP or a
    DB engine is likely to be painful. But, don't sell these
    machines short -- in the right environment they can still be
    real workhorses.

    Rob Stampfli, Jan 23, 2006
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