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Sun SPARCStation 20

Discussion in 'Overclocking' started by ~misfit~, Jun 26, 2004.

  1. ~misfit~

    ~misfit~ Guest

    I have been given one of the above. No box, just mobo (on tray), PSU, 128MB
    RAM, CPU (with 1MB cache) and am told it works.

    Yeah, like I know anything about these things! I'd like to get it going. The
    guy who (very kindly) posted it to me is unavailable at the moment, out of
    the country on business. I've been driving myself batty all night playing
    with it, following his instructions (using a serial cable/terminal client to
    monitor it from Windows), I have no monitor, keyboard etc. for it.

    I can find virtually nothing of use on the net about it. Sun's site isn't
    that helpful, I've downloaded the manual but I really need a technician's
    manual, not a users manual. The only usenet groups I can see are more about
    porting Linux for it, not about hardware. I'm sure these guys don't have a
    mobo and various SCSI drives/PSU/etc spread all over their test bench.

    Anyone have any ideas about where I can find out what I need to know to get
    it running, even posting? He'll be back in a while and will no doubt help me
    but I've just spent hours messing with this thing and am impatient.

    Thank you.
    ~misfit~, Jun 26, 2004
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  2. ~misfit~

    Hippy Paul Guest

    Sun it seems do not give out much info as they require you to have mega
    expensive service contracts; software lease; hardware lease etc - and they
    will take care of it all - for a large sum of money.

    Don't know if this is still relevant, but I had a sun sparc (i386) quite a
    few years ago - everything was custom made by sun - even things like the
    keyboard (with mouse attachment - ala Mac) seemed unique and a *requirement*
    to get it to post - and the only thing it would run was the Sun OS (we are
    pre-linux here) - though it had a dedicated 8186 cpu (yes 8186) to run
    Windows 2.0 on once inside the OS. I had the full set of manuals - the
    technician's manual was fairly crap not that much differerence to the user
    manual - just telling you how to configure the OS nothing much about
    hardware - it seems if something goes wrong with the hardware - call Sun...

    not much help I know.
    Hippy Paul, Jun 26, 2004
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  3. ~misfit~

    Juhan Leemet Guest

    Sparc20s are really nice machines. Nice case, too. Too bad you didn't get
    one. No reason it won't work on a bench, though. Probably spewing EMI.
    When you get to read the startup messages on the serial console, it should
    tell you which CPU speed you have. An SM71 (75MHz) SuperSPARC is quite
    respectable for these machines. Higher speed Ross CPUs are more rare. You
    can put 2 CPUs (even 4 if you use dual Ross modules) to play with SMP.

    Sun machines will run very happily "headless" (without screen) and without
    keyboards, etc. They were designed right from the beginning as servers.

    There are technical manuals, too. You just have to dig a bit. Did you get
    this service manual (266 pages of .pdf goodness!)?


    BTW, it took me only a couple of minutes to find that on the Sun site.

    Not the comp.sys.sun.* groups. There are some Linux related posts there,
    but generally these are knowledgeable Sun sysadmins and users, and wizards
    (some who work for Sun) who use and admin Solaris. I would advise lurking
    a bit, to get the tone of these groups, read some FAQs, and don't annoy
    them too much. There are helpful people there, but they do expect people
    to at least try to RTFM. The machines are not that difficult, really.

    You could alto try posting to comp.sys.syn.hardware and look in
    comp.sys.sun.wanted if you want to buy/sell any Sun gear.

    Yes, you can do that, but there are many people that run Sun machines on
    their own. I have several Sun machines, including a couple of Sparc20s
    (but I don't run those much any more). No service contracts here. I
    generally find more quality information on Sun stuff than for PCs. Sun
    architecture and designs seem more coherent and stable. One design shop.

    To start with: connect your (virtual) terminal to the serial port at the
    back of the Sparc20, and set it up for 9600 baud (no parity, I believe,
    but I don't think that matters so much?). Then when you power up, you
    should see some messages coming out there, typically identifying CPU(s)
    and amount of memory, etc. When the POST sequence is finished, depending
    on what has been set in its OBP (Open Boot Prom) it might try to boot, or
    go to an "ok" prompt, waiting for commands (diagnostics, etc.). If you get
    to "ok" and you think you have a bootable system on disk, try typing in
    "boot" (it should default to disk).

    Do you have a SCSI CD drive for it? Needs 512byte sector jumper, I think.

    BTW, something that might seem confusing: for "hysterical" 8^) reasons,
    the Sun4m (also Sun3?) architecture (includes Sparc20) boots from the 3rd
    SCSI ID (lower drive?) and the other one is 1st SCSI ID. I believe that
    was done for compatibility with some outboard gear. Can be confusing.

    What O/S are you trying to run?

    BTW, Sparc20 will run Solaris9, albeit a bit slow. If you don't use any
    GUI window manager, it should be quite usable, and fun. Makes a nice NFS
    server. My main NFS server was a Sparc20, until I replaced it with Ultra2.

    I've seen the i386 machines. At one point, I would have been interested in
    playing with them, but time has passed them by. I don't think they ever
    really developed a market niche for them. Sun seem also rather ambivalent
    about Solaris for ix86. Some Sun users hate Linux. Most tolerate it. I
    love Linux, but I admit that I love Solaris more. Call me fickle.
    Juhan Leemet, Jun 26, 2004
  4. ~misfit~

    ~misfit~ Guest

    I'm told it's a 75Mhz CPU.
    That was what the guy who gave it to me told me too.
    Yeah, I have that. Thanks.
    I'll look inot these groups, if my ISP carries tham that is. Otherwise I
    I don't get anything when I attempt to power it up. Zilch, not even PSU fans
    spinning. I think I have a hardware problem somewhere, probably the way I
    have it all connected up.
    I have a SCSI CDROM I intend to use with it. I din't know anything about the
    512byte thing though and don't think the drive has it. It's an NEC CDR-1910A
    and the only jumpers it has, other than SCSI address ones, are two
    'reserved, factory use only' and one for termination.
    I have been given both Solaris 9.0 and Debian SPARC 3.0r1 on CDR. HDD space
    is the problem though, the machine only supports up to 2GB drives and I'm
    told I need close to 8GB for Solaris 9.
    'Scuse my ignorance, NFS?

    Thanks for your input.
    ~misfit~, Jun 27, 2004
  5. ~misfit~

    Hippy Paul Guest

    yeah I suppose I was harking back way too far - the web did not exist in its
    current form then - no such things as ISPs. But no denying Sun is good kit

    No denying time has passed them by, I cannabalised mine for its scsi
    peripherals about 8 years ago. My experience at the time was that this
    particular i386 series failed because of its 8186 - when the change to
    windows 3.0 happend it could not run it - as it required the 8286
    instruction set - that's how I ended up with it.
    Hippy Paul, Jun 28, 2004
  6. ~misfit~

    Juhan Leemet Guest

    I think that was the "sweet spot" for performance. Once you get this
    machine going, you might be able to find another SM71 on eBay for $10.
    That would be well worth it, as you will notice the difference. You'll be
    able to play with SMP also and threads, etc., if you're interested.

    Forgot to mention that you need a null modem cable.
    That's not right. These power supplies do need a load and a connection to
    the mobo. They are like the most recent PC mobos, in that they have
    software controllable poweroff. PSU might not work on a bench without any
    load or mobo. I don't think I've ever had that problem on a Sparc20.

    er, you did toggle the power switch up (towards the 1 position)? That's
    pretty obvious, but what might not be so obvious is that the toggle switch
    springs right back. It is sort of a kick start, and once power gets to the
    mobo, mobo keeps the PSU going, until you decide to power off (HW or SW).
    That might cause you some problem. IIRC, the Sparc20 won't boot off a PC
    SCSI CD drive (2048 byte blocks) and MUST have 512 byte blocks. I have
    seen Toshiba CDs (for Sun and for DEC) which work. You might be lucky. The
    worst that would happen is you would see it go to start loading from CD,
    the LED on the drive would flash a few times, and it would sit there...
    I would start with Solaris9. The basic install only takes a bit more than
    1G IIRC? or 2G? Initially you don't need all the optional stuff like
    Gnome, KDE, etc. If you're connecting on serial, you don't even need CDE
    (Sun's favorite window manager) but it might be more trouble to leave off.

    The only reason the documents say that Sparc20s only support 2GB drives is
    that was the only thing available at the time they were manufactured.
    These are standard SCSI SCA (80-pin, hot swap actually) connector drives.
    I have 2 x 9GB drives in my 2 Sparc20s. Works great. I've heard of people
    putting in bigger ones. Heat can be a problem, so old drives aren't as
    good as newer ones, and don't go for the 10Krpm or 15Krpm, since they
    generate much more heat. A couple of IBM or Fujitsu 9GB 7200rpm drives
    would work great in there. Others have said the same. Do you have disk?

    BTW, there's an add-on fan that went behind disk drives, to help cool them.

    Oh, I keep forgetting that you have no case. Keep an eye on the CPUs and
    disks, maybe checking their temperature (with a finger? if you can only
    stand 10sec then they're 50degrees C!). You might have to fashion some air
    flow baffles, or use some additional fans to keep that stuff cool.
    NFS = Network File System. That was a Sun development which allows servers
    to share file systems, which can be mounted on workstations (or other
    servers). Stateless protocol (which is interesting) so it's simpler than
    some of the other file sharing schemes. Been working great for 20+ years!
    It's become the favorite file sharing system for *nix, including Linux.

    BTW, it will also run Samba quite well, for SMB shares to Windoze machines.
    Good luck!
    Juhan Leemet, Jun 29, 2004
  7. ~misfit~

    Juhan Leemet Guest

    I thought they had a 25MHz i386 in there? Did you also have a co-processor
    to run Windoze? I had a 486 SBUS board that went into a Sparc-1 (about
    similar CPU power?). It ran DOS or Windoze 3.x, but it was really slow! I
    suppose the miracle was that it worked at all?
    Juhan Leemet, Jun 29, 2004
  8. ~misfit~

    Hippy Paul Guest

    You are right the main processor was a 25mhz i386 dx, but windows was run on
    a dedicated 8186 processor (had to run it from inside the SunOS though,
    could not boot straight into it) - was the only application of an i8186 I
    ever encountered.
    It is painfully slow by todays standards, but it had its day - at the time
    my other machine was an 8088 running GEM and DOS - so it was a monster in
    Hippy Paul, Jun 29, 2004
  9. I think you mean the 80186. It was designed as an embedded processor
    (developed more-or-less independantly from the 80286 which came out at about
    the same time), and never intended to be used in a "normal" computer. It had
    a lot of stuff built in to it (DMA controller, PIC, etc) that usually
    resided in the support chips, but because of this (and other things) it was
    impossible to make an "IBM compatible" computer using the 80186. I'm
    surprised Windows ran on it, though I'm pretty sure a customised 1.0 ran on
    the Tandy 2000 (also 186-based). Quite possibly Sun payed MS a few bucks to
    make it work.

    The 80186 was popular for a short time, as it ran much quicker (due to
    architectual and raw mhz increases) than the 8086/8088 chips. However, once
    PC compatibility became a "must", which occured not long after the release
    of the 80186, the demand for it dropped off and it became used in the way it
    was originally intended (handhelds, addin cards, etc).

    My personal interest in the 80186 is because I own a Phillips :YES computer,
    which also was 80186 based (and hence flopped due to not being IBM
    compatible). It's a beautiful computer, and doesn't have a single fan in it,
    even for the PSU. The case is a giant heatsink. It comes along with an
    ultra-quiet keyboard that slides in under the front, and a yellow-on-black
    screen that makes a buzzing noise (the loudest part of the computer). Oh, if
    only this still were possible ...

    Michael Brown, Jun 30, 2004
  10. ~misfit~

    Hippy Paul Guest

    yes you are right, I was being lazy (forgetful) and dropping the zero it was
    an i80186.

    It was designed as an embedded processor
    Not sure how they did it, could have been hardware, or via the SunOS, or
    both as windows was run inside the SunOS and would not work as a stand
    Hippy Paul, Jun 30, 2004
  11. ~misfit~

    P2B Guest

    As others have said, Sparc20s are stable, reliable boxes even if they
    are getting a bit long in the tooth. I still use them in my lab, and in
    fact have more than I need.

    I'm not sure what it would cost to ship one from Canada to NZ, but I'd
    be happy to send you one if you cover the shipping - I'll even upgrade
    memory and disk to make it more worthwhile since I have plenty of spares.

    Email me if you wish to discuss further.

    P2B, Jul 5, 2004
  12. ~misfit~

    ~misfit~ Guest

    I have emailed you, thanks.
    ~misfit~, Jul 5, 2004
  13. ~misfit~

    Phil Weldon Guest

    What you have is a museum piece, of purely historical interest. With
    Pentium II/128 Mbyte memory performance class.

    Phil Weldon, pweldonatmindjumpdotcom
    For communication,
    replace "at" with the 'at sign'
    replace "mindjump" with "mindspring."
    replace "dot" with "."
    Phil Weldon, Jul 10, 2004
  14. ~misfit~

    Juhan Leemet Guest

    So? What are we goind? Calculating the answer to the most important
    question in the universe? (that's 42!)

    A Sparc20 is a very nicely engineered system. Furthermore, you can pump it
    up to 4xCPU SMP with 512MB memory. Try that with a Pentium II/128. It's
    still a nice platform to learn about SMP behaviour. Why pay $1000++?

    p.s. Too bad he didn't get the case. That was nicely made, too.
    Juhan Leemet, Jul 10, 2004
  15. ~misfit~

    ~misfit~ Guest

    Yeah, I know it isn't a Cray, I am just curious about differing
    architectures, I've only ever had x86 really, except for an Amiga early-on.
    Yep, so I've heard. Anyway, I can't seem to get it going and, without a case
    it's a hassle to 'house' anywhere so I guess it goes into the 'maybe later'

    Thanks all.
    ~misfit~, Jul 11, 2004
  16. ~misfit~

    Phil Weldon Guest

    Your answer is better than mine, for I was thinking of a much earlier

    Phil Weldon, pweldonatmindjumpdotcom
    For communication,
    replace "at" with the 'at sign'
    replace "mindjump" with "mindspring."
    replace "dot" with "."
    Phil Weldon, Jul 12, 2004
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