Half time update

Hurrah! Finally, after a new hard disk, graphics card and power supply I have got more than a couple of hours out of my Silicon Graphics Indigo 2. I could very easily have given up on this system – the initial cost of shipping it from the Isle of Man to UK of 8 pounds has paled compared to the outlay keeping it running. However, with the brief exposure I have had to SGI IRIX I can say it is a beautifully crafted version of Unix not only in visual terms but also in terms of the way in which the IRIX specific administration tools and accessories have been integrated.

The IRIX Icon Catalog – Desktop Tools (note that GIMP has done a poor job of capturing the colours here, probably down to it being remotely displayed on an eight-bit screen)

I’m updating this WordPress blog directly from the Indigo 2 using a vncserver/vncviewer running on my Ubuntu based HP Microserver with a remote X-session onto the SGI. Thank heaven for the continuing standard that is The X Window System. The SGI graphics is 8-bit at 1280×1024 so graphics are dithered automatically by the vnc client and server. Some of the images in this post have been captured from screen grabs, so this is how they are rendered in the SGI.

There has been little progress in my house this week on the Retrochallenge front primarily because I haven’t been here. This is why I would prefer the summer Retrochallenge to run in a different month, preferably July.

SGI Indigo 2

A Silicon Graphics Indigo 2 opened up for all to see!

In the meantime, however, a couple of my internet orders have arrived. One was the power supply for the SGI supplied by a very nice man called Ian who runs the UK based SGI Depot. Whilst phoning to confirm my details I had a chance to talk to him about where SGI systems are still being used. One of the most important areas is medical imaging as well as other niche but critical areas. He said that SGI/IRIX is quite tolerant of different SCSI disks and 80 pin modern drives can generally be used via an 80 pin to 50 pin adapter successfully. I didn’t go down this route when I replaced the boot drive in this particular model, opting for a fairly quiet 50 pin drive.

On the Sun Ultra 5 front, a new graphics card recommended by an expert in old Sun technology arrived, a Sun 370-3753 PGX32 Raptor GFX 2634.

Sun 370-3753 PGX32 Raptor GFX 2634 Graphics Card

Here is his information about this card and supported options for the Sun Ultra 5:

Solaris 8 and 9 have the drivers included on the core CD/DVD. The later drops of the S2.5.1, 2.6 and 7 CDs shipped with Ultra-5/10/60/80/450/Enterprise hardware have the drivers on an included ancilliary CD (see below).

The PGX32 8-bit and 24-bit PCI-based Frame Buffer, which replaces the PGX 8-Bit Frame Buffer, requires that supplemental drivers be added for complete installation.  The PGX32 can usually be identified by the TECH-SOURCE
RAPTOR-GFX logo displayed in the banner on power-up.

The following 2 packages need to be installed on any Solaris version below Solaris 7 5/99:

    TSIgfxOW (GFX OpenWindows DDX for Solaris 2 (v2.1))
    TSIgfxdrv(GFX drivers for Solaris 2 (v2.1))

The packages are found on the “GFX OpenWIndows for Solaris 2” cdrom included
with the PGX32 option (X3668A).

Beginning with Solaris 7 Software 5/99 media, the PGX32 software has been
bundled in the following packages:

system      TSIpgx.u      PGX32 (Raptor GFX) System Software/Device Driver
system      TSIpgxmn      PGX32 (Raptor GFX) Man Pages
application TSIpgxw       PGX32 (Raptor GFX) X Window System Support
system      TSIpgxx.u     PGX32 (Raptor GFX) SystemSoftware/DeviceDriver(64bit)

For initial Solaris installations prior to Solaris 7 5/99 with the PGX32 as the
only frame buffer, the customer may elect to graphically install Solaris 2.5.1 hardware:11/97 or 2.6 edition 5/98 via procedures and media included with the “Operating Environment Installation CD May 1999” part number 704-6657-11 (this is the CD intended for installing S2.5.1 or S2.6 on systems with CPU speed >419 MHz, shipped with S2.5.1 and S2.6 media packs after 1998, and shipped with Ultra-10 systems after 1998: it’s a mini-Solaris-7 CD that installs the S2.5.1 or S2.6 software *and the necessary kernel patches* and drivers for recently added hardware options, including PGX32).
This CD will properly boot and install the patches and drivers for this device. When I upgraded my Solaris 2.6 U10 model 440 with a Raptor GFX-8P card was to manually install the TSI packages directly from that “Operating Environment Installation CD May 1999” CD using pkgadd, then set the “output-device” PROM variable to refer to the GFX-8P device so it became the console; no problem!

Without this software the customer will be limited to a character-based installation only.  When the system is booted from cdrom the following error will be displayed between the Copyright and Configuring devices… messages:

        NOTICE: Can’t find driver for console frame buffer

The customer will also get this message on a subsequent reboot after the Solaris install and will be left with command line login only.  At this point the customer needs to install the GFX packages via the cdrom to be able to run a windows environment.

He was also kind enough to supply me with an LSI LOGIC Symbios SYMB750SP PCI Fast SCSI SE card which is a bootable SCSI card for the Ultra 5. Apparently there are only a few bootable SCSI cards for this box. I also ordered a Symbios SYM22801 which is a dual channel Ultra SCSI card. This may not be bootable but it is a standard SUN supports SCSI card which may enable me to use faster 68 pin 16-bit SCSI disks as secondary drives.

LSI LOGIC Symbios SYM22801 Dual Ultra SCSI PCI Card destined for the Sun Ultra 5

Finally (if that wasn’t enough) I have also received a SAMSUNG 16 Gbyte Flash SSD drive which is a 1.8″ ATA5 UDMA66 flash drive. The drive came with an adapter to plug it into a standard ATA bus. This is my backup plan in case I can’t get the SCSI option working and I might try it anyway or possible mix and match (given that this flash drive is 1.8″ a bit of velcro will secure it to the housing and I don’t have to worry about heat issues.

Samsung Flash SSD 16 Gbyte 1.8″ 3.3V ATA5 UDMA66 MCAQE16G8APR-0XA

The WordPerfect/Unix distribution I received a few weeks ago includes a copy for IRIX which I’m going to try and get running tonight. I already have it running on the Sun Ultra 5 and will post some screenshots in a subsequent blog entry.