Dusting Off a SPARC 10

by Brian Jepson

I've had a SPARC 10 kicking around my home office, but it's fallen far short of reaching its full potential until now. What held me up was decent graphics. Although I had three cards available, CG3, TGX, and the built-in SX graphics board, the only card that worked well with my SVGA monitor was the CG3, the slowest of the bunch. I got the TGX and SX to display on the SVGA monitor, but only with a faint image.

I've been accumulating odd parts here and there to make this machine more useful: 224MB of RAM, a 4MB VSIMM to enable the on-board video, and a 9GB hard drive. All that I was missing was a Sun monitor, which arrived last week while I was out-of-town. So, after I decompressed from my trip, I consulted the SPARCstation 10SX configuration page on SunSolve and found this document: SPARCstation 10SX System Configuration Guide. One helpful portion was Figure 2-1, which explains the layout of the DSIMM and VSIMM slots. Next, I came across the section titled "2.5.3 Recommended DSIMM/VSIMM Configuration," which explains which configurations work. I followed the second example configuration, since it was closest to mine:

1 16 MByte DSIMM in slot 0

1 16 MByte DSIMM in slot 3

1 64 MByte DSIMM in slot 2

1 64 MByte DSIMM in slot 1

1 VSIMM in slot 4 or 5

Then, I removed my old TGX card and plugged my monitor into the SX graphics port on the back of the machine. I booted up, and to my delight, the monitor turned on. Once that was done, I powered down, dropped my remaining 64MB DSIMM into one of the other slots, and booted OK. Because I had installed Solaris 9 with the TGX card, I used Stop+A to halt the system before it booted, and rebooted with boot -r, so that Solaris would reconfigure itself as needed to adapt to the new hardware.

Now that I had the system up and running, I was stuck with the default Solaris installation: Ye Olde Common Desktop Environment (CDE), and no development tools. I had to fix that problem!

Development Tools

Sunfreeware.com has a generous collection of tools. I'm sure I'll install lots of them over time, but to get started, here's what I grabbed:


I su'd to root and installed each one in turn with pgkadd -d filename. After you download and gunzip the files, this command should work under /bin/sh:

# for f in *-local; do pkgadd -d $f; done

All the binaries ended up in /usr/local/bin, which was not in the my path by default. So, I added it to the PATH setting in my .profile file, logged out and logged in.

The Desktop

So much for the essentials... now on to the fun stuff! I went to the Sun downloads page and found the link to Beta 1 of GNOME 2.0 for Solaris. It's a 90MB download, and it claims that it will need 400MB when it's done. I extracted the gnome-2_0-beta1-solaris-sparc.tar.gz file, which exploded into a gnome-install subdirectory.

I ran the ./install script, and a friendly Web Start installer appeared. I accepted the defaults, and let it rip. About 20 minutes later, it was done.

To start GNOME, I logged out of CDE, and returned to the desktop login panel. I clicked on the Options menu and chose Gnome 2.0 Desktop from the Session menu, then I logged in. After a minute or so (my SPARC 10 is slow--a 60mhz CPU), my desktop appeared.

I've got some basic development tools and a desktop environment that's appropriate for 2002. I declare this SPARCstation fit for service, until someone decides to send me a free Ultra :-)

Do you have any tips and tricks for configuring a low-end workstation?