Ubuntu DD & Sparc

by Juliet Kemp

Yesterday I decided to give up wrestling with a recalcitrant Solaris 9 box (specifically, an Enterprise 250), and install Linux on it instead. My first stop was Debian, but unfortunately while the installer started up fine for both stable and testing, in neither case did I get output which included a cursor, so wasn't able to navigate the screens (the keyboard seemed to work, but I couldn't reliably tell what it was doing). Thus, onto Ubuntu 6.06. Which worked beautifully, cursor and all, and is now running happily.

Although I did discover New Things about the Sun boot process; viz that it will automatically pick up whatever's on the first partition and has no MBR. In my case, this was still Solaris 9. I messed around with boot magic & nvalias a bit but couldn't locate the Linux partition correctly (or couldn't boot it, one or the other), so in the end decided it was quicker to reinstall over the old Solaris 9 partition as well as the previous free space - keeping it would have been something of a waste of disk space, really, since it's not working anyway.

A further note, however, about the Ubuntu installer: it will only boot from the CD (on this architecture) if you are booting the machine from cold - i.e. turn it all the way off & all the way back on again, hit Stop+A as soon as the smonitor comes up, & type 'boot cdrom' at the ok> prompt. If you stop the boot (of whatever) halfway through, get back to the ok> prompt, & type 'boot cdrom' from there, it dies with "Illegal instruction". (details here & other suggestions for fixing this - looks like a fix is on its way).

Sadly no joy with Ubuntu on my SunBlade 100. I've tried Debian stable (died with 'cramfs wrong magic' error - bug report although apparently fiddling with the memory might work), testing (died with 'Illegal Instruction' - lots of bug reports, although there is active work going on on this if you check the debian-sparc mailing list); and now Ubuntu 6.06, but still the "Illegal Instruction" error (& booting from cold doesn't make a difference). I haven't yet tried the firmware upgrade suggestion, or tried *much* with netboot, mind; some day when I have some spare time!

Edited to add: After sibre commented below that they'd got Ubuntu booting on their Blade 100, I had another go, in case I hadn't booted cold enough. First go no joy: got further than previously, but hung at "rtc_init: no PC rtc found". Second and third tries, got significantly further than that, but install hung during/just after the "Detecting hardware" stage. I may give auroralinux, linked below, a go at some point.

Further edit: Many thanks to Shane (see comment below)! Cold boot + typing install ide=nodma at the SILO prompt got Ubuntu 6.06 successfully installed on the Blade 100. For the record: Debian etch installer beta-3 version gets further than before (again, requires cold boot) but for me hung just after "Detecting network hardware".


Matthew Sporleder
2006-06-20 08:47:31
Try NetBSD. I just installed it on my Ultra5 and running very quickly.

Also, what couldn't you do with solaris 9?

2006-06-20 10:48:51
"what couldn't you do with solaris 9?" How about modern package management, for starters? Not having a dependency-resolving frontend like aptitude or Yum is quite a handicap.
Dave Corbett
2006-06-20 12:21:42
How about FreeBSD? Haven't tried it on SPARC myself, but the Blade 100 and Enterprise 250 are both on the hardware list.
Juliet Kemp
2006-06-21 03:30:10
Thanks for the BSD recommendations; I'm happy with Ubuntu on the E-250 now it's up & running, but I'll certainly look at BSD for the Blade 100.

Solaris 9: Farnsworth is right that I found the lack of a decent package management system frustrating; but in large part it is more a question of convenience. All but 2 of my 50-odd machines (now 1!) run Linux; the discrepancies between Solaris & Linux are a nuisance to keep in the head. My preference is for Linux, but I am aware that that's in part familiarity.

(more specifically, in this instance: a powerdown forced by a scheduled power outage resulted in the machine hanging during reboot at a lateish stage of network setup. Looks like this is related to some kind of problem with the old NIS+ setup, which hasn't been in use for some months, & I'm sure I've rebooted since taking it out of play. After a couple of afternoons of troubleshooting, with mixed results, it just didn't seem worth keeping fighting with a system I already dislike!)

Matthew Sporleder
2006-06-21 11:34:43
No yum? No problem.
Try blastwave.org's pkg tools, or netbsd's pkgsrc, which runs well on solaris. (sun actually sponsored some hardware for that)
2006-06-22 01:19:20
Cold boot solved my problem. Installing Ubuntu 6.06 base system on my Blade 100 as we speak...
Also look at http://www.auroralinux.org/...
2006-08-01 16:24:49
Hi Juliet and Co,

Just completed an Ubuntu6.06 install on a SunBlade 100. I hit the same problem you've mentioned in your edit

"...but hung at "rtc_init: no PC rtc found". Second and third tries, got significantly further than that, but install hung during/just after the "Detecting hardware" stage"

I booted sucessfully by adding ide=nodma to the SILO prompt ie:
Linux ide=nodma

All the best.

2006-08-04 07:45:54
I got Ubuntu 6.06 installed on my SunBlade 150 after upgrading the firmware and doing a cold boot. I got the cold boot idea from this blog, which was the final step I needed to actually get this working. I'd been trying net boot, but at least for me, netbooting with a SunBlade 150 is pure hell. Nothing worked. Fortunately, everything's fine now.
2006-08-24 01:40:58
2006-12-21 12:07:26
I've been working on an E250 myself lately. Check my link to follow my blog on the subject. So far I've found Aurora 2.0 to play the nicest with the E250.

I've got details in there on how I fixed some key boot-from-optical-media issues that you might run into.

Richard Biggins
2006-12-28 19:28:27
Was able to install Ubuntu 6.06 on my Ultra10 by removing the Sun graphics card and using the motherboard graphics output.
Resolved issue with cold booting after removing Solaris 10 and formatting hard drive with Ubuntu.