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I know that this topic has been visited here in the past but all of the threads I found either had no response or were not listed as solved. The ...
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  1. #1
    Linux Newbie
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    Choosing a Linux Distribution for Sparc Ultra45 Platform


    I know that this topic has been visited here in the past but all of the threads I found either had no response or were not listed as solved. The best chance I had at an answer was a thread dated 2004.

    I am looking for the best distribution to run on specific hardware. I prefer PCLinuxOS to all other distributions, and I prefer KDE 3.x to even KDE 4. I would like to be able to support CDE, Gnome, and XFCE at a minimum.

    That being said, here's my issue:


    I work on a Sun box with Solaris 10 that I am required to run integration testing, but not allowed to modify in any way. We have other systems, some Windows and some Linux that we must also integrate into our environment, but wouldn't you know that we don't have the hardware available just yet?

    I spoke with the other engineers and we decided that we want to run Linux and virtualize our other machines on that one box. In addition, we want to be able to log into these sessions on our other machines on that network.

    The hardware I have to work with is a Sparc Ultra45 with 2 x 250GB SCSI HDDs. I will have to install on disk 1 and leave disk 0 untouched until the Linux host is fully operational.

    Then we need to clone disk 0 and import the image to disk 1 as a virtual environment.

    I downloaded OpenSolaris 2009.6 AI for Sparc several times and burned it to several different media, but each time we tried to boot from cdrom, we failed.

    The first error is that the machine ALWAYS tried to boot into the network, even when we tried Stop + A and had the network cable disconnected.

    We tried to boot from USB, but that also failed. Unless I tried to boot from the actual USB hub or device, the boot command returned a net boot error.

    I'm totally used to x86 and x86-64 type systems and I'm at a complete loss with this system.

  2. #2
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    Still Not Very Far...

    So I don't know why, but the OpenSolaris disc, as well as any other x86/x86_64 disc returned errors stating that either the header was bad, and/or something about a magic number.

    The OpenSolaris disc was certainly labeled Sparc and but the x86 discs returned the same error. Perhaps Oracle hosted a bad image?

    Debian Lenny installed and ran well, except I couldn't get the right video driver installed.

    Solaris 10 (non open source version) also installed well, but that was to be expected since its a Sun box.


    I really would prefer to use Linux as the host but my end state is that I need to run virtual machines with Windows and Solaris guests and I am limited to this hardware.

    I've been reading about Xen, but I am not convinced that Xen can do what I need. I can't get Virtualbox or Qemu to do Sparc. I haven't used Bochs in years and it was always slow. I'll take my question to a forum on virtualization/emulation and see what I get.

    If anyone has any opinions on what I should do, please feel free to share.

  3. #3
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    Debian. I have it installed on a Sun Ultra5, Ultra2 (dual processors!), and on my main computer (2.4GHz Core2 Duo). Debian is my favorite distribution, and part of that reason is that it installs easily on almost any platform.

    Dont get discouraged if your GUI doesnt work right away. It might, it might not, depending on the video card youre using. On the Ultra2, I simply had to edit xorg.conf by removing one of the drivers (2 cards installed, only using one).

    It is well worth trying. Debians package manager is by far my favorite. Some people say Debian is for advanced users only. I disagree, as I do not consider myself an advanced user. I even love the installer. I recommend the NetInstall CD. You only download a 150MB ISO, and everything that you want/need is downloaded from the internet during the install. No need to burn 7+ CDs. Auto-connected to my network using DHCP.

    -Chris P

  4. #4
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    I went with Debian twice, but I could not find the drivers for the Sun XVR-300 from either the AMD/ATI site or from Oracle. The one time I thought I found the driver on Oracle, they wanted me to prchase a better service plan.

    X worked, but the only thing I could get was a 800x600 display with 16 colors. I tried editing Xorg.conf to say many different things, but still could not get it to work. The system-generate configuration showed a generic framebuffer display but lspci showed an ATI video card. As I recall, it said FireGL r3100.

    My entire purpose for wanting to use Linux rather than Unix is because I know Linux better. The end state here is that we use this hardware to vurtualize both Solaris and Windows XP to conduct integration testing.

    The problem with that is that virtualization to many means that the guests must use the same architecture as the host, and only true emulation will allow a guest system to use a seperate atchitecture as the host.

  5. #5
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    This is a bad platform to choose for virtualizing Linux/Windows. There is no Sparc version of Windows. And as you can see from this virtualization comparison, you're going to have a hard time finding something that runs on Sparc and emulates an X86 instruction set.

    Given this is a Sparc platform, I am not surprised you're not finding an ATI driver for Linux. If you want to run X, you'll likely have to deal with the generic driver's limitations.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by HROAdmin26 View Post
    ... And as you can see from this virtualization comparison, you're going to have a hard time finding something that runs on Sparc and emulates an X86 instruction set....

    It looks like Qemu is the best choice then. The last time I looked, Qemu was unable to emulate a Sparc 64 guest on a Sparc 64 host, however that was the next thing on their development plan.

    Thank you for that chart, it was VERY useful. How did you get that particular page in search? I've been looking for a good chart like that for a really long time. I suppose if I typed, "Virtual," "Machine," and "Comparison," I might have come across it, but just plain "Virtual Machine," and "Virtualization Emulation," with all the variants I could think of returned very little that was truly useful like this chart was.

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