The hardware

A neat workstation that once belonged to [Andy Colebourne], who used it to work on AC3D.

It's "pizza-box" case boasts a spacious layout inside, with a PCI riser dominating the system part, and a PSU/CD-ROM/FDD filling up the rest. The infamous [proprietary RTC/CMOS][sun-cmos] chip has been modified by the previous owner and features a coin battery holder.

Computer powers up, the keyboard LEDs lits up and the HDD mades seek noises. However, it shows no output on the our lab's CRT. I remembered that the computer had Ubuntu installed, so I succeeded to gracefully reboot it by poking it blindly with SysRq.

Integrated ATI RAGE has sync-on-green output despite having a usual 15-pin VGA connector, probably for compatibility with other Sun peripheals. There are some monitors that support sync-on-green, and a few video cards that work with Sun.

I powered it off, pulled the hard drive, and connected it to another computer to reset the password and enable serial shell.

The workstation has two serials, DB25 with sockets on port A and DB9 wirt pins on port B; gonna have fun struggle with the wide one, so all the hopes on latter — there is very specific null-modem-usb-serial exacttly for this.

Finally, shell has appeared after a minute or two (no kernel console tho). I tried to setup kernel console/printk the usual Linux-on-PC way, but it didn't work. It turned out that:

This workstation is meant to run original OS with it's mighty X11 capabilities. I found a few different distributions, from Solaris 2.5.1 to Open Solaris 9. Turned out, none of those CDs would boot (setting up a netboot wasn't something I wanted to attempt). Disassembling and inspecting the oiginal LG CRD-8240B CD-ROM drive has revealed that all the internals (incuding the lens) was covered with the finest sticky black dust. Cleaning the drive helped, tho it occasionally get stuck either way, mostly when the it sits on the side. I eventually replaced it with a similar model, the CRD-8521B from 2001.

Photo of open workstation, Old CD-ROM with newer and aged faceplate, and new CD-ROM with old faceplate..

Despite differences in the board size, mechanics, and drive speed, this newer model had the same front face, allowing for a seamless face swap and preserving the original look of the computer.

I started with Solaris 2.6 (SunOS 5.6) as it was the latest distribution I managed to find and boot with no prior knowledge. I had no luck with on-board video, ATI 3D RAGE II+DVD, it only worked with the sync converter. I also got SUN PGX64 aka ATI RAGE XL, which is a popular and supported card for this computer.

X server still hates me, dtlogin XDM kills the video output.

A photo of an XDM displaying login prompt from the Sun workstation on a CRT monitor via sync adapter. A plushie sits on top.

Finally able to get the framebuffer to display properly on the CRT monitor via sync adapter in whooping 640x480.