[rescue] The onyx godness

James Lockwood james at foonly.com
Mon Jan 13 14:01:08 CST 2003

On Sun, 12 Jan 2003, Jeffrey J.Nonken wrote:

> You mean like Telnet/SSH? Or you mean like a VT100 terminal? (Which all

Connect the serial ports of your main workstation (the one with a head) to
the console serial ports of the Suns via null modem cables.  Use any
serial comm program you like, I'm partial to "tip" as a minimalist in
Unix.  Any terminal app will work if you run Windows.

Note that you only really need this to watch the bootup process.  Once the
Suns have been started, you can log into them over your network as you
would to any other Unix system (via telnet, ssh, etc).

> I've heard about that. I don't know how to do it yet.

In the absence of other instruction, X applications reference the DISPLAY
environment variable to determine where to send their output.  If this is
set to machinename:A.B, an X application will attempt to contact the host
"machinename" to display on display "A" and screen "B".  "man X" for more

The practical ramification of this is that if you run an X server (X
terminology for a program running on a graphical station that can accept
requests for display) you can run any X (GUI) program remotely and have it
displayed locally.  This is not a hack or afterthought like many
"PC-remote" style applications, it is a basic fact of the protocol.  It's
reasonably fast and seamless.

> >  Total cost: maybe $5 for two cables if you don't have them already.
> For which?

Serial cables enabling you to watch the bootup process.

> Um, well, I know nothing about X stuff. Do I have a fast X server system?

If you are running Unix on a recent PC, probably.  If you are running
Windows on a recent PC and can install an X server package such as eXceed
or XWin-32, probably.

If you want a nice solution that is totally free, try VNC:


It's more primitive than X in many ways, but also more useful in a few.

> I can get the serial port up here if I need to. For now I'm using a junk
> Windows system for that, running Hyperterminal. Using the CDE text editor
> sure
> seems easier than using vi, though.

You may have missed a point earlier.  You can run any graphical app you
like on the Suns as long as you are running an X server on your headed
(with monitor) system, whether it is a Windows or Unix system.

This keeps you from having to mess with additional monitors, switchboxes,
keyboards and the like.  It allows you to seamlessly mix applications
running locally on your PC and those running on the Suns, displaying
windows side by side.  It really is the best of all worlds, especially for
older systems like your SS20s that don't have great video performance.

I believe that many posters here (myself included) assumed that you were
familiar with this type of user interface paradigm.  Displaying
applications from various machines simultaneously is second nature to most
X users, and we don't give it another thought.

Similarly, though a command line with a logical grammar may be harder to
learn than some GUIs (with "menus" of specific selections) it is usually
more flexible once a degree of competency has been reached.  Automation in
particular is far easier with a command line toolkit than with a GUI.
Many Unix users mix the two side by side.

What we've really been fighting uphill against is your lack of a clearly
stated goal.  We've been assuming that you want to get your feet wet with
Unix and learn how to use these machines without sacrificing your ability
to work with your current software and environment, and to that end we've
all been advising you how to bring these machines up with minimal
disruption to your working environment.  Homebrewing PC/Sun or Sun/PC
kb/mouse converters is almost certainly the wrong step to start with.
First, get used to the systems and the software, then decide if hooking up
a kb/mouse is worth the trouble, then decide if existing solutions (such
as the Sun Interface Converter box) are too expensive or not enough fun,
/then/ start researching the specs and see how to implement.  It should
just be an sync to async converter with a translation table for the kb,
and the mouse is even easier (Sun uses the Mouse Systems serial protocol
which is easy to get info on).  I suggested using a small PC as a kb
frontend because it would be even cheaper, and probably only take an
afternoon to implement and debug.

Whether or not you work on learning Linux, I recommend learning Sun
hardware and Solaris.  It will give you a different perspective.  Having
Linux as your first and only exposure to Unix will give you a very
different impression.


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