[rescue] x86 vs. SPARC BIOSes (was: Small servers (was Re: WTT: 1.5G of PC2700 for 1G of PC100))

Shannon Hendrix shannon at widomaker.com
Tue May 13 11:41:44 CDT 2008

On May 8, 2008, at 09:55 , Ethan O'Toole wrote:

>> However, the reality is that x86 boxes are built to run Windows,  
>> and Windows
>> assumes a keyboard, mouse, and hi-res bitmapped display.  So the  
>> x86 BIOS
>> writers can assume the same I/O will be available.  This is a major  
>> reason
>> why I favour SPARC machines -- they were never designed under this
>> assumption.
> How come no one has hacked together a "command line" BIOS?
> In the modern days, once a machine is setup I can't think of needing  
> to go into the BIOS from remote. The OS handles things once it  
> starts booting, and all of the Unixes have serial bios support.

...which does you no good in the frequent situation where a machine  
will not boot.

One major problem with PC BIOS is that it changes things even when you  
don't tell it to.

For example, a momentary error condition can cause PC BIOS to alter  
the drive boot order.  This can happen after a power failure, or even  
just a temporary drive failure on some RAID BIOS.

Your machine will not come up until you enter BIOS and fix the drive  

Of course, one must ask: why can't the BIOS just take your settings  
and not change them if you didn't ask?

That's just one example.

> I think they all use direct VGA writes too.

The other day you said they didn't.... :)

> Well, in defense of the PC probe-scsi would be facilitated by the  
> SCSI add in card. I think EISA had some sort of system where each  
> card provided an extension to the BIOS or something... but I've seen  
> it on Suns where an add-in card couldn't be probed.

In that case, the add-in card was broken.

As far as I know, probe-scsi just sends standard SCSI commands, so it  
should work with any compliant adapter.

>> OK, enough now.  Back to work.  Sorry, I get carried away...
> What about a port of OBP to PC?

...or even just a command line interface that can talk serial or video.

Of course, the manufacturers would have to start following standards...

Shannon Hendrix
shannon at widomaker.com

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