[rescue] You see a wild SPARCstation 20. What do?

Justin Haynes justin at justinhaynes.com
Thu Jan 12 20:34:28 CST 2012

On Thu, Jan 12, 2012 at 6:26 PM, Robert Novak <rnovak at indyramp.com> wrote:

> Hi all,
> I pulled my old SS20 out of storage this weekend (in the course of cleaning
> out my early-2000s storage spaces), and I'm thinking about putting it into
> use somehow.
> 1) What OS do you guys think I should run on it? I think I'm stuck with
> Sol9 and earlier (maybe even Sol8 and earlier?), or Open/NetBSD, and I've
> read that Open may be quirky on a MP system.
For my Tadpole SPARCbook 3GX of the same era (MicroSPARC-II 110MHz),
OpenBSD was the best choice for support.  I have 2MB of video memory on
that one with an 800x600 display.  Solaris would only support 8 bit color,
but OpenBSD does support 32-bit color on that hardware.  The userland
utilities don't exist, but I followed Miod Vallat's advice and found the
line in the driver in the kernel, and recompiled for 32bpp.

Also, though an accelerated X server is not available, many framebuffers
are supported with some acceleration so that the X server running on that
frame buffer will perform better than with no acceleration at all.

You may want to read here as this user found OpenBSD to have some
advantages on his SS20:

multiple proc on 32-bit sparc is not supported in OpenBSD, I think.  And
note that there seem to be problems only with certain processor and cache
Most of the problems with OpenBSD/sparc are believed to stem from the wide
variety of SPARC processor and cache implementations along with their
undocumented bugs, rather than general kernel problems. Feedback on which
models do and do not work reliably is appreciated, particularly with newer
models or upgrades.

That's taken from the OpenBSD sparc page (http://www.openbsd.org/sparc.html),
which also has a lines for supported models.  the sun4 and sun4e ones you
have to be more careful with, but the sun4m which yours is is probably
cool.  I believe I ran OpenBSD on a SS5 and it worked just fine, also a
SS20: Improved Pizzabox mbus <http://www.openbsd.org/sparc.html#mbus>-based

> I'm pondering using it primarily as a router/firewall/proxy... would love
> to do fileservice but scsi isn't cost-efficient in terms of power and
> capacity for this apartment dweller.
I guess you don't care about the framebuffers then.  I doubt gige is going
to be happy in that machine, but happy routing!

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