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Just how far back will Gentoo go? RS/6000 7011-250?
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ObsidianBlade
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2004 8:10 am    Post subject: Just how far back will Gentoo go? RS/6000 7011-250? Reply with quote

Here's a billion dollar question. OK, only about $4500, which is what IBM wants to charge me for AIX for and old RS/6000.

Can it be installed on an IBM RS/6000 7011 model 250? It is a PowerPC 601 based machine with MCA bus architecture. I have two of them, one with a blank HDD and the other has a botched install of AIX 4.2.1. Currently AIX is the only OS that I can find that will run on them. They have 196MB of ECC SIMMS, a 1GB SCSI HDD, and 2.88M floppies. I'm no programmer and the install that I'm running on my Athlon is my first Gentoo install. It's also my first compiled (non GUI) install.
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Bodhisattva
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2004 9:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Straight answer: Not a chance. IBM's microchannel architecture on the old RS/6000 is not supported in Linux. There once was a guy about 8, 9 years ago who had a kernel that almost booted on a 7011-250, but that's as far as it ever got. And just so that nobody jumps in and says "but there's a kernel configuration option for MCA" - yes, that's for MCA in later x86-based PS/2 machines. Works perfectly well. Doesn't provide any help for ObsidianBlade's problem...

You'll have to stick to AIX, I'm afraid. Not half bad, though. CDE almost looks like XFCE4, you know. :D
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nephros
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2004 9:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

plate wrote:
You'll have to stick to AIX, I'm afraid. Not half bad, though. CDE almost looks like XFCE4, you know. :D

Awww. Those are them fighting words. :twisted:

ObsidianBlade: Hmm, AIX install media seem to run much cheaper than four grand on ebay so you might want to check that option.
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ObsidianBlade
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2004 2:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've checked on ebay from time to time, never with any regularity. I'll have to keep an eye out there.

Quote:
Straight answer: Not a chance. IBM's microchannel architecture on the old RS/6000 is not supported in Linux.

Yeah, I think that the there is a difference between a PowerPC and a PPC as well.
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Bodhisattva
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2004 3:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No, actually, most PowerPCs - especially IBM's RS/6000 series - are supported. It's the MCA stuff on PPC that doesn't work. I wouldn't expect my 7043-140 to run into any significant problems, but your 7011 is simply too old, sorry...

Don't pay (significantly) more than 50 USD for a complete set of original AIX CDs, and don't buy 5.2 by accident, it won't work. 5.1 is the maximum for your hardware. Better try 4.3 first, you should be able to run most backports of Netscape etc. at a high enough maintenance level in 4.3.3.
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ObsidianBlade
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2004 5:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is it a matter of programming and compiling or is it a low-level hardware thing? I expect that people in the linux community that have the experience to do this kind of thing are working on making late-model and popular hardware work, but if there is a person or group that would like a crack at this, I'll give them one of the machines to work with. On that note, would such a development benefit any other machines? I know that this is antique hardware but it's also pretty hardcore for it's age. It's a 66mHz machine that runs as fast as a p166.

Thanks for the info!
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Bodhisattva
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2004 10:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's a hardware issue, there simply are no drivers for this architecture. You really want to talk to that David Weis bloke I referenced in my first reply. Look it up, the remaining pages at the Wayback Machine are a summary of practically all Linux-related activities that ever existed for your machine. You'll see that even IBM dropped support for the old MCA gear, two or three years ago already. You'll see that the video card that looks like an ordinary run-of-the-mill graphics adapter has a firmware that's totally incompatible to any of the available drivers for the exact same chipset. You'll have trouble even finding cables to connect a monitor, because the pinout is, well, peculiar. There's a reason why everyone despised IBM before they started throwing themselves at Linux full-time: it used to be proprietary, undocumented, incredibly obscure stuff they sold back then. And I don't think it's worth anybody's time to backport Linux onto those. Linux does already work on all the modern CHRP and a few of the older PReP machines. Sad as it may sound, I expect you to have a hard time finding any developers (who are busy coding for modern hardware like a G5, for example) who could be bothered to retroengineer a whole range of drivers for anything that old and not very widely in use anymore.
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ObsidianBlade
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2004 8:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
You'll have trouble even finding cables to connect a monitor, because the pinout is, well, peculiar.

THAT"S no kidding!! Actually, I worked around that. I booted it and took a voltmeter to the video jack and compared it to voltages and a pinout from a standard VGA card. Then I hacked a video extension cable in half and tested wires until I had a good hookup. Then I soldered the wires directly onto the back of the RS6K's video card and everything works correctly.

I hadn't thought of it from a driver standpoint, it'll likely even need a microcode update just to boot to the HDD.

In the 'For-what-it's-worth' department, the machine is part of a collection of antique hardware that I have, most of which is fully functional. Some of the better pieces are a complete IBM 8088 that I believe is a second-generation machine, an IBM PS/2 486slc (80386 processor with 80486 instruction set) with MCA-bus, an HP 486/66U dual proc 486 EISA-bus server...blah, blah, blah... It would be nice to add the two RS6Ks to the 'fully functional' part of the list.

I wouldn't mind adding an 80186 to the list. If what I've read is true, then not many 186-based computers ever made it into the market. It was used primarily to power industrial robotic equipment, specifically the arms that were being used in the automotive industry to assemble cars.
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