So I got this iMac G5 with a defective display super cheap. Turns out that all these displays fail, so if you find one with a good display it’s either been RMA’d or its going to fail. and quickly.
On the back of the unit there is a video out port, so you can hook up an external monitor, and now you have a chunky G5.. minmaxie.
Sadly the OS was a bit messed up, and had a bunch of user files, and I just wanted to do a fresh install. And the hard disk was LOUD and slow. Naturally I thought I’d install a SSD. I had forgotten what amazing luck I had with the Grandpa G5 back in the day, and did I just get lucky with that?
First I got this super cheap 2-Power SSD.
Of course it didn’t work, nothing shows up at all.
I had this fancy Kingston SSD, surely it’ll work?
NOPE, nothing from that either.
So I went ahead and ordered the cheapest Samsung I could find.
And yeah, whatever it is the Apple SATA controller does, that annoys all the other brands, the Samsung pulled through.
I did get an iMac G5 10.3 restore CD set, but sadly it didn’t want to work with this iMac. However I did get a deal on a boxed copy of OS X Tiger.
And yeah I was able to do a clean install, and patch it up. I’m still impressed that Apple keeps stuff up like the update servers & all the combined patches. I guess one thing worth mentioning is that the WiFi wouldn’t join the home LAN at all, but the 10.4.11 patch fixed that right up.
I should try some much newer Samsung SSD’s to see if it’s just this one generation, or are they just that much better? Also what about NVMe/SSD bridge?
So after basically facing defeat, I thought I’d give Linux on the PS3 another shot. Last time things just didn’t work for some reason, and although I could boot Linux from the USB, I couldn’t get it to partition the hard drive. And running from USB 2.0 is just insanely slow.. Especially when it’s trying to run X11.
Loading is a bit weird requiring you to load, then entering safe mode, re-installing, then recovering again.
One silly thing to note, is that although a USB keyboard got me through the majority of this, you ABSOLUTELY NEED a PS3 controller to his the PS button to continue in safe/recovery mode. I ended up buying a new controller for £12 on eBay. Used ones were selling for the comparable price, so why buy something with ick on it? Sadly, this did double my budget to £24.
But rest assured just keep pushing through.
Although my FLASH was clearly re-partitioned, with it not changing as I had expected the recovery boot didn’t work, so I had to jump the instructions, and install REBUG_TOOLBOX_02.03.02.MULTI_.16.pkg and select boot into safe mode from there, and re-apply the firmware.
over and over….
But eventually success!
Finally on enough reboots, I got to the setup screen for a clean system!
Re-installing the toolboox took me to repartitioning the flash (again), powering off, then loading petitboot for NOR flash (well mine is NOR), powering off, then prepping the USB, and this time booting with the ‘use current’ option.
While I had busybox & running from initrd/USB before so far so good, nothing looks different.
This time the create_hdd_region.sh actually did what it should do! Excited I rebooted back to ‘gameos’ and checked the system status
I’m not sure why it kept failing before, but this time it did what it should have done. Obviously, I screwed up something before, and I’m not sure what.
Booting back to the USB drive, Red Ribbon booted up in X11, allowing me to run run the installer.
The volumes by default are fine.
It does give the ability to set locale, region, and machine name. I don’t know why but I tried it twice and it failed every time.
So I just hit defaults, just setting input & language to EN-us for American English in Alaska. I mean why not. I gave up on just fighting and just let it go with defaults.
And with that I had the PS3 up and booting!
Sadly it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, I was noticing some important software like m4, unzip, gdb, autoconf/automake/libtool file, htop/ncurses to say a few!
Compiling however lead me to kernel crashes & panics.
Eventually it’ll hard lock.
I speculate its probably my PS3. The optical drive doesn’t work so I’ve never played a game on it, or done anything intensive until compiling software. I did find that disabling the swap space to video ram stopped it from crashing. As a matter of fact I disabled a bunch of things to get back some performance.
In the /etc/rc2.d just rename the S*** to K*** for the following to disable all of this stuff..
So yeah, not sure why I had goofed this up so bad, but in the end I got what I wanted, a big endian machine on a budget. What is interesting about this Red Ribbon thing, is that the kernel looks 64bit, but it’s all a 32bit userland. I don’t know if it matters so much. The place to get deb’s is long gone, so I guess Id have to find something with source this was based off of to build the missing stuff, or just keep going on, and building from source. I’m find with either, but I don’t need it as a desktop so my motivation is already waning. I can’t imagine even trying to use a 256MB PS3 as a desktop. It’s just pain.
Again I’m not sure why the swap to video ram thing kills the PS3, but I can live with avoiding it.
I’ve been wanting a cheap Big Endian RISC machine, and of course I want to do it on the cheap! From a few tips it seems its possible to re-activate the ‘otheros’ feature of the PS3, and get the newer ones running Linux!
There is a LOT of warnings about breaking your system, bricking things, so of course I’m not going to buy something nice, and I found this beauty on eBay
What a beauty! Only £23 with shipping! The way inflation is going its like McDonalds money.
Anyways a mere 3 days later, and it showed up!
The cover promptly fell off, and I was a bit worried. I hooked up the power, and the red light came but but it didn’t turn on. The power switches are these weird sensors, and it looked like the power one was pushed in. I guess its more of an antenna rather than closing a circuit, so I genitally bent it apart, and it sprang to life. There was no video, but it did chirp pretty loudly so I assumed it was working. I figured there was no disk, so I found the process to reset the video (turn on, holding power and it’ll power off. Power on again, and wait for it to do 2 chirps while holding power down, then let go, and it’ll hopefully lower all video to minimal levels on both composite and HDMI. And yeah, it sprang to life!
The PS3 had version 4.50 loaded, and the first step to bringing back otheros was to update to 4.90. The last version that had otheros was 3.16, so sadly it’s long gone.
Updating was pretty uneventval.
But now starts the real fun.
It’s scratched pretty bad, but you can make out it’s a CECHK03.
, meaning it’s NOR type flash. This matters as the launch devices used NAND, and a heck of a lot more too! And of course totally incompatible. So yeah be careful!
So the first thing to do is to patch the flash. And shockingly this is VERY very easy… It’s so scary it’s easy! Just open the browser after you’ve flashed to 4.90 and go to
Yep it’s a web browser exploit that should terrify you.
Using FLASH buffer overflows we’re going to reprogram the FLASH. WOW could you imagine a world where iPhones ran Adobe Flash?
From the web page, it’s a snap to backup the flash to USB, and then you can download and merge the flash patch right from the UI
With the image loaded and merged, we can now re-flash the PS3.
It’s really this easy.
Now you need to power it off.
Next up is to install the Evilnat CEX 4.90 hacked firmware. It’s pretty simple, much like the production image, it installs from the XMB after copying the file to USB in the appropriate directories. I downloaded “CFW 4.90 Evilnat Cobra 8.4 [CEX].rar“.
And now you are a reboot away into modified OS
There was a bunch of users, and installed games, I removed the users, deleted the games, and formatted the disk. I’m not going to be playing games anyways.
Now it was a bit more things to do.
Partition the flash, and re-program it again with the otheros support. And then now finally you can boot to the BusyBox ramdisk.
I’ll have to touch on this part a bit more, it’s involved, and again you can brick your PS3. If you worry about it, now is the time to do it, as many are being sold effectively as garbage.
For the heck of it, I exploded out an old Red Ribbon ISO, and was able to ‘live image’ boot it from USB.
So this gets me part of the way here.
The next thing to figure out is if I can downgrade the OS to something where I can partition part of the hard drive for Linux. And how to get that installed.
So I’m going to have to leave it here, at least for my usage case I may have to just be happy using the slow USB for the root filesystem. I’m pretty sure when it comes to partitioning the disk you need the lower OS version to do so. Obviously for me I can leave it there if it runs, as I don’t care about playing games on this one anyways.
Which I’m sure won’t be as bad once I turn off X11 and everything ‘nice’ for a user.
Also you probably want to get a PS3 controller, as at any point you need to do a recovery you need to be able to hit the ps3 button. And that’s where I am currently stuck, but not bricked.
Firstly there are IBM PC Power Series. Yes IBM PC but with PowerPC CPU, and not to be confused with RS/6000 which is a different IBM product. However the IBM Power Series have equivalent RS/6000 “counterpart” models. WTF IBM.
IBM PC Power Series 440 6015 == IBM RS/6000 Model 7020 40P IBM PC Power Series 830 6050 == IBM RS/6000 Model 7248 43P IBM PC Power Series 850 6070 == IBM RS/6000 Model 7248 43P
There are also other models mentioned by Windows NT 4.0 HCL, namely E20, E30 and F30, and PowerPC ThinkPads. To summarize here is a more definitive list of IBM RS/6000 models supported by Windows NT 4.0:
Model 7020 40P Model 7248 43P, 100 and 133 MHz Model 7248 43P-140 (with a big asterisk) Model 7024 E20 and E30 Model 7025 F30 ThinkPad 820, 850 ThinkPad 860 (with a big asterisk)
If you could pick any RS/6000 machine, the 40P would probably be the most recommended. 40P can also run OS/2 PowerPC if you are in to this thing.
Unfortunately all I had on hand was 43P-140, which is PReP, but it’s not Power Series based and not supported by NT out of the box. WTF IBM. Chances are that you will run in to this as well. 43P-140 are way more popular and easier to acquire than any other hardware listed above.
The main trouble with 43P-140 is that the onboard GPU and NIC will not work with ARC and NT. Yes, you can hack in some generic S3 card. It will work in ARC/NT but not PROM and AIX. I wasn’t happy. Upon some collaboration with Shoutmon and NCcommander and my own research, I was able to find the one and only graphics card that will work in both the RS/6000 PROM as well as ARC BIOS, AIX and Windows NT. The lucky winner is:
IBM FRU 40H5838 aka GTX110P
Update: It’s been tried, tested and verified to use IBM ROM with a regular/stock S3 Trio64V+. You can download it here and program yourself.
It’s entirely possible that other adapters will work as well, however from all different cards that I tried this was the only one that worked in all combination.
As for NIC, there are way more options as it’s not used by PROM, ARC or AIX, just NT. In my case I opted for a standard Etherlink III card.
Once you have the correct hardware bits, NT installation is pretty straightforward. This is well covered elsewhere. In a nutshell you boot the ARC 1.51 floppy disk, setup partitions and install the OS. Note that the ARC BIOS will be installed in to a partition on your HDD and the floppy disk is not required beyond installation.
I was inspired by NCommander’s MinGW to Solaris cross compiler so I thought I’d dig out the one that got me started decades ago, cross compiling to the RS/6000 from Linux some time back in 1993. For this experiment I was able to beg/borrow a copy of /usr/lib & /usr/include from AIX 3.2.5 and wanted to use that as a base. I decided to use GCC 188.8.131.52 and Binutils 2.11.2 as these were old enough t build somewhat easy enough from MinGW/MSYS 1, but I figured they also had the best luck of being able to parse the headers without needing ‘fixinc’.
I was able to build both binutils and GCC with this simple incanation
sh configure --target=ppc-ibm-aix325 --prefix=/aix3
One weird thing was that binutils completely sidestepped ld, so I had to configure that manually like this:
Also ‘eaixppc.c’ didn’t generate properly I had to rebuild binutils from Linux to get it to pick up and build that file, copy that back in to get a working cross linker. Older stuff has some issues with CR/LF from time to time, and sometimes it’s easier to deal with builds from other systems and pluck files as needed.
exec(): 0509-036 Cannot load program /cdrom/demo/hello/hello because of the following errors: 0509-150 Dependent module libc.a(shr.o) could not be loaded. 0509-022 Cannot load module libc.a(shr.o). 0509-026 System error: A file or directory in the path name does not exist.
The following is a guest post byÂ PA8600/PA-RISC! Thanks for doing another great writeup on that PowerPC that was going to transform the industry!.. but didn’t.
The history of the PReP platform from IBM is quite interesting, not only because of its place in the history of Windows NT but also the history of the PowerPC architecture in general. When the PowerPC platform was new, IBM (just like a few other vendors, notably DEC) had grand plans to replace the x86 PC clone market (they helped create) with PowerPC. Of course thanks to various factors such as Apple’s refusal to play along, the launch of the Pentium Pro CPU (and the later Itanium disaster), and high cost, this plan never ended up panning out. Later IBM PReP machines were designed for AIX and Linux use only, and they were sold as regular old RS/6000 computers.
Still, Microsoft being Microsoft and willing to port their OS to literally anything hedged their bets and made MIPS, PowerPC, and Alpha ports of Windows NT (along with a PC98 release for Japan only). In the guest post about Solaris for PowerPC I made, I talked about the history of IBM’s PReP platform some more so you should go read that post if you want an initial rundown on PReP’s flaws and history. But I have learned a bit about the Windows NT port for PowerPC, and I discovered a rare version of it as well. By now everyone with a PReP machine (or PPC Thinkpad) has run Windows NT 4.0 on it, and if PReP machines are emulated it’s guaranteed this will be the second most run OS on it aside from AIX of course.
IBM also made a half-baked OS/2 port for PowerPC as well, and then there’s the previously mentioned Solaris port. All of these are rarities and it’s worth documenting. With how rare PReP machines are and their high prices on eBay when they do turn up for sale (or their tendency to be snapped up fast), I think it’s fitting to write perhaps the most in depth look at PReP hardware that anyone has seen.
Windows NT 3.51: “The PowerPC Release”
It’s commonly accepted that Windows NT 3.51 was the first release for PowerPC hardware and it was even called this within Microsoft. Featuring HALs for most of the early PReP machines including the Moto Powerstack, the rare FirePower machines built for NT (which used Open Firmware), the Power Series 6050/70 (and maybe 7248), and the unobtanium IBM 6030, it’s pretty much what you’d expect for a first release for PPC. It’s a polished, solid OS that’s arguably faster than NT4 on the same machine. Aside from the red boot screen (on my Weitek GPU), it’s pretty much Windows NT 3.51 but on the PowerPC. It’s like running NT 3.51 on MIPS or Alpha, it’s interesting but more software will likely run on 4 anyhow (especially on Alpha).
One interesting quirk of Windows NT for PowerPC is it does not report the CPU type of your machine. It simply reports “PowerPC” and what machine you’re running it on. It does not tell you that you’re running it on a 601, it tells you that it’s running on an IBM-6015.
Unsurprisingly Visual C++ 4 works on PowerPC Windows NT 3.51 as well. This is no shock, Visual C++ 4 was designed to work on 3.51 as well as NT 4.0. The same goes with many of the pre compiled programs. One advantage Windows NT 3.51 offers over 4.0 is that it is simply faster than 4.0 on the PowerPC 601.
Here’s something I’ve found out from research however. There was actually a limited release of Windows NT 3.5, it’s been dumped, and it is a real operating system. It also requires a very specific model of RS/6000 to work, and one with a interesting history giving it a unique place among the PReP machines. While I was unable to make it work in the end, I did discover and document a lot of interesting features of PReP machines.
Enter Sandalfoot: The IBM 7020/6015 (and demystifying PReP machines)
To understand the HCL and weirdness of Windows NT for PowerPC (and why it won’t run on Macs), we need to take a look at one such machine it runs on. This is my RS/6000 40p, a machine that was given several brand names by IBM and used as a development platform for PReP software and operating system ports. This is also perhaps the most historically significant RS/6000 model from the era. While it wasn’t the first PowerPC RS/6000 (that honor goes to the 250), it was the first to use the PCI and ISA busses and it was a few months ahead of both the initial PCI PowerMacs and other PReP boxes. It’s also one of the few true bi-endian machines as just like other PReP machines, the MIPS Magnum, HP’s Integrity, and modern Power8+ machines it has OSes for both endians available.
In 1994 (presumably October 28, if the planned availability date is correct), IBM released the RS/6000 40p (announcement letter here, codenamed Sandalbow) and the Power Series 440 (codenamed Sandalfoot). Both are near-identical machines with different faceplates and boot screens. The RS/6000 ranged in price from around $4,000-6,000 and was designed to be an entry-level AIX workstation, bundling a copy of AIX with each machine. As an AIX machine it’s relatively slow and fits the entry-level badge quite well, but thanks to the 601’s POWER instructions it served as a transition machine over to the later 604 AIX machines. Unlike the later PowerPC 603 and 604 machines, it featured POWER instructions allowing it to run both legacy AIX POWER software and later PowerPC software. The Power Series was presumably sold to those wanting a PReP box for Windows instead.
Since IBM PReP hardware is so obscure and undocumented, I’m going to document this as best as I can being the owner of an IBM Model 6015/7020. The machine features a 66mhz PowerPC 601 (similar to that of the Power Mac 6100 and RS6K 250), PCI and ISA slots, and IBM’s “Dakota” PReP firmware (more on the boot process here). It uses an off the shelf NCR 53c810 SCSI controller, Crystal CS4321 sound chip, an Intel 82378 PCI bridge, and a NIC can be inserted into the ISA slots (mine has the famous 3com Etherlink III). The Super-IO chip is also off the shelf, and is a National PC87312VF. The clock IC is a Dallas DS1385S, a close relative of the Dallas DS1387 (with internal battery). At least some of the IBM custom ICs are the chipset ICs and those are also documented. A Linux 2.4 dmesg can be found here.
Mine is also maxed out at 192mb of RAM, however there are some solder pads for more and the chipset is limited at 256mb. This makes me wonder if the system was based on a reference design of some sort. There was an ultra-rare 604 upgrade as well, but considering how there are more 7248 and 7043 machines in the wild I can assume many customers just waited for that instead due to its superior AIX performance.
If the idea sounds familiar (off the shelf chips + RISC CPU) it’s because it was the very same idea used to create the two other non-x86 Windows NT platforms. The Microsoft Jazz MIPS platform most MIPS NT boxes were influenced by was infamously based on the same idea of a “PC with a MIPS CPU”. To a lesser extent, this was also seen on the DECpc AXP 150 and other EISA/ISA/PCI based Alpha machines designed to both run Windows NT and DEC’s own OSes. Crazy undocumented custom hardware and expansion busses were thrown out the window in favor of industry standards. In fact when I posted a photo of the motherboard to a chat full of PC nerds, they stated it looked remarkably like a normal PC motherboard. The whole industry would later adopt PCI and sometimes ISA on non-x86 machines to cut costs and reuse the same expansion cards.
The main difference between the RS/6000 40p and the Power Series variant is the boot ROM logo and chime. The RS/6000 and “OEM” systems used a boot ROM that featured the PowerPC logo and just a beep, while the Power Series machines featured a logo more closely resembling the PowerPC Thinkpads complete with the chime. One can boot firmware from a floppy as well by typing in the name of the ROM image in the prompt and pressing enter, and watching as it reboots once the firmware is loaded into RAM. Here’s a video I filmed demonstrating this, along with some other quirks including there being two SMS keys: F1 for a nice flashy GUI SMS and F4 for a text based SMS, along with F2 for netbooting (with the right NIC of course).
The Sandalfoot machines were LPX form factor machines, featuring a riser card and generic sheet-metal case popular with prebuilt machines from this era. The LPX form factor was wildly popular in the mid 90s due to its versatility, seeing use by both IBM and DEC for their RISC machines, various PC builders, and even Apple for the clone program and clone based Power Macintosh 4400. The Sandalfoot machines also drove home one of the core goals of the PReP project, which was to build a PowerPC platform using as many off the shelf and PC style components as possible instead of using lots of custom ICs like Apple did. I dug out one of my cameras to take a few high-res photos of the motherboard of this computer to illustrate this. Compare this to the motherboard of the Power Macintosh 6100 or even the 601 based 7200 and notice the bigger heatsink and use of fewer custom ICs (Apple loved those).
There were three main GPU options: the famous S3 Vision864, the Weitek Power 9100 (or P9100 for short) as a higher end option, and IBM’s own GXT150P. The S3 was the entry level GPU and the Weitek was a higher-end and faster GPU. The GXT150P is beyond the scope of this because it is unsupported on the other PReP OSes, only AIX. The other two video cards are essentially unmodified Diamond PC cards with the BIOS chips missing.
The Sandalfoot machines are perhaps the most important PReP machines due to their role in PReP OS development. Both OS/2 Beta 1 and Windows NT 3.5 were written for this machine in particular as it was one of the first PowerPC machines to support PReP and feature PCI/ISA slots, unlike the NuBus Macs released a few months earlier or the first PPC box: the MCA based RS/6000 Model 250. They also often shipped with the well documented and emulated S3 Vision 864 video card, a common GPU family in PCs of the time to the point where it was even included on some motherboards and emulated in too many PC emulators/virtualization programs to count (notably 86box/PCem). In fact it’s successor (the 7248) featured one soldered to the motherboard.
Windows NT 3.51 was dubbed the Power PC release, because it was designed around the Power PC version of NT, which was originally supposed to ship in version 3.5. But IBM constantly delayed the Power PC chips, necessitating a separate NT release. “NT 3.51 was a very unrewarding release,” Thompson said, contrasting it with Daytona. “After Daytona was completed, we basically sat around for 9 months fixing bugs while we waited for IBM to finish the Power PC hardware. But because of this, NT 3.51 was a solid release, and our customers loved it.” NT 3.51 eventually shipped in May 1995.
I think a more accurate thing to write is that there simply weren’t many PReP boxes out in late 1994. Windows NT 3.51 supported the Motorola PowerStack series, the IBM 6050/6070 (and maybe the 7248, which came out in July 1995), and rare FirePower machines. Windows NT only features HALs for the 6015 (Sandalfoot/Power 440/RS6K 40P), 6020 (Thinkpad 800), and the 6030 (a rare IBM machine that likely was only sent to a few developers). By 1995, there were more PReP machines on the market and this made the NT 3.51 release logical. NT4 even supported a few servers, mainly the RS6K E20, E30, and F30.
Windows NT 3.5 was most likely a limited release for testing purposes on the Sandalfoot machine as it’s HCL file declares it as “Build 807” with a date of October 18, 1994. The date seems to be around a week or two before the first 40p machines at least shipped. Some more files were modified later on and the folders were created on November 9th, 1994. Hardware support is very barren, and the readme file even has a section dedicated to quirks of the 40p along with a list of supported software for the x86 emulator. This might have been considered a beta as well, as an announcement letter for the Thinkpad 800 (6020) explicitly mentions Windows NT and that this version might be a beta for developers. It also talks about a Windows SDK for it and a Motorola compiler used to build 3.5 software.
However the real problem for me has to do with getting a video card. Windows NT 3.5 for PowerPC does not support the Weitek P9100 GPU that came with many RS/6000 branded machines, and neither does OS/2 for PowerPC. It only supports the S3 Vision 864 and 928 video cards. It’s listed in the setup options, but choosing it causes a txtsetup.sif error. I’m going to assume that the development units came with the S3 video card instead. My box contained a Weitek card which works for AIX, Solaris, and Windows NT 3.51/4. I bought a card from eBay to use with NT 3.5 and the OS/2 port.
The readme also features an ominous warning with the S3 video cards, that only revision B3 is supported and that 928 cards need 2MB of VRAM for anything above 256 colors. My revision of the card I ordered was B4, so I took the risk of seeing if it worked with my system. I also removed the ROM chip as the system initializes the video card itself and that having a ROM chip can cause the system to not complete the self-test or display video. As the IBM Weitek card lacks a BIOS, I did this.
Despite the scratches on the card from possibly coming out of an ewaste pile, the card worked fine in both a PC I inserted it in for testing purposes and the IBM system. I now had a 40p with a GPU much more well supported among non-AIX or Windows NT operating systems.
Anyhow, let’s talk about the install process in closer detail here. Windows NT for PowerPC installs in a similar manner to Solaris for PowerPC on the IBM PReP machines. First the floppy disk boots ARC, then when you choose to install it the machine copies the ARC bootloader/firmware to the hard disk so it can load it from there at each boot. The floppy disk can also be used to load ARC if the loader is damaged on the hard disk. Keep in mind, on IBM machines ARC is not stored in the ROM unlike on many other ARC capable machines so this has to be done. The Firepower machines do something very similar by using an Open Firmware shim, and unsuccessful attempts at emulating PPC NT have exploited VENEER.EXE to attempt booting instead of using the IBM firmware. It fails because they’re not emulating the hardware, just trying to find a quick way to just boot NT.
Once this is done, the installer loads up and installs just like every other NT install. It checks the HAL by reading the machine ID, what video hardware the machine has, and whatnot to prepare the installer. You need a IBM 6015, 6020, or 6030 according to the HALs it has and only the S3 video cards are on the HCL.
Or that’s what should happen. I first tried using ARC 1.51 as it worked for 3.51 and was greeted with a HAL error BSOD:
I first attempted to use older ARC boot floppies and I got somewhere, the BSOD changed to the classic 07b, and then I got nothing else. Using ARC 1.48 and 1.49 gave me this, I got some i/o error with ARC 1.46 (the first 3.51 ARC floppy), and any previous ARC floppy is most likely undumped. I’m assuming either the error is due to an ARC mismatch, a weird firmware mismatch/hardware revision mismatch, or some incorrect SCSI ID Solaris style. There might very well be some weird forgotten trick to making it work (maybe a Windows expert could dig through the files and find some weirdness), but I’m going to move onto another obscure PPC rarity:
OS/2 PowerPC Boot Attempts: Beta 1 and the Final
Recently the OS/2 Museum site dumped Beta 1 for PowerPC. It’s an earlier version of OS/2 for PowerPC that insists on a Sandalfoot machine with an S3 GPU. Unlike the other OS/2 PowerPC disc, it features a verbose boot featuring the kernel it uses. If you want to really see OS/2 for PPC working, try it on a 7248 or read this post about it.
This failed to boot, throwing up an error about mounting the disk or something. I did record it doing something at least however, an improvement over the Weitek which just does nothing at the PowerPC screen. I tried several things including removing the external SCSI CD drive and that didn’t fix much. It also declares 88c05333 an unknown PCI device.
So I decided to try the “final” build. The final build requires a 6050/70, and some people did get it working on the PPC Thinkpads. I decided to see what it’d do on my machine. Unsurprisingly it did absolutely nothing but give me a blank white screen and sometimes a 00016000 error (for a trashed CMOS). If anything the 6015 loves to trash it’s CMOS contents for absolutely no reason, especially when OS/2 is involved.
Anyhow this was very anti-climatic, as the OSes I threw at it found reasons to not work on it whatsoever. I weeded out the GPU being at fault by testing Windows NT 4.0 and finding out that it works just fine with the GPU, however I seem to have fewer resolutions available than what the Weitek card allows. It did change the boot screen font, making me wonder if the red boot screen is a GPU driver quirk.
However changing the device IDs with OS/2 PowerPC Beta 1 got me somewhere, as I now got a screen about the HDD failing to write. I formatted the HDD to FAT using the ARC diskette, then I nuked all the partitions, but not much else changed. I’m not sure what the error means, but it was a letdown.
Unless these OSes require some long lost firmware, I’m wondering if there’s else that’s causing issues with installation. Either way, it was a letdown. Nothing I tried worked and I spent hours messing with everything from SCSI IDs to using different drives.
The following is a guest post by PA8600/PA-RISC! Thanks for doing this incredible writeup about an ultra rare Unix!
One of the weirdest times in computing was during the mid-90s, when the major RISC vendors all had their own plans to dominate the consumer market and eventually wipe out Intel. This was a time that led to overpriced non-x86 systems that intended to wipe out the PC, Windows NT being ported to non-x86 platforms, PC style hardware paired with RISC CPUs, Apple putting the processor line from IBM servers into Macs, and Silicon Graphics designing a game console for Nintendo. While their attempts worked wonders in the embedded field for MIPS and the AIM alliance, quite a few of these attempts at breaking into the mainstream were total flops.
Despite this, there were some weird products released during this period that most only assumed existed in tech magazine ads and reviews. One such product was Solaris for PowerPC. Now Solaris has existed on Intel platforms for ages and the Illumos fork has some interesting ports including a DEC Alpha port, but a forgotten official port exists for the PowerPC CPU architecture. Unlike OS/2, itâ€™s complete and has a networking stack. Itâ€™s also perhaps one of the weirdest OSes on the PowerPC platform.
Itâ€™s a little-endian 32-bit PowerPC Unix and possibly the only one running in 32 bit mode. Windows NT and OS/2 (IIRC) were the other 32-bit PowerPC little-endian OSes and Linux is a 64 bit little endian OS.
Itâ€™s a limited access release, yet feels as polished as a released product.
It has a working networking stack.
Unlike AIX, it was designed to run on a variety of hardware with room to expand if more PPC hardware was sold. You can throw in a random 3com ISA NIC for example and it will in fact work with it.
It shares several things with Solaris for Intel including the installer.
Iâ€™m going to demonstrate perhaps the weirdest complete PowerPC OS on fitting hardware: the IBM RS/6000 7020 40p, also known as the Power Series 440 (6015) and by its codename â€œSandalfootâ€. The system is a PowerPC 601 based machine, featuring the PCI and ISA buses in an LPX style case. This is also one of the few machines that can run it. All screen captures are from a VGA2USB card as emulators cannot run anything but AIX.
What you need to run Solaris PPC
To run Solaris, the system requirements are just like that of Windows NT for PowerPC. You need a PReP machine (PowerPC Reference Platform, not to be confused with the HIV prevention pill or PrEP according to Wikipedia). Now finding a PReP machine is perhaps the hardest part of setting up Solaris for PowerPC and to understand why you need to know a bit about the history of the PowerPC platform.
One of the biggest problems with PowerPC hardware to this day has been the sheer inconsistency of how each machine boots. While Alpha machines had SRM/ARC and SPARC machines had OpenBoot, each vendor had their own way of booting a PowerPC machine despite rolling out standards.
There were essentially two different camps building PowerPC machines, IBM and Apple. IBMâ€™s plans for universal PowerPC machines consisted of industry standard, low cost machines built around a PowerPC CPU, chipset, and lots of supporting components lifted from the PC platform along with PCI and ISA. The CHRP and PReP standards were essentially PCs with PowerPC processors in them. IBMâ€™s plan was that you were going to replace your PC with a PowerPC machine someday. This was cemented by the fact that Windows NT was ported to the PowerPC platform, that OS/2 had an ill-fated port, and that a handful of third party Windows NT PPC machines were sold.
Apple on the other hand wanted to build Macs with PowerPC CPUs. Older Power Macs featured no PCI slots or Open Firmware, only NuBus slots carried over from classic 68k Macs. In fact much of the boot and OS code was emulated 68k code. Later on Apple would lift bits and pieces of things they enjoyed from the PowerPC standards such as Open Firmware, PCI, and even PS/2 and VGA ports on the clones. Appleâ€™s plan was to replace the PC with the Mac, and Mac clones featured Apple style hardware on LPX motherboards. While the PCI clones featured Open Firmware, this version was designed to load the Macintosh Toolbox from ROM while â€œfutureproofingâ€ them by adding in the ability to boot something like Mac OS X/Rhapsody or BeOS.
Despite these similarities Macs were their own computers and were nothing like the IBM systems internally, aside from sharing the same CPU and maybe Open Firmware later on. But even Macs with Open Firmware were incapable of booting from hard disks formatted for IBM systems and vice versa. This is a common problem with installing PowerPC Linux as many installers do not check which machine theyâ€™re run on. Furthermore unlike modern day Intel Macs, PPC Macs were designed to only boot operating systems specifically written for them. They were incapable of running any OS solely written for the IBM machines.
The confusion between PPC machines has also caused a forum question to pop up, â€œhow can I install PowerPC Windows on my Mac?â€ Even today the new OpenPower/PowerNV machines use a different bootloader than IBMâ€™s hardware and completely lack Open Firmware.
Anyhow IBM built several different generations of PowerPC UNIX machines under several brand names including RS/6000, pSeries, and Power. Nearly all of them (aside from the Linux models) will run AIX, and later ones will run IBM i as well. Not just any PowerPC IBM hardware will run the OSes designed for PReP hardware however.
To run these old PReP OSes youâ€™re looking at a very specific set of machines from the 1994-95 period, many with no characteristic diagnostic display most RS/6000 machines have. To run PowerPC Solaris much of the same applies here. You need a RS/6000 40p, or 7248 43p (not the later 140 and 150 with the display). The rare PPC Thinkpads and Personal Computer Power Series machines will run Solaris as well. Itâ€™s also compatible with the PowerStack machines from Motorola and one BetaArchive user had luck running it on a VME board. These machines are hard to find and unemulated as of writing, though the firmware files exist for the 40p at least and some efforts have been made in QEMU.
Mine features a PowerPC 601 CPU, 192mb of RAM (the max), a Weitek P9100 video card (branded as the IBM S15 IIRC), and a non-IBM 3com NIC. The 3com NIC has issues with the system as during boot if the NIC is connected to the network the system will refuse to boot fully and will either freeze or BSOD (in NT). The NIC is also not supported on AIX as well, and will eventually need to be replaced.
Curiously, not only is the IBM 40p/7020/6015 not listed in the HCL but the NIC it uses is. Itâ€™s well known that the Sandalfoot systems were used for early PReP OS development and it makes sense. Unlike the RS/6000 model 250, the 40p features PCI and ISA busses along with the same 601 CPU early PowerPC machines had.Â
To install PowerPC Solaris, you first need to make a boot floppy. This isnâ€™t uncommon with PReP operating systems. PowerPC Windows NT also requires a boot floppy for the ARC loader. The difference here is that there are two boot floppies; one for Motorola machines and one for IBM machines. Even on PowerPC this wasnâ€™t terribly unusual, both the Moto Powerstack and Apple Network Server computers required custom AIX install media as well and Windows NT had specific HALs for each PPC machine.
On the Motorola PowerStack machines you need the same firmware used to install AIX instead of the ARC firmware for NT. On the IBM machines itâ€™s vastly easier, you just need to make the floppy and shove it in. You then press the power switch and youâ€™ll end up dumped to an Open Firmware prompt. As these IBM machines did not have Open Firmware, the bootloader loads Open Firmware from the floppy or hard disk every time you boot the machine. Keep in mind even the system management services are floppy loaded on these machines.
You then run into the first big hurdle to installing the OS, â€œdiskâ€ and â€œnetâ€ are mapped to very specific devices and if the SCSI IDs of these are different it will not boot. If the CD drive is not at ID 3 and the HDD is not at ID 6 the commands will not work. You will need to set an environment variable and tell it to boot from these disks manually for the first install.
Booting the OS is similar to booting it on a Sun, but the installer resembles that of the Intel version. The first thing that happens is you wait for the slow 2 speed CD drive to load the OS as the screen turns Open Firmware white. You will need to set the terminal type, and then then video and mouse input before X will load. The video options are limited to the S3 864/928, the Weitek P9000 and P9100, and Motoâ€™s Cirrus Logic GD5434. Notice how the Power Series 440 (6015)/RS6k 7020 40p is referred to by its codename â€œSandalfootâ€.
Once you enter this in Solaris will boot load X it does on a Sun or Intel box, and the installer will be exactly the same. This phase is very uneventful as the slow CD drive copies files to the hard disk. I didnâ€™t take a lot of screenshots of this part because you can get the same experience with QEMU or an old SPARCStation. You set the network info, you partition the HDD, you choose what you want, and you sit back as it installs.
Then youâ€™ll be dropped at the Open Firmware bootloader and youâ€™ll enter the right commands to make it boot if â€œboot diskâ€ doesnâ€™t automatically boot the OS.
The installation is not complete however. The next step is to swap CDs and install the GUI. A default install will drop you at a command line, with the second disk you can install OpenWindows and CDE and get a full working desktop. Login, switch CDs, change to the correct directory, and run the installer.
Once this is done, simply type in reboot and once you login youâ€™ll be at a desktop that looks exactly like a Solaris 2.5.1 install on any other platform with one difference. There is literally zero third party software, and for years there was literally zero way of making software for it. Youâ€™re stuck with a stock OS and whatever utilities Solaris 2.5.1 came with. Youâ€™ll want to use OpenWindows as well, CDE is vastly slower on the 601 CPU (but not as slow as AIX 4.3 for example). The platform directory also tells you what IBM machines it can run on, and all the RS/6000s are titled PPS. The 6015 is the 40p, the 6040 and 6042 are the ThinkPad models 830 and 850, the 6050/70 are the Personal Computer Power Series variants of the 7248 43p, and the PowerStacks are pretty self-explanatory.
The Compiler Problem (and solutions)
For the longest time Solaris for PowerPC was neglected among those who happened to own a PReP machine for one reason: it lacked a compiler. A compiler is perhaps the most important part of any operating system as it allows one to write code for it. As was the case with UNIX operating systems from the time, the compiler was sold separately. With any UNIX that was widely distributed this wasnâ€™t too much of an issue, as GCC or other third party compilers existed for the platform. Furthermore most compilers for these commercial UNIX operating systems ended up dumped online.
$ ls -l /opt/ppc-gcc/lib/gcc-lib/powerpcle-sun-solaris2/2.95/ total 13224 -rwxr-xr-x 1 bin bin 5157747 Feb 16 10:30 cc1 -rwxr-xr-x 1 bin bin 404074 Feb 16 10:30 collect2 -rwxr-xr-x 1 bin bin 453525 Feb 16 10:30 cpp -rw-r--r-- 1 bin bin 1932 Feb 16 10:30 ecrti.o -rw-r--r-- 1 bin bin 1749 Feb 16 10:30 ecrtn.o drwxr-xr-x 3 bin bin 1024 Feb 16 10:29 include -rw-r--r-- 1 bin bin 673012 Feb 16 10:30 libgcc.a drwxr-xr-x 2 bin bin 512 Feb 16 10:30 nof -rw-r--r-- 1 bin bin 4212 Feb 16 10:30 scrt0.o -rw-r--r-- 1 bin bin 1360 Feb 16 10:30 scrti.o -rw-r--r-- 1 bin bin 1104 Feb 16 10:30 scrtn.o -rw-r--r-- 1 bin bin 7868 Feb 16 10:30 specs lrwxrwxrwx 1 root other 24 Feb 22 21:35 values-Xa.o -> /usr/ccs/lib/values-Xa.o lrwxrwxrwx 1 root other 24 Feb 22 21:36 values-Xc.o -> /usr/ccs/lib/values-Xc.o lrwxrwxrwx 1 root other 24 Feb 22 21:36 values-Xs.o -> /usr/ccs/lib/values-Xs.o lrwxrwxrwx 1 root other 24 Feb 22 21:36 values-Xt.o -> /usr/ccs/lib/values-Xt.o lrwxrwxrwx 1 root other 26 Feb 22 21:37 values-xpg4.o -> /usr/ccs/lib/values-xpg4.o $
Once you do this, you can now compile C code at least with GCC. This means that Solaris for the PowerPC platform now is a usable operating system, aside from the fact it has no precompiled software whatsoever. Even Windows NT for PowerPC has more software for it. Software can now be compiled using GCC or the original compiler, and cross compiled with GCC on a non-PPC box. Using the cross compiler lets you compile more basics for compiling PPC Solaris code as well such as make. In this screenshot you can also see me compiling a basic â€œendian testâ€ code example to demonstrate the little endianness of the PowerPC port.
The only problem is that thereâ€™s going to be little interest until someone makes a PReP machine emulator. PReP hardware is very hard to come by on the used market these days and while in the early 2000s it might have been easy to find something like a specific RS6k, but judging by the eBay listings there were a lot more MCA, CHRP, and even later PReP models (like the 43p-140) than there are early PReP machines in circulation. QEMU can emulate the 40p somewhat, but right now its 40p emulation is less like an actual 40p and more like something to please AIX. It definitely has the novelty of being a â€œlittle-endian PowerPC Unixâ€ however.
Or how I finally broke down and bought that MkLinux book after all these decades. When I did own a PowerPC Mac as my daily driver it was an iMac back in 1999 and I ran OS X Server. I later bought a G4 to only find out that OS X didn’t support the G4. Linux had issues too and I ended up running OpenBSD on the G4. Which was fun, although for the ‘work at home’ bit, I ended up needing Windows NT 4.0, so I ran that in OS 8 on SoftPC. Yay.
I didn’t have any luck with Linux on Power as MkLinux wanted the beige hardware, and by the time I felt like digging in again to Linux, OS X had finally been ported to the G4 Sawtooth’s so it really didn’t matter.
I’d seen this book in a store but it was pretty expensive, and geared to such a tiny market. Although Mach does compile on the i386, why they didn’t include it was well to push Mach/Linux as a platform well that’s beyond me. Then again looking at the stunning success of Darwin on i386/x86_64 I guess the reality is, why bother.
I ordered this on Ebay, for the usual $5 plus $10 to ship, and it just showed up today! What mysteries lie on the CD-ROMs? I know others have posted stuff, but I wanted to hold them in my hands myself.
I didn’t know if the CD-ROM’s were included, and I first thought I got lucky: not only were they included, neither had been opened up before! These CD’s had been packed way like this for the last 22.5 years! Now for the bad part.
See that stupid leaflet in the back? Yeah well it turns out that it was a really stupid idea. No doubt this thing sat in the bottom of a stack for decades where the ink had been pressed for so long against the disk that it has transferred to the surface.
So yes, they actually advertise the book, namely the one that I had bought with some crap ink leaflet in the CD-ROM pouch and it’s transferred to the disc.
I tried rubbing alcohol but that had no effect. I tried rubbing with a credit card, and it got a little off, but I fear I’m just going to damage the surface more.
I can only imagine what other CD-ROM’s out there that haven’t been archived are sitting under hundreds or thousands of pounds of book weight having nonsense imprinted onto them.
At least the second CD-ROM doesn’t suffer this defect and I’ll be uploading it later.
No book review yet, I’m just sitting here with this impacted CD.
Thanks to Shawn Novak for uploading the R3 images so I can at least pull up the compatible machines:
The latest Qemu can pull it the image fine, however trying to boot up looks like the Mach kernel just isn’t compatible enough with the emulated Mac99 machine (which isn’t surprising).
I’ll need to mess with stuff to see if the G3beige can boot Linux on Qemu, and if the BootX (I think it’s bootx?) can load the mach kernel.