For no particular reason, a Sparc workstation is on it’s way

I was shopping for one of these on ebay:

By Caroline Ford – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

But then got caught up on the idea that an Ultra 5 with IDE disk support might be a better idea:

By Liftarn –

After a lively discussion in the Facebook Vintage Unix Machines group about the pros and cons of older Sparcstations, Ultra 1 and 2, vs Ultra 5/10, I decided to shop for an Ultra 1 or 2. I made an offer on one but didn’t get it. And then I decided to go for an Ultra 60 since it was cheaper than anything else I could find, although in a unknown working condition, other than ‘it powers on’. So when it turns up it will be a learning experience to see if it’s actually in working condition or not.

I believe from photos from the ebay listing that there’s a SunPCI card in there, so that will be interesting to play with, and also the Creator 3D graphics card.

On my shopping list of needed parts:

  • a Sun Type 5 keyboard and mouse (with Sun mini DIN connector)
  • a 13W3 video to VGA adapter
  • an SCA SCSI disk
  • possible future purchase, a SCSI2SD adapter

Installing Solaris 2.6 under QEMU

I’ve been looking at picking up a used Sun Sparcstation from eBay. It occurred to me that I’ve never installed an early version of Solaris before, so wondered if I could give it a try under QEMU since it’s emulates different hardware, including Sparc.

There’s an awesome step by step guide on Adafruit that takes you precisely each step to get Solairs installed un QEMU. You can follow the steps in their article here, so I won’t repeat all the steps here.

The key steps before you get to the install are creating a disk image:

qemu-img create -f qcow2 sparc.qcow2 9663676416

and then booting with the Solaris iso image as the cdrom and the disk image attached:

qemu-system-sparc -M SS-5 -m 128 -drive file=sparc.qcow2,bus=0,unit=0,media=disk -drive file=solaris_2.6_598_sparc.iso,bus=0,unit=2,media=cdrom,readonly=on

After this point it’s following through the steps in the install.

Here’s qemu booting up for the first time:

Here’s the Solaris installer starting up:

After the install had completed, here’s the rather impressive for it’s time CDE desktop:

Installing FreeBSD 11.1 on Parallels

Installing FreeBSD from an ISO in a VM is pretty easy, just follow the menu prompts, set a root password and create a new user when prompted. There’s many step by step guides such as this one if you need help.

Out of the box with a fresh install you don’t get a desktop environment installed like you typically do with Linux distros, so after the first boot there’s a few additional steps to get up and running.

First install any updates  (logon as root):

freebsd-update fetch
freebsd-update install

Next install XWindows using pkg:

pkg install xorg

You can install any of the common desktop environments on FreeBSD. To install Gnome:

pkg install gnome3

After the install completes there’s a couple of manual config steps, which are covered in this guide here.

In summary:

  • add a line to mout /proc to /etc/fstab:
proc          /proc       procfs  rw  0  0
  • edit /etc/rc.config and add the following lines:
dbus_enable="YES" hald_enable="YES"

During my install of Gnome I ran into an error with corrupted package during install:

After some googling and trying a few different options (pkg clean -a), a post suggested to delete the download the downloaded cached package, but didn’t say how to do that. From some searching I found what looks like the cached files at /var/cache/pkg, so a ‘rm libwmf*’ deleted the file mentioned in the error that were previously downloaded, and then kicking off ‘pkg install gnome3’ again picked back up from where it left off.

Issues fixed, gnome installed, rebooted and we’re at the Gnome desktop: