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Re: [English] I have an old DECstation 5000 and want to run Linux/MIPS

To: "Bryan J. Smith" <>
Subject: Re: [English] I have an old DECstation 5000 and want to run Linux/MIPS ...
From: Mitchell Blank Jr <>
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 05:40:09 -0500
In-reply-to: <>; from Bryan J. Smith on Mon, Aug 31, 1998 at 05:13:28AM -0400
References: <> <>
Bryan J. Smith wrote:
> Sorry, I have a 5000/240.


> I have heard that NetBSD/OpenBSD is a better
> solution since Linux/MIPS really only boots on those systems (and does
> little else).

Yep.  From the looks of it, Harald and others are doing some fabulous work
on the decstation port, so maybe it won't be too long until we can all run
Linux on these machines.  Still, if you're looking for something now, a
BSD is the way to go.  (and the BSD's are quite good OSes in their own
right... it's just that many of us would prefer Linux :-)

[Note: this may be a bit off topic for linux-mips, but why not... I'm sure
there's some folks who are just setting up decstations now and will be
running BSD while testing linux kernels.  I hope to be in that boat soon
myself - I now have nothing critical on my decs, so once I find time (ha!)
to get a build environment going, I'll be doing the same thing... so some
cursory discussion of the various BSDs might be helpful for people starting
out with their DECstations, eh?]

> So, which is better NetBSD or OpenBSD?

Purely a matter of preference.  I think OpenBSD is a bit better on the
technical merits.  Others have the opposite opinion.

> Also, what is the history with all
> the different BSD OSes (NetBSD, OpenBSD, FreeBSD, 386BSD, etc...)?  I am
> assuming they are all based on the BSDLite 4.4 code, but how are they
> different from each other?

Yes, they all decend from bsd-lite2.  I might be a bit fuzzy on the details,
but here goes.  I think I'm at least approximately correct on this.

386BSD was basically a straight port of 4.4 to the 386 hardware with a small
amount of hardware support.  There was a series of accompnying articles in
Doctor Dobbs detailing the work as it progressed.  It's essentially "dead"
now, although the code lives on in...

FreeBSD - this project took the 386BSD code and refined it to the point its
at today.  Emphasis is on speed and stability on Intel platform.  Apparently
they're also working on a sparc port.  No decstation support, obviously.

NetBSD - this project started by combining the 386BSD work with all the other
stuff in 4.4BSD and maintaining it.  It runs on almost all the arcitectures
that were supported in BSD 4.[34] and several more have been added.  Emphasis
is on portability.

OpenBSD - several years ago some of there was a large fight in the NetBSD
ranks.  The exact issues involved and who said what seems to be a rather
contenious issue, so I won't go into that.  The end result was that some
NetBSD folks left to form a new project lead by Theo DeRaadt.  The emphasis
is on security.  Since it started from the NetBSD code base it still includes
support for a relatively large number of platforms.

Again, either NetBSD or OpenBSD will probably work fine.  Like I mentioned,
I'm currently running OpenBSD.  The only caveat about using OpenBSD over
NetBSD is that OpenBSD is very into crypto and security.  So things like
password crypting is substatially beefed up which makes logging in >slow<
on these old MIPS machines.  You can tune that with /etc/passwd.conf.  It
also has a bunch of security-audit cron jobs that run every night... if you're
near the machine (and its old loud SCSI drive) when these things tend to run
I'd advise just commenting them out... the sound of an old RZ drive running
all those md5sum's is quite maddening, especially when you're trying to
sleep :-)

> Also, how do I find out which video controller I have

At the prom console you should be able to get a dump of the hardware in the
box by issuing a "cnfg 3" command.  That is what I use on my PD5000/25 and
my 5000/125... I'm guessing the /240 will be the same.

> and if it is compatible with X?

They both support the common PMAG-AA, PMAG-BA, and PMAGB-BA cards.  They don't
support the PMAG-C, -D, -E, -F, -J, or -JA cards.  For these cards you're
currently stuck with Ultrix. :-(

> Any other comments on how I can load the OS exactly (it only has a DLT
> drive)?

The installations come with readme files.  Basically, you load the .tar.gz
files onto another machine and tftp boot an image.  All DECstations can
be network booted.  You can also dd an image onto a different SCSI disk and
boot from that if its more convinient.  Again, check the various readme
files for detailed instructions:

Enjoy your DECstation... they're really neat machines once you rid them of
their Ultrix affliction ;-)


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