[nSLUG] what to do with an older Sun machine?

Aaron Spanik aaronspanik at eastlink.ca
Fri Jun 10 15:23:23 ADT 2005

(Re-sending this from the _right_ address.  Pardon if that one
eventually gets through and this ends up a double-post)

On Fri, 10 Jun 2005 13:10:09 -0400
Stephen Gregory <nslug at kernelpanic.ca> wrote:

> On Fri, Jun 10, 2005 at 09:04:57AM -0300, ricardd at mathstat.dal.ca
> >
> > By some twisted series of event, a Sun Ultra 10 Creator 3D box
landed in
> In my experience Solaris works best on these machines. By that I mean
> Solaris is the most stable, and everything works. While the OS is
> great it dosen't come with much usefull software. There is the Sun
> freeware CD, but it is out of date. I think you will find that you
> have to compile stuff by hand. It will work, but you will have to
> manage it.

In terms of stability, Solaris is almost always going to work best,
certainly on the Sparc platform, but arguably even on x86 hardware. 
Solaris was designed from the ground up to be an "enterprise" Unix and
generally gave up things like interactive responsiveness for other
things like memory and disk throughput (Donald's comments about Sun's
IDE implementation notwithstanding).  That said, why use the SunFreeware
CD when you can just go to http://www.sunfreeware.com (or the usually
much much faster mirror at http://sunfreeware.risq.qc.ca)?
> That is why I recommend Debian or other Linux disto. Linux works well
> enough, and most distros have an excellent repository of software. You
> could use Gentoo, but the proc in the Ultra 10 is not that fast and
> you will be compiling for ages.

There are Gentoo package repositories out there that have some
pre-compiled binaries.  There's also distcc if you've got another
desktop system kicking around with GCC installed.  There's also
cross-compiling, although that can be a nightmare.

I agree with going to Linux (frankly, given licensing issues with
Solaris <=9 and likely hardware issues with Solaris 10, I'm not sure
you've got much of a choice).  Debian really does look like the best bet
on that front, considering the compilation issues of Gentoo and the fact
that the Slackware port for Sparc appears to have been nixed quite some
time ago (it's still available if you go looking, but I doubt there's
been much if any work on it in the last two years).

As a BSD admin, I'm honor-bound to mention that OpenBSD and NetBSD are
also very viable options, however you're not going to get much of a
desktop system out of either of them (OpenBSD zealots would argue with
me on that, I'm sure, but if you're used to a Linux desktop, an
OpenBSD desktop is rather underwhelming at best).  OpenBSD would make
you a very nice firewall on that system, though :)
> I think you can pull that Creator 3D graphics card out and use the
> db15 onboard vga. If not you can get a little converter the size of a
> gender changer. If you hunt around the dept you probably can find one.

Mileage varies on those converters.  Something about "Sync-on-green" if
memory serves me correctly.  But there will almost certainly be a 15-pin
d-sub there for standard SVGA.  If you really do want to get a desktop
environment of any kind up and running, the UPA card is going to be a
lot faster.  Just make sure you get an adapter that's got some sort of
"guarantee" on it, such as this one:




Aaron Spanik
Senior Unix Systems Administrator, Computing Services
Acadia University  Wolfville, NS  Canada  B4P 2R6
phone: (902) 585-1121  fax: (902) 585-1066


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