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Topic: My DosBox Adventure on Solaris UltraSparc (Read 2333 times) previous topic - next topic

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My DosBox Adventure on Solaris UltraSparc
My unnatural obsession with Sun computers has reached a new peak. I have DosBox running usably on 2002-vintage Solaris servers.

The main issue I ran into is just getting these machines started into X11 in the first place. There are three blessed ways to use a Sun Fire server. The main way is using the LOM or ALOM port, which is a serial port that is always broadcasting. The way you would generally log in and use a production machine would be over ethernet--IPv6 on gigabit, even in 2002! The last way, which had a lot of support from Sun and Oracle, but is generally not done, is a full graphical login. Obviously, I went graphical.

The issue here is that almost all the machines I own have been locked down from the LOM/ALOM to drop all SSH connections and not use any graphics cards. Of couse, you also need a special Sun-blessed graphics card to do this, which run ridiculous prices on eBay. I was very fortunate to get two XVR-100's (Radeon 7000s) and one XVR-250 (Radeon 9000) with my lot of servers.

To enable graphics, I had to somehow get around the ALOM password. I decided on using a Sun Fire v240, since most of the machines I own are this model. These machines need a key to start them. I'd seen this kind of thing before on old Dell PowerEdges, but one interesting aspect of the Fire series is that you can also use the key to select a diagnostics mode on startup, which ultimately tries to boot from disk regardless of the options you select in OpenBoot (which was what everything except x86 uses instead of BIOS, until EFI came out).

QUite luckily, I discovered that if I started a Sun Fire v240 in diagnostics mode, I could then turn it back to normal mode while it was doing diagnostics, and instead of a normal bootup, I was dropped into the ALOM prompt as the default admin account without entering the ALOM password! I've tried this on several other FIre-series servers, and it seems they all do this. Do'h!
From here, I was able to first enable video, and then change it to 60 hertz (for some reason, all Sun cards want 75 hertz. Was this standard for servers in 2002?)

Then, it was a relatively simple matter to download DosBox for Solaris 10 UltraSparc and grab some of my old games (Daggerfall pictured, SimCity 2000 also tested quite thoroughly). Yes, there is a version of DosBox setup just for this kind of computer...I guess some sysadmins got really bored one day.

My general impression is that this machine, which has 8 GB of ram (expandable to 32 GB), a pair of ZPooled 10k RPM SCSI Ultra160 drives, and a pair of UltraSparc III CPUs (true dual CPU, not dual core) is actually really powerful. I'm only using actual results, but it hosts Minecraft with similar latency to my brand new MacBook Pro. A certain benchmark I found, which some Solaris folks told me proved I was a fool, said this machine shouldn't be much more powerful than an rPi. Regardless of the why, it can run DosBox at full speed, and my rPi struggles to get even a single frame per second in.

Definitely the best ten dollar computer I ever bought!
  • Last Edit: April 16, 2015, 11:01:04 pm by Flying Jester

  • Radnen
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Re: My DosBox Adventure on Solaris UltraSparc
Reply #1

Definitely the best ten dollar computer I ever bought!

Oh wow! I can see why that was a huge success. Is there anything like Wine for it?
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Re: My DosBox Adventure on Solaris UltraSparc
Reply #2

Definitely the best ten dollar computer I ever bought!

Oh wow! I can see why that was a huge success. Is there anything like Wine for it?

Wine is rumored to work on Solaris, but since these are UltraSparc and not x86(_64) processors I can't imagine it would perform too spectacularly. It think it would have to use embedded Qemu, the way the old, PPC Wine for OS X worked. Which is basically what DosBox uses, but dos programs obviously tend to be much older and less resource hungry.

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Re: My DosBox Adventure on Solaris UltraSparc
Reply #3
This was a very entertaining read! Nice to see what you can do with old but powerful hardware. :)

And I think DOSBox uses its own x86 emulation, not QEmu. I also think it could be faster, but hey, it's functional and it runs most games. (Where is the next DOSBox release?!)