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Is Linux Losing Its SPARC?

Cliff posted more than 13 years ago | from the penguins-obscuring-the-sun dept.

Linux 372

flsquirrel asks: "As I spent 5 hours of my Sunday afternoon trying to get some form of Linux to load on my Sparcstation 5, I started to wonder where the support for all these Sun boxes is headed. Redhat has dropped Sparc altogether as a supported platform. Some others like Mandrake have recently picked it up but seem dismally unprepared to tackle the platform. Most distributions ignore the platform completely. So I thought I'd throw this out to the Slashdot community for discussion. Is there any hope of saving Linux on the Sparc? What options do SPARCstation owners have for a reletively up to date distro that isn't in beta or otherwise have bizzar issues stemming from someone just trying to recompile an Intel distro for the Sparc architecture?" One of the great things about Linux is its ability to run on many different architectures. So why is SPARC support beginning to lag? Lack of interest? Lack of resources? Would anyone be interested in contributing the missing necessary resources?

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Re:Solaris 2.8 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#237062)

So why the hell do you want to use linux?!?

You know the answer! Tux is just so cute!

Re:Debian. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#237063)

Debian does indeed have a sparc port, which is alive and well.

I currently have it running cheerfully on a Classic, Ultra/1 and Ultra/10, and have seen it running on an IPC, IPX, and sparc/(2|5|10|20).

Re:Solaris 2.8 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#237064)

For me the greatest thing is that the people who write everything also puts the OS together, it just plain works better, and a lot too. Give it a shot and you'll never go back.

Re:Operating Systems (2)

Wakko Warner (324) | more than 13 years ago | (#237070)

Hell, wheres NFS ?

Um, would you like kernel- or userland NFS? Because Linux has both. And I've been able to get about 6 to 7 MB/second sustained on my 100 MBit/sec switched network between different machines running different operating systems (not just Linux) from my NFS Linux box.

Where's NFS, indeed... - A.P. (nice troll tho...)

Forget Napster. Why not really break the law?

Why Solaris is better than Linux. (2)

emil (695) | more than 13 years ago | (#237076)

Whether we like it or not, Free Solaris and the Foundation Source program are causing at least the Linux SPARC port to whither.

Why? Here are some reasons:

  • Solaris has had a journaling filesystem for some time (albeit not of high quality)
  • Solaris has had large file support for some time
  • Solaris can mirror the root partition (not many people like Disksuite, but it seems more powerful than md)
  • Solaris is a direct descendent of the original SysV source code
  • Solaris has more mature SMP

If Sun really wants to cause heart failure in both their open and closed-source competetors:

  • Integrate XFS into the Solaris kernel and distribution (even if it does piss Veritas off)
  • Bring back the PowerPC port, and release an Alpha port (yea! Solaris on powermac!)
  • Clean up the x86 installer (man, is that ugly)
  • Release a "Solaris for stupid people" distribution with the equivalent functionality of beos. Push it at x86.
  • And, hey Sun guys, patchcheck is certainly a step forward, but would you just port RedHat up2date to Solaris? Alternately, write a commandline/gui version with /usr/dt/bin/dtksh.

But then again, God help us if Sun rules the world.

NetBSD/sparc (2)

ninjaz (1202) | more than 13 years ago | (#237085)

What options do SPARCstation owners have for a reletively up to date distro that isn't in beta or otherwise have bizzar issues stemming from someone just trying to recompile an Intel distro for the Sparc architecture?
I suggest giving NetBSD/Sparc [] a shot. I've found it to work very smoothly on non-x86 platforms, as all platforms are treated as first class citizens. I've had good results with NetBSD on each platform I've used it on - sparc, alpha and x86.

While working as a Solaris admin in big corporate sparc shop a while back, I developed a NetBSD floppy-based disk wipe procedure (for systems being decomissioned), which went onto become official there. Much nicer than waiting for a Solaris CD boot. I also managed to get Linux to be the OS on the on-call laptop, after the managers had tried pushing Solaris x86 (on a laptop.. heh..), and Windows NT.

Re:OT: What does SPARC mean (2)

ptomblin (1378) | more than 13 years ago | (#237089)

Maybe I'm out of date, but in the early days of the Sun4, we were told it was "Scalable Processor Architecture RISC Computer".

Re:running on other architectures (1)

calc (1463) | more than 13 years ago | (#237094)

Maybe you should wake up and look at a real distribution like Debian.
It currently supports: alpha, arm, i386, m68k, ppc, sparc.
In development: hppa, hurd, ia64, mips, mipsel, s390, sh.
But you are right about commercial support being mostly x86.

This is painfully simple (2)

jd (1658) | more than 13 years ago | (#237095)

The European Space Agency released the LEON processor under the GPL. It would be trivial (well, almost) to run a LEON emulator, fire up the SPARC Linux port, compile, install and test.

This isn't something that requires a budget equal to the deficit of the western world. This is something any kid in their garage could do.

In fact, this is something I would strongly suggest kids in their garage =TO= do! Build a SPARC Linux! Build the latest software for it! Sell the distributions to organizations that are junking their old Sparcstations. You may not make the Top 100 Richest People, but I'd be amazed if you didn't earn a whole lot more than you would doing door-to-door sales, paper rounds, or other toy jobs. What's more, you'd earn more than money. You'd earn a name. You can end up with a resume that stinks to high heaven, but if you've a name, you'd be favourite for the BIG money.

(In the real world, the thing that counts most is reputation. This is followed by the name of the school you went to. THIRD comes your grades, and last is what you actually know.)

Try a BSD (3)

danimal (1712) | more than 13 years ago | (#237096)

Both OpenBSD [] and NetBSD [] support the Sparc platform and are actively maintained.

You might just be suprised at how well they perform.


Why use a distro? (2)

iabervon (1971) | more than 13 years ago | (#237097)

Distributions make sense when there are tons of people who are going approximately the same thing you are. If a distribution is not really doing much with sparcs, it's not going to be particularly helpful.

On the other hand, most programs build with tar/configure/make install these days, so, once you have a shell, a method for fetching tarballs over the network, and a set of tools, you can get the rest easily; it should take a couple of days, assuming the tools and libraries you start with aren't too far behind. It took me about a week (admittedly on x86), including migrating from libc5 (which I had working already) to libc6 (which I wanted to have on the new machine).

Re:running on other architectures (1)

rbf (2305) | more than 13 years ago | (#237101)

Yeah, in theory. In practice, Linux runs on x86 very well, Alpha not so well, PPC support is so-so, and anything else is pretty-much non-existant. [emphasis added]

Bull. Linux runs just fine on Alpha. I run it on three of mine and have several friends who also run it on multiple machines. Debian also support about 6 platforms (last I checked) that run Linux.

I have a theory... (2)

isaac (2852) | more than 13 years ago | (#237110)

...Solaris is better suited than Linux for most SPARCs.

I have, in the past, run Linux/SPARC on older machines (pre-sun4m boxes like the IPX, IPC, SS2) where the lower overhead of Linux made a significant improvement in the usability of the machine as a workstation, but that's about the only circumstance I can think of where Linux is better suited for a Sun box than the OS it was designed with.


replies to #81 and #89 in this thread (1)

TBone (5692) | more than 13 years ago | (#237124)

Both basically say Solaris 8 doesn't run on old systems or is too slow on not as old systems. Microsoft doesn't support your 25Mhz 486SLC with 4M or ram any more, why should Sun support your old hardware with it's new software? That hardware is almost 10 years old. You still have the option to run Windows 3.1 on your old 486's, run old Solaris on your sun4c and sun4d platforms. In fact, that solution is more viable than M$ platforms, because you have the option to build your own software from source, and not use the binaries that are out for newer versions.

I agree with the poster of the parent of this comment (#51). Solaris runs well on the architecture it was intended for. Backward compatibility is nice, but it's gotta stop somewhere...

Re:Why Solaris is better than Linux. (2)

TBone (5692) | more than 13 years ago | (#237125)

Solaris has had a journaling filesystem for some time (albeit not of high quality)

Since 2.7 is not really a long time - what, 18 months? 2.6 had no native Journaling file system, you had to buy a 3rd party prodct like Veritas Filesystem. By the way, if Veritas is reading this, RELEASE A LINUX VERSION. VxFS and VxVM rock. We have a Linyux version of the NetBackup client, how painful was that? Linux has good VFS support now, it wouldn't be very hard...

Solaris can mirror the root partition (not many people like Disksuite, but it seems more powerful than md

Disksuite is not part of solaris. In fact, until later in the 2.6 lifecycle, Disksuite didn't come with Solaris - it was a for-purchase product. It wasn't free until SUN started repacking VxVM to ship with Solaris.

Solaris is a direct descendent of the original SysV source code

As direct as anything else aroundt today is. Technically, you should all be using MP-RAS anyway, if you want a historically accurate UNIX.

port RedHat up2date

Are your scripting skills that bad? Grab, run that through your own script that looks for any line that starts with a 6-digit number, and doesn't contain CURRENT. Appent the 3rd column to the first, separated by a -, and ftp into sunsolve to get the patch, untar it, and patchadd it. I could write the working script in about 10 minutes. In fact, I think I am going to do that for the rest of the afternoon.

replies to #81 and #89 in this thread (5)

TBone (5692) | more than 13 years ago | (#237127)

Both basically say Solaris 8 doesn't run on old systems or is too slow on not as old systems. Microsoft doesn't support your 25Mhz 486SLC with 4M or ram any more, why should Sun support your old hardware with it's new software? That hardware is almost 10 years old. You still have the option to run Windows 3.1 on your old 486's, run old Solaris on your sun4c and sun4d platforms. In fact, that solution is more viable than M$ platforms, because you have the option to build your own software from source, and not use the binaries that are out for newer versions.

Backward compatibility is nice, but it's gotta stop somewhere...

Sun no longer interesting for workstations? (1)

GeorgieBoy (6120) | more than 13 years ago | (#237128)

3 years ago acquiring Sun Workstations may have seemed like an interesting prospect, but now there seem to be much more attractive choices available that cost a lot less and run faster.

Supporting an old Sparc 5 is still doable, but it's value diminishes very quickly because of the kind of machine that can be had for very little money these days. In addition, most people I have come into contact with who are purchasing new Suns intend to run Solaris on them.

IMHO, I think Sun may lose it's edge in this market, given the kind of power that can be had on x86 and PPC for a lot less money. Since Sun produces an OS and supports their own specific hardware with it, Solaris seems the obvious choice on new Sun hardware, since supporting their devices is a lot of work. Sun may still hold a strong position the in high-end and mid-level server market, mainly for multi-processor Solaris boxes and Enterprise 10Ks, etc., but it's getting harder to justify getting Sun workstations, particularly for running Linux, when Linux runs better on other hardware.

And an even bigger disaster is trying to get x86 hardware that runs well with Solaris x86. If you want to run Unix on x86, *BSD or Linux seems to be the obvious choice.

Is Sun going the way of SGI? ;-)

Slackware (5)

Jeffrey Baker (6191) | more than 13 years ago | (#237130)

Slackware [] has a port to SPARC in their -current tree, which will freeze to 7.2 sometime this summer. They also have an working Alpha port.

How about a "challenge"? (1)

davecb (6526) | more than 13 years ago | (#237132)

I think the community needs a problem they want to solve, but need a multiprocessor for for... such as beating a certain Microsoft benchmark that used a 4-processor Intel to run a web server? (;-))

--dave (who works for sun, though) c-b

SparcLinux features not on Solaris? (2)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 13 years ago | (#237135)

I haven't seen much discussion of benefits of
Sparc Linux over Solaris. The main one to me
is the use of virtual consoles and the fact that
I can setup a console with a decent rows/cols.
Perhaps it's my ignorance of SunOS working against me, but after years of dealing with
Suns, I haven't once come across info as to
how to get virtual consoles, or better than the
default text mode on a sparc. And this is
done by default when you install sparc linux.

Re:Why do you want do this? (1)

zosima (8652) | more than 13 years ago | (#237141)

There are a decent number of people who use Linux because it is free software, other considerations aside.

obligatory debian plug (4)

Phexro (9814) | more than 13 years ago | (#237142)

go look at debian [] . debian 2.2 was released with support for 6 architectures, and there should be at least one more for 2.3.

2.2 is a bit out of date (xfree 3.3.6, glibc 2.1.3) but it's very stable. and you can always try life in the fast lane and use the testing or unstable branches.

disclaimer: i'm a debian developer. i'm biased in favor of debian, but only because it's the greatest linux distro ever, while all the others suck rocks.

We're missing vital details here. (2)

alhaz (11039) | more than 13 years ago | (#237143)

Linux on Sparc is hardly being dropped. Debian supports it, Mandrake supports it, slackware supports it. "Redhat" is not the whole of linux.

Not that RedHat has completely dumped Sparc, either. They just didn't release a 7.0 or 7.1 for sparc. They didn't release a 5.0 or 5.1 either. It's just taking more time. 6.2 is still the most stable redhat version anyway.

Now, all that being said, Do you have an ss5-170? The turbosparc processor in a 170mhz SS5 is only partially supported, only in recent kernels, and is considered unstable. If you have a 170, you may be SOL. But that's just one version of one model of sparc.

2.4 does have some issues on 32-bit sparcs. It's coming along, they are working on this. 2.2 still works great.

If you have a 170, I completely understand not being able to install any linux distribution. If not, you're probably a victim of poor documentation.

I have linux running on an SS2, an LX, and an SS10 with dual SM51 cpus. Stuff still definately works.

Debian on Sparc (1)

gorgon (12965) | more than 13 years ago | (#237150)

Debian on Sparc [] works well. Of course there are issues in unstable and testing, but that is to be expected. And in general there isn't as much support for the Sparc port by third parties as for x86, but the Sparc port is in pretty good shape. For more general Sparc Port info take a look at the Ultra Linux [] site.

I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations ...

Re:Solaris 2.8 (1)

Photon Ghoul (14932) | more than 13 years ago | (#237154)

".I could go on for hours about why freebsd is superior"

Please do.

Re:Sun no longer interesting for workstations? (1)

Photon Ghoul (14932) | more than 13 years ago | (#237155)

Sun has been concentrating on SunRays. I believe that they are attempting to get out of the workstation market and steer customers to these. I made a trip to the local Sun office when they were trying to sell me something - the SunRay/mobile-field-office thing they have is neat, but I just can't by the network computer idea.

Re:Why Solaris is better than Linux. (1)

Photon Ghoul (14932) | more than 13 years ago | (#237156)

Sun is only interested in selling hardware solutions, so I don't think that they would spend the resources on doing those things - which is a good thing.

Re:Why do you want do this? (4)

SpaFF (18764) | more than 13 years ago | (#237168)

Well I personally would want to do this because I have a better understanding of how to maintain a Linux installation as opposed to Solaris. Also, performance wise, Linux smoked Solaris 8 on my Ultra 5. Now this may be because I have no idea how to tweak Solaris, so if you can point me to some material on how to make Solaris' file I/O not suck a big fat one I'd appreciate it.

I feel for ya, but (2)

toofast (20646) | more than 13 years ago | (#237171)

In order to remain (become?) profitable, RedHat must focus on the most popular, and money-generating platform: the x86. Granted, it's not the best chip out there, but everyone has one.

I just can't afford, and cannot justify using Sun hardware when x86 machines will do the trick!

Re:On my Sparcs, I run Solaris (2)

toofast (20646) | more than 13 years ago | (#237172)

As far as I'm concerned, that's exactly what Sparc's are used for... Solaris.


OT: What does SPARC mean (2)

toofast (20646) | more than 13 years ago | (#237173)

Is SPARC an acronym for something or is it just a catchy name?

Anyone know?

Suse 7 (1)

JumpSuit Boy (29166) | more than 13 years ago | (#237181)

Suse has ISO's up on their site for sparc. There are 4 cd's in the set. And they install very easily. I have it on SparcStation 10 and it runs fine but is slow.

SPARC/Linux status... (2)

uzi (30210) | more than 13 years ago | (#237182)

The rumors of it's death have been greatly exaggerated. I work on SPARC/Linux stuff in my spare time... just one of a very few people that do. Some things are lagging (32-bit sparc support in the 2.4 kernel, for example), but plenty of new development is in the works.

As an example, over the last weeks or so, support for the new $1k Sun Blade 100 machine has come to fruition. Already, it performs better than any Ultra5 or Ultra10 running Linux (yay commodity hardware) and is cheaper as well. (This is not an endorsement for running out and buying one for SPARC/Linux... yet... it still needs a lot of work, but it on it's way).

Though admittedly much of the work being done to get Linux working on the SB100 (and the similar AX1105 and Netra X1 products) with hardware loaned by Sun, one thing that's a tad annoying is the lack of support from Sun... when compared to other vendors with a unique hardware platform. Compaq, IBM, SGI, HP, Intel, etc... they're all more into it than Sun is... I think that maybe only Apple is less enthusiastic about Linux running on their hardware (but then you have IBM to pick up the PPC slack).

Work on a 64-bit compiler to have a 64-bit userspace, glibc support, etc. is going well from what I know. Some people are playing with it and working on it. Hopefully this can become a reality once gcc 3.0 hits the net.

Also, you seem to completely count out SuSE... their 7.1 release is quite good, and has everything you'll need or want. I personally run Debian, which I'm quite happy with. If you have a thing for Slackware, it's maintainer (Dave Cantrell) is still actively working on it despite the recent layoff there.

Finally, there are several excellent resources for SPARC/Linux stuff out there... there's the UltraLinux [] page and all the mailing lists listed there. On OPN (Open Projects Network... if you're into IRC), you can find a #SPARC channel, where I'm sometimes around to answer questions. I hope this helps quell your concern... we definitely can use more people banging on things, 32-bit and 64-bit alike, but it's definitely not dead.

OpenBSD's sparc history (2)

Kartoffel (30238) | more than 13 years ago | (#237183)

OpenBSD has always had very strong support [] for Sparc. AFAIK, Theo still works on OpenBSD using his Sparcs.

I do wish there was more Linux support for Sparc, but it's not the end of the world. Most people who have Sparcs already have an OS that makes them happy. It's not like Sparc-Linux is going away just because RHAT decided Sparc isn't in the best interest of their shareholders.

Nor is the Sparc platform going away. Sun4 architecture is elegant and well documented. Compared to developing Linux for Mac/PPC, developing for Sparc is a breeze. With Apple you have to reverse engineer it onto a closed architecture. With Sparc, the vast majority of the stuff is documented and based on open standards.

In a few years, 64 bit UltraSPARCs are going to start appearing on the surplus market in large numbers. Like the pizza boxes that us Sparc nuts use today, there are going to be a bunch of cheap Ultras available for geeks to tinker with. Continuing to develop all Sparc-capable OS'es is important. []

Re:OT: What does SPARC mean (3)

furiousgeorge (30912) | more than 13 years ago | (#237189)

Scalable Processor ARCitecture

Re:Sun no longer interesting for workstations? (2)

Znork (31774) | more than 13 years ago | (#237192)

Well, due to the lag before the UltraSPARC III, there hasnt been any real reason for anything but real hobbyist work on Sun machines. The single or dual cpu workstation are too expensive price/performance wise to merit serious porting work for clusters, and for the highend, the scalability of Linux compared to Solaris make it worth little to make a port. Not to mention the dearth of idle 8+ cpu Suns of any current generation.

Maybe the UIII can make it interesting again.

SuSE (2)

segmond (34052) | more than 13 years ago | (#237193)

There is SuSE Linux for Solaris, and we all know that SuSE is a great company. ;) So, there is support for those who need it. Personally, I can't ever run Linux on my Sparc, I choose to run Solaris, and if it is a very slow machine like my IPX, I run something funky like NetBSD and OpenBSD.

Re:running on other architectures (3)

spankenstein (35130) | more than 13 years ago | (#237195)

Have you actually ever used Linux?!?

I have installed, used and deployed Linux on Intel, SPARC, and alpha with massive amounts of success.

Linux runs very well on the Alpha and SPARC (and by SPARC the includes the UltraSPARC). Ask NOAA. They do weather pattern studies with a huge cluster of Alphas running Linux.

I'm sorry to go off on this rant but damn people. Does anyone here read anything other than slashdot? There are well documented benchmarks comparing Linux to Solaris on the SPARC architecture. There are many HUGE installs of Linux powered Alpha clusters. These are generally very well pubicised through the tech industry and the Linux "community".

Slack-Sparc (2)

(startx) (37027) | more than 13 years ago | (#237197)

Slackware-current has support for sparc, and if you wait (another month hopefully) for the next release, it will be official. yeah slack!

Re:Debian. (1)

Zurk (37028) | more than 13 years ago | (#237198)

and redhat sparc 6.2 runs fine on my sparcstation 20.

Re:Debian. (1)

Vincepb (39681) | more than 13 years ago | (#237202)

Yep, it is.
Sparc ISO's of 2.2r3 []

Debian. (4)

Vincepb (39681) | more than 13 years ago | (#237203)

I'm pretty sure the Debian Sparc devel tree is pretty active.
Maybe you should give that a try.

Not a troll? (2)

dmaxwell (43234) | more than 13 years ago | (#237205)

Don't say "This isn't a troll..." and then proceed to troll. The practiced trolls will see you as an amateur and lots of another people will be in the least convinced by a short post of generalitiies.

Re:OT: What does SPARC mean (1)

pnatural (59329) | more than 13 years ago | (#237212)

Sun(tm) Processors(tm) Are(tm) Really(tm) Cool(tm)

Slackware (2)

Sir Joltalot (66097) | more than 13 years ago | (#237219)

Lotsa people have been saying it - Slack on SPARC. Few have been saying why it might be a good way to go, though.

Slack, IMO, is much more like Solaris or SunOS than RedHat or Debian. Being Linux though, it would probably maintain any performance advantages typically found over Solaris.

It's also very, very clean and maintains very simple configuration methods. The Slack scripts are simply the most elegant I've seen (and I've used 5 or 6 distros) and are really easy to work with. No more hunting through the seemingly endless collection of dialog boxes in LinuxConf for what you want to change.

Finally, since there's also an Alpha and an x86 version, you can have boxes with different architectures that are configured and used in almost exactly the same way, which is a plus that any distro that maintains versions across several platforms has.

Re:use solaris (1)

Deep Penguin (73203) | more than 13 years ago | (#237224)

Because Solaris 8 requires a sun4m architecture or newer machine. I just moved out most of my sun4c machines in favor of a handful of SPARCClassics (bottom-end sun4m). If you are willing to stick with Solaris 7, SPARC2s and the like are OK. If you want an evolving OS and you have an older SPARC (especially one with 64Mb), that's where *BSD and Linux come into play.

Re:Why do you want do this? (3)

supabeast! (84658) | more than 13 years ago | (#237231)

An Ultra 5 is pretty much just a PC with an UltraSparc CPU. Linux was designed with this kind of hardware in mind, Solaris is meant for bigger servers running SCSI disks and such. Put Linux on an E450 and compare it with Solaris on an E450 and you would get a much better comparison.

Why Linux is primarily an x86 OS. (1)

andrel (85594) | more than 13 years ago | (#237232)

SPARC has the same problem as Alpha. Once you pay the premium for non-wintel hardware, the cost of a commercial OS isn't that much more. Unlike Linux for SPARC, Solaris for SPARC is well supported.
(We've had far fewer problems with Tru64/Alpha than with Linux/Alpha. Factoring my time in it's a no brainer -- Tru64 is much cheaper than Linux.)

One typically only buys SPARC or Alpha hardware because off the shelf wintel boxes can't do the job. And once one switches to thinking about "how do I solve my problem for the least amount of money" the commerical OS often makes sense.

--Andre L.

Re:We're missing vital details here. (1)

ph4t0ny (85818) | more than 13 years ago | (#237233)

The main thing I have encountered when using Linux on SPARC is not finding a distro that supports it but INSTALLING software. A substantial number of the applications that I have tried to install have not been ported to sparc linux, which defeats the purpose. To few developers too little time to port applications to every single platform. What is the point of running an OS that you can't find applications that will compile on it? I'd much rather use solaris on sparc for this single reason.

Re:Why do you want do this? (2)

bmajik (96670) | more than 13 years ago | (#237244)

Why was this modded as a troll ?

It's a simple _question_.

People that think linux is the magic bullet to solve every computing problem don't deserve moderator points. Or to be taken seriously.

Re:Operating Systems (3)

bmajik (96670) | more than 13 years ago | (#237246)

SPARC is hardly dead. It was just _very_ recently that Sun dropped support for sun4c architecture machines from Solaris (sun4c's are things like Sparcstation 1, 1+, 2, SLC, ELC, IPC, IPX..)

The Ultra is not so different. Its V9 of the architecture. Saying that SPARCs are dead because UltraSPARC is the future is like saying the PIII is dead because the PIV is out.

The UltraSPARC has been shipping for a _long_ time. Even so, many many places run production systems on sun4m (ss5, ss10, ss20, etc). Additionally, there are a boatload of clone manufacturers with Sun4m offerings.

I also disagree with the equivalency statement you make regarding OSes.

Solaris is unusable on an old sun4c. So is linux. I suspect OpenBSD is better, but cannot be sure. Incidentally, one way to really help these machines is to put fast modern disks in them (fast as in high xfer rate and very low latency)... perhaps the fs speedups checked into obsd 2.9 will breathe some more life into the older sun4c's..

On the other end of the spectrum, Solaris is by far the most feature rich of the oses you list. Linux is [cheerleader speak: on] _so_ not even in the same ballpark. Wheres the multi-pathing ? Wheres the kernel re-entrancy. Wheres the support for more exotic sun hardware ?

Hell, wheres NFS ?

IMO linux has no niche on the sparc - solaris beats it on the high end, and its too big and slow compared to {open,net}bsd on the lowend.

Operating Systems (3)

Kinthelt (96845) | more than 13 years ago | (#237247)

How many OSes does the SPARC need?

At one glance, I can count Solaris (aka SunOS), OpenBSD, NetBSD, and Linux. All of them are generally equivalent. And the SPARC is a dead architecture. Sun is no longer creating SPARCs, they're only making UltraSPARCs (64 as opposed to 32 bits).

I personally use OpenBSD on my SparcStation 2.

x86 is the most popular Linux architecture (2)

[Xorian] (112258) | more than 13 years ago | (#237257)

It pains me to admit it, but the market for Linux on non-x86 platforms just isn't as big. (I run Linux on Alpha, PPC, ARM, and x86 at home, Alpha nd x86 at work. Oh, and I work in the Alpha microprocessor group [] .)

One of the classic strengths of open source and free software is code quality improvement through peer review. The trouble is, most of the people testing and debugging are on x86. So you get better coverage, more bugs found, and more bugs fixed on x86 than on any other platform. Second tier platforms don't do as well because they have a smaller user base, and thus a smaller developer base.

In other words, support for x86 is less suceptible to bit rot [] , because the features get exercised more often.

Just one example is the kernel source. Virgin 2.4.3 fails to build on Alpha. (How exactly did Linus et. al. miss that?) While it built and ran on my PPC machine, it ignored keyboard and mouse input. (Aparently nobody noticed the ADB support for older machines was broken.)

Compaq literally shovels money, hardware, and other resources at RedHat to keep Alpha in its line of supported platforms. It's worth more to us to have it than it is to them.

IMHO, open source project leaders shoulds actively try to get their code tested on as many different platforms as possible. It shakes out additional bugs and improves the code. (And I don't just mean CPU architectures. If it works on x86/Linux, check it on ARM/NetBSD, Sparc/Solaris, PPC/MacOSX, and every other paltform you can get your hands on.) Unfortunately, that takes time, effort, hardware, and other resources that are usually in short supply.

I run SuSE 7.0 (1)

ALecs (118703) | more than 13 years ago | (#237261)

I run SuSE 7.0 and (with the exception of the installer choosing the wrong keyboard map by default) I like it a lot. It's got new features, an up-to-date kernel (I'm not in front of the box so I can't give real specifics) and is quite comprehensive (4 CDs long, 3 binaries, 1 source). I was worried about SuSE's non-x86 distros after I played with a PPC beta that utterly stunk (nothing worked in X - just a server; couldn't even find crtl-alt-bksp to kill it because the keybd map was wrong) but SuSE SPARC is quite nice.

debian? (1)

{X-Frog} (122801) | more than 13 years ago | (#237268)

does debian have a sparc port? I think yes.. Am I wrong?

Re:Why do you want do this? (1)

Mr.Phil (128836) | more than 13 years ago | (#237273)

So that I can have a standard system around all the platforms I have. That's why I've linux on my USparc.

Solaris top notch! (1)

Stott (132670) | more than 13 years ago | (#237277)

I never saw any reason to run Linux on a Sparc in the first place. Solaris is stable, robust, and easy to administer it's also written specifically for the Sparc platform by the makers of that platform. Linux on the X86 is a different story because there isn't anything better.

Re:Why do you want do this? (3)

rgmoore (133276) | more than 13 years ago | (#237278)

I think you're making his case for him. Sun is writing Solaris more for their high end stuff than their low end stuff, so somebody who happens to own a low-end Sun box may well be happier with Linux than with Solaris. Telling him to compare Solaris with Linux on an E450 isn't very useful if his box is an Ultra 5. He needs to compare them on the platform that he's going to be running them on. The fact that the Ultra5 is more comprable to a PC may be evidence that he should look at a PC instead of a Sun the next time he goes shopping for a new box, but as long as he's talking about current hardware he needs to consider what OS will get him the most out of it, which it sounds like even you admit is Linux.

Debian has a sparc port (1)

Rushuru (135939) | more than 13 years ago | (#237281)

Debian has a sparc port for stable / testing / unstable. See Try it, you may like it and even praise redhat for discontinuing sparc support. Yes I know, the more competitors, the better (up to some point), but one's first contact with apt-get or make-kpkg is unforgetable :)

Re:Why do you want do this? (1)

jlrobins_uncc (136569) | more than 13 years ago | (#237284)

Speedier / lighter weight, at least on the older hardware (IPC -> SS20). Reminds folks of the good old SunOS 4.1.3 days :-).

SuSE just release (3)

null_session (137073) | more than 13 years ago | (#237286)

SuSE [] just released their latest version (7.1) for SPARC. [] It includes the 2.4 kernel and KDE2.

Re:OT: What does SPARC mean (1)

locutus074 (137331) | more than 13 years ago | (#237287)

Hmm... on the front page of SPARC International [] , it says that it's "Scalable Processor ARChitecture".

It was a bit of a surprise to me when I found out that Sun didn't "own" SPARC. I'd always assumed they had. Do you know if they developed it themselves and turned the architecture over to the organization, or if it was something different?


Forgot about Debian? (5)

locutus074 (137331) | more than 13 years ago | (#237288)

They have an alive-and-kicking Sparc distribution. In fact, I just installed it a week or two ago on a Sparc 10 I recently acquired.

If you want bleeding-edge stuff, change "stable" to "unstable" everywhere it occurs in your /etc/apt/sources.list and upgrade at will. :)


What are you talking about? (5)

marm (144733) | more than 13 years ago | (#237296)

Red Hat may have dropped their SPARC support but there's still plenty to choose from:

Debian [] has active ports for both SPARC/UltraSPARC with a 32-bit userland and an UltraSPARC port with a 64-bit userland. The 32-bit SPARC port is much more up-to-date and complete, and basically is at parity with Debian-x86. It has a stable, testing and unstable branch just like Debian-x86 and thanks to the clever Debian package management and development tools is kept up-to-date with the main x86 tree automatically. Due to Debian's widely-ported and volunteer nature the SPARC port is likely to be supported for quite some time.

SuSE [] is also widely ported, and again, has a SPARC port which is essentially at parity with the main x86 version - 7.1.

Slackware [] also has a SPARC port, but if you are used to Red Hat or Solaris it may be too much of a culture shock with things like its BSD-style initscripts and primitive package management.

All of these are modern, up-to-date distros, which (Debian especially) I prefer to Red Hat.

Try them out. You might like them.

just remember... (1)

sootman (158191) | more than 13 years ago | (#237307)

Solaris 8 is free to download and install on machines with 8 or less CPUs from I know your question was about Linux, but for anyone reading who's wondering what to do with their old SPARCs... oad.html

Redhat IS STILL an option... (1)

jgrider (165754) | more than 13 years ago | (#237312)

My sparc2's (also LX's, IPX's, Classic's) run Redhat 6.2 (iso's are readily availible) - IMHO one of the more secure and stable linux distros. While it may not have the latest KDE whistles, who the fsck cares? Redhat still has updates for 6.2-sparc on their ftp server. Solaris is bloat on these old machines, but a well tuned Redhat install is hard to beat...

So build it, then. (3)

Golias (176380) | more than 13 years ago | (#237316)

So I thought I'd throw this out to the Slashdot community for discussion. Is there any hope of saving Linux on the Sparc?

Answer: Yes... If there are enough people who want it badly enough to contribute to the code.

Linux is not a product that you ask for and hope somebody will do it for you. It is a project that exists because programmers who care about it are working on it for their own use... anybody else who benifits from that work is just a pleasent bonus.

Those who do nothing other than utilize the "free" OS software, and can't even be bothered to submit the occational bug report... They can wait around for whatever the GNU/Linux damn well feels like writing.

In spite of the provacative tone I have chosen for this message, look into your heart and I think you will agree that I might have a point here.

Re:Why do you want do this? (2)

cnkeller (181482) | more than 13 years ago | (#237324)

I gotta agree with you here.

I use Linux on x86 because of the lack of another robust (free) Unix-y OS on that platform. I became aware of Linux before FreeBSD. Solaris x86 (assuming it could recognize my hardware) just rots.

Most of the Suns I'm used to dealing with start at the E420R and head up to the Starfire range. At this level, I'm not convinced that Linux can hold a candle to Solaris. If someone can prove otherwise, please enlighten me.

I truly believe that Sun can make a better OS for their hardware than the Open Source world can using Linux. I think Linux rocks on the x86 chips because we all have them and know them intimately. If we were all running Ultra5/10's, I'm sure Linux would rock on that too. Also, I have the willingness and the background to tune a Solaris box, so I'm not so concerned with performance. If I was, I wouldn't be using an Ultra5/10 anyway. I think my Palm Pilot Vx has more computing power...

Re:Exact same boat as you... (1)

whirred (182193) | more than 13 years ago | (#237325)

Yeah, I did the same thing. I've still got the OpenBSD on Sparc stuck in read-only mode, which I was unable to correct in such short time. Hopefully I'll have time to play with it in the next few days. I was tired of RH6.0, although it's certainly adequate. People are often going to want the newest kernel and packages.

Slackware for your SPARC (1)

donutz (195717) | more than 13 years ago | (#237327)

Check out the Slackware website [] and scroll'll see that Slackware has added a -current for SPARC boxes....while Red Hat has dropped SPARC, Slackware has just added it! Go Pat!

. . .


PSUdaemon (204822) | more than 13 years ago | (#237338)

Slackware has a port to SPARC. I've never used it, but I've heard good things about it. I intend to see it in action soon, as a co-worker with a SPARC plans on putting it on his new machine, an Ultra 10. He is a slack fanatic.

use solaris (1)

cbowland (205263) | more than 13 years ago | (#237339)

Why use linux when Solaris 8 can be had for free and comes with all the usual gnu tools? Let Linux be the unix for x86 and the mainframe. Sun turns out an outstanding product, and now that they are shipping gnu software, there is really no reason to use Linux on the sparc.

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day.

Sparc (1)

freediver211 (208205) | more than 13 years ago | (#237344)

Sun's sparc is just better! You can get better n-tier support then Sun..... my 2 cents

IMHO It's Sun's fault.. (1)

mlheur (212082) | more than 13 years ago | (#237346)

with free binary licenses for Sol8 why would tru sparc fans not use that over Linux? If linux distro's get that same mindset they might as well focus their efforts in a larger market. I dont agree w/ this but it's just what I think

Re:So build it, then. (1)

mlheur (212082) | more than 13 years ago | (#237347)

Not all sysadmins are active code developers. Although I started computers with a coding background and later moved to sysadmin - most people I work with were sysadmins from the start and some are learning to code on the side. Maybe this guy can code, maybe he can't. From my experience, people who like coding on sparc prefer solaris, but maybe someone who's good at coding for x86 might want to learn to port to sparc and would be of better use...

Lack of commercial interest (2)

BlowCat (216402) | more than 13 years ago | (#237349)

Whoever has a SPARC is likely to have a better connection than a 56k modem, therefore one cannot make much money from "official" CD-ROMs. Whoever wants commercial support on SPARC can use Solaris. It's hard to compete with Sun.

On my Sparcs, I run Solaris (5)

Hairy_Potter (219096) | more than 13 years ago | (#237350)

Even though I run an old version of Solaris, 2.6, it's still .2 better than the latest Linux, 2.4.

So I suggest Linus take a move from the marketing people and call the next major kernel release 3.0.

Check out *BSD (1)

Darth RadaR (221648) | more than 13 years ago | (#237354)

I had quite a few problems with putting Linux on my sparc 10 (64M RAM). I tried RedHat and Debian to no avail. (I'm sure some more memory would've helped.) I ended up using OpenBSD for my sparc box and have been happy with it since. It's a fairly easy install and I got X running *very* easily.

I might want to add that S.u.S.E. now has Linux for Sparc [] I'm tempted to give that a try when I get a spare sparc to play around with.

Why do you want do this? (4)

jtotheh (229796) | more than 13 years ago | (#237356)

Why do you want to do this, why would someone prefer Linux to Solaris on SPARC? I'm genuinely curious

Sparc Support not [comemrcially] viable for Linux (2)

hillct (230132) | more than 13 years ago | (#237357)

Open source is beginning to take on characteristics of the commercial software industry, which is good, because OSS and commercial ventures must not be mutually sxclusive ideas, in order for OSS to maintain it's momentum. There simply isn't a large enough market for SPARC Linux distributions.

People will rant against commercial software, and promote open source, but in fact the two are coming together in ways that no-one ever imagined. OSS promotes a sort of social order and behavioral dynamic which promotes growth and inovation, (ragardless of what Microsoft might say about it), but OSS also seems to actually benefit from market forces relating to the 'retirement' of un-popular or niche products. Don't get me wrong - Linux support for SPARC, is a great thing, for those of us who use it, but we are few and far between. As a percentage of the Linux user community, we will account for less and less as the comunity grows, and PC hardware continues be converted to commodity status, becoming cheaper and cheaper, while SUN hardware remains proprietary, and achieves market penetration only in high end applications.

Open Source is benefiting (as a whole) from commercial market forces which microsoft seems to believe only exist in the treditional software market.

That said, I'm sad to see support for SPARC dwindling, although this is the great thing about OSS, if you want it, it's there for your use, and if you want to establish a support community for it, you are free to do so.



The Port is very good and stable. (1)

luislimon (230970) | more than 13 years ago | (#237359)

In the time the port to sparc has proben to be stable and production ready, the only drawback of using sparcs with linux is that the 32b version has pretty bad SCSI drivers. but every thing else rocks. I only recomend Linux for old models like SS1, SS2 IPC, Classic, LX). for SS50 and up you will be better with Solaris and lot of ram). If you are plaining on using your sparcs as servers, well i recomend you OpenBSD. But in a way is true that kernel porting for spacs has low down a little (Miguel de Icaza just to be one of the main contributors). I think there are lot of people still contributing. The only driver i realy have isues with is the sunLance on my SS20, the nic part works but not the sound.

I'm just happy that they still support my Alphas (1)

skyhawker (234308) | more than 13 years ago | (#237362)

Good question. I often worry what will happen to my Alphas. As it is, M$ dropped Windows support for my AlphaPC a long time ago -- actually, that was a GOOD thing -- and I have never been able to get Tru64 Unix to load on it. I'm thankful that Red Hat still supports the Alpha. In fact, version 7.0 has proved to be excellent so far -- and Compaq has very graciously ported some of the critical Tru64 stuff (e.g., Netscape). However, the 7.1 upgrade is still not out, and I often worry when Red Hat will give up.

The best diplomat I know is a fully activated phaser bank.

Re:Why do you want do this? (1)

AlgUSF (238240) | more than 13 years ago | (#237363)

I used to have a Linux Box, but I converted it to Solaris.... The reason? Stability I am working on developing my Oracle skills, and Oracle on Linux sucks!!! Oracle and Solaris have this thing. They work perfect together. Solaris is much more stable than Linux (for most applications). I think Linux is still miles better than Windows as a server platform, but if someone shells out the money for a SPARC computer, it should be running solaris.

Before there were distributions... (1)

tekrat (242117) | more than 13 years ago | (#237373)

Before distros existed, people put this stuff together on their own. The first distros were people who did the work and shared it with others.

I'm not trying to recommend that everyone cobble together Sparc Linux on their own, but maybe if enough of us collaborate, we can keep something alive if we're willing to make the effort.

I use RedHat 6.0 for Sparc on my website (, and I can tell you that, for an antique Sparc IPX, Solaris simply wasn't an option --- unless I used a version as out-of-date as the machine itself. That left Linux or BSD as options, and I was more familiar with Linux.

Want to know more about antique sparc hardware (and other vintage workstations/servers)? Visit my site! []

And I'm willing to help out to keep a distribution alive.

Re:Why do you want do this? (1)

tenman (247215) | more than 13 years ago | (#237374)

I know this goes against the slashdot grain of free open source software, but I use my USparc to host tons of commercial applications that just are not available for linux, commercialy or in open source. All my PC are belong to Linux, but my sparcs live in the world of solaris.

btw, when I load linux, I can't see even a neglagable increase. By the time I've tweaked linux into what solaris does, I've lost any perfomance gains i may have had.

Re: Who are you calling on for support (1)

dhowells (251561) | more than 13 years ago | (#237377)

I feel that the real issue is that free software support for the SPARC architechture "falls between two stools" so to speak. With the conventional x86 linux platform it has much in its favour: Millions of hackers around the world sitting at x86 boxes which all read pretty much the same 32-bit code. And a mass-market (?) for all the people who would love something with the reliability and fell of *NIX, but who, like the rest of us were sitting on there windows box a few years ago. This makes a real market with hard cash involved for distro publishers like RedHat, et al. To start with the SPARC platform already had a beautifully engineerd UNIX for it, compatible with its hardware from the ground up, (no hours of reverse-guess-hacking the soundcard for the ppl who brought a new "Windows-compatible" board), and one which is fully supported by its team of writers, which is something which most people wanting an easy-linux-ride can only dream of. In some way the linux-distros try to fulfill this for the x86 users, by providing a bundle of software, all the gizmo's, and in some cases technical support. The fact that this already exists pretty much for the SPARC architechture, kinda takes the wind out of the sales of any other distrobution. Sure some people want to hack together linux on their sparc, but as a normal desktop-tasks OS, SPARC already has what the disros have to offer

HENCE.... the disto market is very limited for SPARC, and i feel is probably destined for little commercial suport.

What your really calling for is for a hacker-maintaied distro, working on the same basis as the kernel is maintained, (ie non-profit, in ya spare time).. I wish you well, and what can I say - it can, and i think, will happen. but the risk is to bark up the wrong/commercial tree, for which the competition (SOLARIS) is just too damn stiff.

----- Dom

Consider alternatives (1)

geomcbay (263540) | more than 13 years ago | (#237385)

One of the great things about Linux is its ability to run on many different architectures.

This is only partially true... While Linux has been ported to PowerPC, SPARC, MIPS, etc, all of these ports were always treated as second class citizens to the x86 version. The only really decent non-x86 support going on in Linux these days is support for smaller systems (Palm/Pocket type devices).

Personally, I'd just run Solaris on a SPARC and just grab up all the familiar GNU tools...If I absolutely needed to run an open source OS to appease my conscience I'd use something that had more solid support for multiple platforms (*BSD).

Re:Solaris 2.8 (1)

wroot (264810) | more than 13 years ago | (#237386)

FreeBSD is far and away superior to Linux on the x86 platform (this isn't a debateable point...I could go on for hours about why freebsd is superior)
I'd be genuinly interested in hearing why. You don't have to go on for hours. Just make half a dozen valid points. Please don't repeat the usual trite like it has cleaner code, it's truly free, and there's only ONE distribution, etc.


A new hope! (3)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | more than 13 years ago | (#237388)

There is hope for the future of Linux on Sparc! It's you. Oh, you're not up to the task?

Then all is lost.

No, there is another... *gazing towards the ceiling tiles*

Dancin Santa

Re:On my Sparcs, I run Solaris (5)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | more than 13 years ago | (#237389)

Win2k has got you all beat by about 1997.4. Though it only beats OSX by MCMXC.

Dancin Santa

running on other architectures (1)

mbessey (304651) | more than 13 years ago | (#237392)

One of the great things about Linux is its ability to run on many different architectures.
Yeah, in theory. In practice, Linux runs on x86 very well, Alpha not so well, PPC support is so-so, and anything else is pretty-much non-existant.

When someone says a product (especially commercial products) is available "for Linux", they usually mean for x86 Linux. Sometimes they mean "for Redhat, though it ought to work with any x86 Linux".

Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's market forces at work. People who're trying to make money off Linux need to put their effort where the payoff is.

I do wonder why the non-commercial part of the Linux "community" isn't more active in supporting other architectures, though.

For that matter, what's so hard about supporting Sparc, anyway? I don't know about the newer models, but the computers that used to work should still work, right? Or are the people maintaining the Kernel and user applications totally clueless about maintaining compatibility?

Where's the need? (2)

philovivero (321158) | more than 13 years ago | (#237399)

The problem with Linux for Sparc is there is no need.

Solaris is quite suitable.

Most people when they talk about wanting Linux for X really mean they want GNU for X anyway. You want that nifty colour ls, every command overloaded with useful features ('tar -zcvf' anyone?). Where I work, we put about 50 useful GNU utilities like BASH on our Solaris boxes, and to tell the truth, I don't miss Linux one bit.

Download GNU for Solaris and be content. Linux 2.4 doesn't even have proper disk accounting [] anyway and Linus et al don't appear to care.

Try typing "iostat" "vmstat" and "sar" on your Linux box to figure out why Oracle is going so slow. Yeh, I thought so. Install Solaris on your SPARC until Linux catches up.


Absolutely correct (5)

catpyss (321548) | more than 13 years ago | (#237401)

I just installed Debian on a SparcStation10 this past Sunday. I run Debian as my home operating system, and noticed no difference between the x86 and SPARC versions. Everything worked the same

I do, however, take issue with the person who asked the question. Merely because Redhat dropped "stable" support (they still offer non-official support) for SPARC doesn't mean it is dead. If I am not mistake SuSE has now added SPARC to their list of supported archs.

The final thing to keep in mind is that SPARC hardware has a much lower userbase than x86. There are much fewer vendors and suppliers. Also, SPARC hardware is very pricey and is usually aimed at corporate dollars.

Still, hopping on Ebay to get an old SS10/20 is a good idea. SPARC's OpenPROM is really, really cool. I installed Debain on mine with no floppy, no CDROM, no keyboard, and no monitor. Try that with x86.

Re:OT: What does SPARC mean (5)

dhamsaic (410174) | more than 13 years ago | (#237405)

SPARC is CRAPS backwards. :)

Re:OT: What does SPARC mean (1)

pilez (413476) | more than 13 years ago | (#237408)

which sounds like 'crabbs' which is just as bad..

Slackware (1)

xah (448501) | more than 13 years ago | (#237421)

Slackware has a SPARC port. (LINK) [] .

Re:OT: What does SPARC mean (1)

xah (448501) | more than 13 years ago | (#237422)

Scalable Processor ARChitecture.

Re:How about a "challenge"? (1)

darthtuttle (448989) | more than 13 years ago | (#237423)

Problem is the Alpha will blow the SPARC away, so if you want to benchmark Linux against Windows you would pick the Alpha. The only way I'd use the SPARC in that position is if I were going to try to run Linux on an E10k and/or the Ultra III replacement for it (haven't seen it yet, E10800? E18000?).

Thought Architect

Debian (1)

neroz (449747) | more than 13 years ago | (#237425)

Debian supports i386, alpha, arm, m68k, PPC and Sparc. I doubt any other Linux distro supports this many arch's, NetBSD is probably the only "distro" that beats Debian in arch support. They're all supposed to behave the same on each arch, too, which is nice.

It's not the size that counts... (1)

matheny (450016) | more than 13 years ago | (#237426)

OpenBSD and NetBSD both have extremely stable, well supported Sparc bases and have for some time now. Suse has continued with it's support for the Sparc (including the Ultra platform) and slackware recently began it's sparc port. I don't think it's a "where" has it gone, just sounds like maybe you aren't looking in the right places.
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