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Sun SPARC Classic network problems

blabsxar

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May 9, 2017
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Sao Paulo, Brazil
Hi there!

I got a beautiful and functional Sun SPARC Classic (very similar to this/). Everything works: HDD, videocard, etc. Even the external DVD driver the seller gave me.

The problem is that the network adapter seems not to work at all. I've tried everything. dhcp, static IP addressing, connecting to my home router, connecting to another Unix machine with a crossover cable, and even the lights of the switch and the machines don't light up. Some Solaris guys on IRC (#solaris @ irc.freenode.net) told me that network autonegotiation may not work with this adapter, but even if I force it to be 10baseT (and the other machine it is connected to) I cannot get them communicate.

I'm almost giving up on making network work on this machine and I'm starting to see if I find a offboard network adapter in ebay.

Any help?

Thanks!
 

kgober

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It looks like this computer has both an AUI port and a 10baseT port. The Ethernet chip can't send/receive from both at once, so it needs to be told which one to use. It may be defaulting to the AUI port. Check the manual page for your Ethernet device and the ifconfig command, and see if there are any options to choose the transceiver type.

-ken
 

paul

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First thing, is the NVRAM battery OK such that you have a MAC address shown on firmware boot-up, see image.

Although I have had trouble with other unix machines in the past connecting to some 100BaseT hubs/switches, I'll add that my SparcClassic's TP port works fine with my Netgear Gigabit switch.
 

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glitch

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It not only sometimes won't automatically determine which port to use, but IIRC it's a half-duplex device and many modern NICs and switches don't like them, or at least won't autonegotiate with them. Try forcing whatever you're connecting it to, to 10 mbps, half duplex.

If that doesn't work, it's probably dead, but you can add a SBus NIC. They're still pretty cheap. I ended up with a combo 10/100 + SCSI SBus card in my SPARC Classic just to make it more likely to work when using it on the road (I took it as a BBS host/relay for my Kaypro 2).
 

KC9UDX

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Do you have an AUI transceiver, so that you can see if that port is active? (I have always thought that anyone dealaing with older computers should at least own one.)

(Carefully) use some contact cleaner to make sure the jack is getting a good connection. Every once in a blue moon, I run into a 8P8C jack that has an intermittent connection due to corrosion or dirt or whatever it is.

And I have to stress what Paul said; if you have a dead NVRAM battery, you're kind of up a creek until you replace it.
 

glitch

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The Classic should still work with a dead NVRAM battery, you'll just end up with a weird MAC address. I seem to remember mine reverted to aa:aa:aa:aa:aa:aa

There should be an AUI connector, but it's not the standard 15-pin DSUB seen on most Ethernet devices.
 

KC9UDX

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I've got a whole box of transceivers that fit those, unless I gave them away with all my Sparcs. If I had time money and space I could probably get all that stuff back. I suspect it's in a storage shed waiting to get to a dumpster (if it hasn't already) since the guy I gave it to passed last fall.
 

blabsxar

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Sao Paulo, Brazil
Hi guys!

With the help of you and #solaris guys at freenode I could solve the problem. For any reason the Ethernet chip was setting to an external AUI port. Simply executing "set-defaults" at the ok prompt (the OpenBoot thing) made ethernet work (I had also to configure the interface with ifconfig and setup routing, of course)! Neither the function of the ok prompt nor AUI was clear to me since I'm coming from modern x86/amd64 where these things don't exist.

The weird thing is that I had to execute "set-defaults" again after letting the machine turned off for a couple of days... but the MAC address didn't change. Bad battery?

Thanks again!
 

tipo158

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I have Classic network problems of my own.

On Thr, I picked up a bunch of Sun equipment. Spent the weekend going through it, cleaning it up, fixing stuff, and figuring out what of it I need. This Classic was among that stuff and was reported not to be running when I got it.

I replaced the IDPROM, put matching memory in each bank, put a working HDD in it (another Sun424 drive has bitten the dust), and installed SunOS 4.1.4. The cgthree was working fine, but I had a spare cgsix so installed it as well. The only problem is the networking.

Using the OBP 'test net', both interfaces pass the loopback test, but, with the ethernet cable connected to the TP port, both interfaces fail the cable test. When SunOS comes it, it indicates that it is using the TP interface. When it brings up the interface, SunOS reports the broken or missing cable message.

I don't think it is a cable problem since the cable works with the IPX that I was using before testing the Classic. With the cable plugged into the TP port on the running Classic, the corresponding active indicator on the network hub does not indicate the cable is connected. It does when connected to the IPX.

Any ideas of things to check or what the problem might be?
 

KC9UDX

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In my experience, you never really know if a cable is bad unless you ring it out. And even then you don't know if it has isolation or crosstalk problems.

If I suspect a cable, usually I make another one and see if the problem repeats.
 

glitch

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What are you plugging the Classic in to? As mentioned above, I've had issues with a fair bit of consumer gigabit hardware not wanting to talk to old 10baseT half duplex stuff. You might try a cross-over directly between the IPX and the Classic for diagnostic purposes. And, of course, if the TP port is truly dead, you can try the AUI port, or just add a SBus Ethernet board. I think I've still got a number of 10/100 and quad Ethernet boards for SBus, if you end up needing one.
 

ScutBoy

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I'll second glitch on the issue of old gear on new switches. Both old Suns and old Macs can have problems talking to current auto-negotiate gear. I keep an old 24-port 10-BaseT hub in the rack just for this. The old machines plug into that, and that has an uplink to the higher speed switch.

Cisco Catalysts tend to work OK when forced to 10/Half, but if you switch machines around on the switch (say, as things come on/off the bench) it's a pain to keep managing individual ports.
 

tipo158

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In my experience, you never really know if a cable is bad unless you ring it out. And even then you don't know if it has isolation or crosstalk problems.

If I suspect a cable, usually I make another one and see if the problem repeats.

I don't suspect the cable since it works with my IPX and, now that I have checked, my other Classic. And, with reference to the two posts above, I don't suspect a problem talking to the hub/router. I can telnet into the IPX and the other Classic from a modern Mac.
 

tipo158

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And, of course, if the TP port is truly dead, you can try the AUI port, or just add a SBus Ethernet board. I think I've still got a number of 10/100 and quad Ethernet boards for SBus, if you end up needing one.

Is it more likely to be dead on the system board or the board that the TP connector is on? I'd like to take a shot at fixing it, if possible.
 

KC9UDX

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I don't suspect the cable since it works with my IPX and, now that I have checked, my other Classic. And, with reference to the two posts above, I don't suspect a problem talking to the hub/router. I can telnet into the IPX and the other Classic from a modern Mac.

You're probably right. But my point is that I can demonstrate borderline cables that work reliably in only nine out of ten machines. That's why to remove doubt I make a new cable. But if you don't have a spool of cable and box of connectors handy, that's not so simple.

I found one just the other day that worked reliably at 100Mbs but intermittently at 1000Mbs. Because it was a very long cable, before making a new one it was easy enough to test it with two 10Mbs devices. It didn't work at all with those.
 

tipo158

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I swapped out the System IO board (the "board that the TP connector is on") with one from another Classic/LX. (The part number for the board is the same for that board in the Classics and LXs (2 of each).) That did not correct the problem.

Since I am prep'ing it to sell (I have 7 lunchbox systems at the moment), I wonder if I should pick up an ethernet sbus card for it or leave that as an exercise for a potential buyer.
 

super-sama

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Since I am prep'ing it to sell (I have 7 lunchbox systems at the moment), I wonder if I should pick up an ethernet sbus card for it or leave that as an exercise for a potential buyer.

if you haven't sold it yet, yes, you should get an eth card for it. Note that all the sun4c/sun4m boxes have 32-bit Sbus. an AMD Lance card is the best you're going to be able to do with the bandwidth provided... you won't get more than 3-4Mbit/s on a 100Mbit Sun HappyMeal 10/100+SCSI adapter or a BigMac QFE adapter. these are made for a 64-bit Sbus and will work, but you won't get the full bandwidth a Sun Ultra 1 or 2 in the same manner would be able to give to it.

I learned this the hard way with my SS5. doing some quick googling I found that the issue was the width of the Sbus itself bit-wise. faster Sbus speeds would help slightly, but the general rule is that you can't really make it perform any better than any 10Mbit card you can grab.

That being said, there is at least one FDDI card that supposedly works in the SS5 on the 32-bit Sbus it has, at 32 bits, as that is what it was designed for... but I've not been able to find any sign nor picture of said card except for what is in a book. but, with a TP transciever shoved in, it might be able to get speeds over 10Mbits and thus be worthy of being a good shoe-in. The problem lies within that most if not all FDDI cards for Sbus are for other architechtures, 64-bit Sbus machines (i.e. Ultra 1/2) and do not work under anything but SunOS/Solaris.
 
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