Reinstalling Solaris 8 (10/1) on a Compaq Armada E500

The installation of Solaris 8 went well except for the video driver hitch, and once that was resolved it was only a matter of setting the correct resolution and rebooting. Who would have guessed that GNOME needs 16 million colors instead of thousands or 256 colors; CDE worked fine with no more than 256 colors. The GNOME display was shot right from the start, with icons and large graphics being off kilter or with lines through them.

However – the default partitioning scheme uses 1G for the root volume and places the rest into /export/home. Thus, my root volume was promptly filled after installing GNOME 1.4 – and there wasn’t really any room for any of the bonus software. Of course, I did install the Entire Distribution plus OEM support – but still….

We’ll try this again.

I repartitioned the system this way:

  • / (root) – 1G
  • /opt – 10G
  • /export/home – 3G

Of course, everything that fills up my drives is in /opt. So this should be good to go.

As a side note, I also enabled IPv6. I also used the ISO 8851-1 locale (#53: US English) instead of the C locale (#0: English).
After reinstallation, it turned out that one of the patches recommended by blastwave is already installed (as noted by the patch itself) but it causes pkg-add to stop working. I with through the installation process again, using the “Update” process to reinstall the original Solaris 8 binaries. Then I very carefully added some of the patches from the original set – and saved the patches in my home directory for later.

Blastwave.com and Sunfreeware.com

After determining that it was impossible to use Blastwave.org without a paid Sunsolve maintenance contract (because patch 112757 is only available to those with paid contracts) I eschewed Blastwave in favor of the older sunfreeware.com. It turns out that the pkg-get program works for both, and the primary mirror appears to be quite near – Telephone and Data Systems, TDS, owners of tds.net, are based in Madison, Wisconsin – an hour away.

While blastwave.org puts everything into /opt/csw, sunfreeware.com puts everything into /usr/local. Loading sunfreeware utilities works fine. There are problems with cpio (for whatever reason). Going directly to /var/pkg-get/downloads and using pkgadd to directly add the packages (which in this case are named *.tmp) will fix this. Just remember to add /usr/local/bin and /usr/local/sbin to the front of the path (so it is searched first). Also add /usr/local/man to the MANPATH so it is searched first also.

Note that since everything goes into /usr/local, in my case that means that it is taking up space in / instead of /opt – however, this is easily fixed:

mkdir /opt
cd /usr
rsync -av local /opt/ && rm -rf /usr/local && ln -s /usr/local /opt/local

Unfortunately, sunfreeware does not build dependencies into its packages as blastwave does – so using pkg-get still results in the dependency nightmare that can happen when you find one package after another requires another library. To save any of you the trouble, here are some of the dependencies that can be installed right away:

  • libintl
  • libiconv
  • libgcc
  • ncurses
  • openssl
  • popt
  • readline

If you wish to see for yourself that every library dependency is met, use the following command pipe:

ldd /usr/local/*bin/* 2>&1 | less

This will list all of the dependencies of all of the files in the /usr/local/bin and /usr/local/sbin directories. Looking through the output, search for the string “not found” and you will see what libraries are missing. Don’t worry about messages of “unknown or unsupported file type” or messages of “not a dynamic executable or shared object.” These messages are from the ldd command, reporting (basically) there is nothing for it to report.

Find the download names by using:

pkg-get -a | less

Saving the output (instead of using less) will save you time.

Device Support

Next up is to check the support for various devices. Mainly, for me, that means USB devices and PCMCIA (Cardbus) devices.

First trials were for the Linksys Wireless-G USB Network Adapter with Wi-Fi Finder (WUSBF54G), the Bluetooth Adapter from ioGear, the Powermate from Griffin Technology, and the ikey keyboard from macally. The Wireless adapter was recognized, but no adapter was found. The Bluetooth adapter was also recognized, but no adapter was found. The Powermate adapter was not recognized (though it was found when plugged in). There was no “identity” recorded in the dmesg output, just a mysterious device attached with no driver available.

However….. However, the macally ikey keyboard was another thing altogether. When the keyboard was plugged in, the laptop’s on-board keyboard was disabled, and the USB keyboard took over. The keys were all wrong, and there appeared to be no way to make sense of the keys. Using copy and paste didn’t help much, although perhaps I should have tried harder…. Removing the USB keyboard did not return things back to normal. The mouse continued to work, though.

After cycling the power, there were a large number of filesystem errors (Solaris uses UFS). Twice fsck had to be run against the root volume manually. Then errors kept happening and another reboot was necessary. I also prefer to run a clean boot up at least once – which meant another reboot. However, since /export/home was also corrupted (!) it also needed a manual fsck run. This means yet another reboot (to verify clean operation).

So I will not be adding that keyboard back in again! All I have to do now is to get my devices working with wireless connectivity somewhere (whether it is USB Wi-Fi, USB Bluetooth, or PCMCIA Wi-Fi). So far, the only functional networking devices are wired networking (rather than wireless).

Side Note: Shutting Systems Down

One side note: when I was responsible for four or more different UNIX (and Linux) operating systems, part of my shutdown routine was to run this command:

man shutdown

Surprised? When shutting down systems, I had to get the parameters right. Even if I thought I knew what they were – was I on the expected machine? Shutting down is dramatic – so check. It would be so easy to give the wrong parameters to the wrong system, and thus muck things up. So I checked.

If you only administrate one type of system (Solaris, for example) then it may not be as critical – though I also did this command:

uname -a

Are you really on the system you think you are? Check. Again, shutting down is drastic. Don’t want to find out after the fact that you shut down the financials system for the entire company instead of the test server.

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