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View Full Version : IBM AS/400e series - need help!



Mike Chambers
September 24th, 2007, 06:41 PM
so somebody gave me an IBM AS/400e series server (type "9406 i"). it was built on Nov. 6, 1998. i know it's not exactly vintage, but you guys are smart so i figured somebody would be able to help me. :D

anyway, my problem is i don't know wtf kind of keyboard/mouse i need to get to plug into it. it doesn't have any PS/2 or USB ports.

there are pictures of the thing here:

http://rubbermallet.org/as400/index.html

thanks!

Vlad
September 24th, 2007, 07:19 PM
Awesome machine! I dunno if I'm remembering this right, but I think you need a terminal or one of the giant terminal keyboards. Didn't it need something special?

Mike Chambers
September 24th, 2007, 07:23 PM
Awesome machine! I dunno if I'm remembering this right, but I think you need a terminal or one of the giant terminal keyboards. Didn't it need something special?

thanks, yeah it's pretty interesting. a co-worker brought it to work today and gave it to me as a gift lol. he doesn't know anything about, and i don't know anything about AS/400's either.

maybe i have to use some sort of serial interface?

Vlad
September 24th, 2007, 07:29 PM
The Google searches I do keep kicking back terminals with the big IBM terminal keyboard. So it probably wants something like that. Any idea what OS is there? You might be able to get in though telnet or SSH over the network.

Mike Chambers
September 24th, 2007, 07:32 PM
The Google searches I do keep kicking back terminals with the big IBM terminal keyboard. So it probably wants something like that. Any idea what OS is there? You might be able to get in though telnet or SSH over the network.

unfortunately there is no OS on the machine, after the blue IBM logo screen it goes to a black screen with just a flashing cursor in the top left.

as soon as i get a keyboard and mouse i am going to stick debian on it. well, i guess i'll have to see if i can find an IBM terminal keyboard. ack!

Vlad
September 24th, 2007, 07:40 PM
mbbrutman might know more, hopefully. What kind of processor does it have?

Mike Chambers
September 24th, 2007, 07:58 PM
mbbrutman might know more, hopefully. What kind of processor does it have?

mbbrutman knows everything. when i was reading about the machines on wikipedia i was under the impression that it had an IBM CPU that had a superset of the PowerPC instruction set, but when i turned the machine on it said "Pentium Pro 200 Mhz"

that's kind of boring i was hoping for the IBM CPU :(

SwedaGuy
September 24th, 2007, 08:49 PM
It's a 9406-170, apparently...The card you plugged the monitor into is the integrated PC server card. You can have an actual intel pentium server running within the AS/400...we have a couple of them in our 9406-620. There are a couple of cables to hook up the Keyboard, mouse, serial and parallel ports. One plugs in right next to where you plugged in the monitor, the other plugs into the PCI bridge card (The PC server is on two cards).

If you want to log into the AS/400 itself, You'll need a 5250 compatible terminal, the breakout block and a length of twinax cable to hook it up...

Note that the PC server won't do anything unless the TCP/IP subsystem is running (Command: STRTCP should do it, but you have to be logged in at the console, first...).

The OS is, of course, the OS/400. It is a text based OS, highly reliable and vastly superior to anything Microlimp has put out. We use a (much) larger version as the backbone of our own business.

Edited: I looked at the pictures again, and I'm pretty sure that's a 170, I thought it was a 150, because of the red back cover, but then I remembered that our 170 had a red cover as well, before we added the expansion case. After reviewing the picture and comparing it to the machine I'm staring at right here, I'm 99.9997952% certain it's a 170.

I think you mentioned that it reported a 200MHz CPU on the integrated PC server card? In that case, it's a feature 2857 and will require #0325 & #1700 cables to attach the PC peripherals...

SwedaGuy
September 24th, 2007, 09:16 PM
I'm a bit confused--and I'm going to have to look at the back of the 620 tomorrow...

The IBM system builder book refers to the two cables I listed above--but I only remember having one of them on our system. Furthermore, I inspected the IPCS I have here and there is no connector on the second card at all.

Soooo...I'll look at ours and find out for sure which cable you need to hook up the keyboard & mouse...

Also, look for a "brick" on a cable end that has four twinax connectors, you'll need that for hooking up the twinax console. It plugs into the twinax IOA card, which will be in one of the top four slots...

Vlad
September 24th, 2007, 09:35 PM
Damn, what ever happened to just hooking up a VT100 or WYSE terminal and calling it good? That sounds like a pain...

Mike Chambers
September 24th, 2007, 09:50 PM
thanks for all the info swedesguy! this sounds kind of complicated, wow. so what kind of keyboard/mouse plug into the adapter? is it just PS/2 peripherals?

i would love to turn this thing into my httpd/ircd/file server box and put away the 2.8 ghz P4 i'm using now, just to be able to say i have an AS/400 running as a server. :p

so the pentium pro card/chip is not the main processor then i take it? then the main CPU is the IBM chip that has a superset of the powerpc instruction set? i should be able to go ahead and install the powerpc version of debian on it then.... i hope?

SwedaGuy
September 24th, 2007, 09:59 PM
Yes, for the IPCS (Integrated PC Server), the standard PS/2 devices will work just fine.

Now, I'm working on the assumption that Windows (either NT or 2000) is installed on the IPCS (which would require a Keyboard, Monitor and Mouse), but it could also be OS/2 or Novell, neither of which support the external PC peripherals and are wholly managed within the OS/400.

Do you know anything about the lineage of this system? What I'm getting at is: do you know the people this came from well enough to be able to get the QSECOFR password? The person who administered this system should know what it is (or at least how to get their hands on it).

SwedaGuy
September 24th, 2007, 10:09 PM
i would love to turn this thing into my httpd/ircd/file server box and put away the 2.8 ghz P4 i'm using now, just to be able to say i have an AS/400 running as a server. :p

These machines make excellent file servers. We'll have to check your OS level, but anything above 4.5 (very likely) is fairly easy to get running.


so the pentium pro card/chip is not the main processor then i take it? then the main CPU is the IBM chip that has a superset of the powerpc instruction set? i should be able to go ahead and install the powerpc version of debian on it then.... i hope?

Correct.
Yes.
No.

There are newer versions of the AS/400 (now referred to as the "i" series, btw) that can run an IBM distribution of Linux, but this unit is highly proprietary (as most of them are). The only thing it will run is IBM's OS/400, designed for this machine. But, don't look on this as a bad thing--as long as you're not requiring a graphical OS, this platform can't be beat for rock-solid operation. In 5 years we've had {{{Maybe}}} 8 hours of unscheduled downtime.

SwedaGuy
September 24th, 2007, 10:14 PM
Damn, what ever happened to just hooking up a VT100 or WYSE terminal and calling it good? That sounds like a pain...

Actually, they used to have an ASCII workstation controller...we had one in our older model (donated earlier this year to an eager computer buff), but we stayed with Twinax anyway...

The protocol used is terrific that way...just plug the terminal in, turn it on and the 400 detects it and configures it. Of course you have to set certain parameters for autocreated devices, but still...it takes a lot of guesswork out, especially when using third party devices...

Mike Chambers
September 24th, 2007, 10:14 PM
These machines make excellent file servers. We'll have to check your OS level, but anything above 4.5 (very likely) is fairly easy to get running.

there is no OS on it at all right now. i almost wonder if the HDD is bad, as all it does after showing the IBM logo is go to a blank screen with a blinking cursor in the top left while the hard disk just cranks away like crazy but nothing ever happens.


Correct.
Yes.
No.

There are newer versions of the AS/400 (now referred to as the "i" series, btw) that can run an IBM distribution of Linux, but this unit is highly proprietary (as most of them are). The only thing it will run is IBM's OS/400, designed for this machine. But, don't look on this as a bad thing--as long as you're not requiring a graphical OS, this platform can't be beat for rock-solid operation. In 5 years we've had {{{Maybe}}} 8 hours of unscheduled downtime.

damn... i was hoping to be able to run linux on it, but i guess i can learn to use OS/400. now i need to find a copy somewhere.

Mike Chambers
September 24th, 2007, 10:17 PM
Yes, for the IPCS (Integrated PC Server), the standard PS/2 devices will work just fine.

Now, I'm working on the assumption that Windows (either NT or 2000) is installed on the IPCS (which would require a Keyboard, Monitor and Mouse), but it could also be OS/2 or Novell, neither of which support the external PC peripherals and are wholly managed within the OS/400.

Do you know anything about the lineage of this system? What I'm getting at is: do you know the people this came from well enough to be able to get the QSECOFR password? The person who administered this system should know what it is (or at least how to get their hands on it).

i know nothing about the lineage of the computer. i walked into work this morning and there was this giant server sitting there with a note on it that said "mike c: this is a gift for you, it's not the newest but you'll enjoy it! -scott"

lol. scott works thursday to sunday, so later this week i will thank him immensely for it and then ask him about where he got it and what he knows about it.

SwedaGuy
September 25th, 2007, 06:24 AM
there is no OS on it at all right now. i almost wonder if the HDD is bad, as all it does after showing the IBM logo is go to a blank screen with a blinking cursor in the top left while the hard disk just cranks away like crazy but nothing ever happens.

You're still in the PC mindset...don't write off the presence of the operating system, you haven't even gotten the machine booted yet, really. Just "turning it on" without having the console (twinax terminal) attached to port 0 device 0 is just going to confuse it. I doubt that it completed the IPL (Initial Program Load) at all. Check for an error code on the front display and the attention light (looks kind of like a little lightning bolt).

That said, the process that runs the intel server can be thought of as a sub-system. When the machine is running (IPL or "Boot" time is several minutes normally, and will be much longer after an abend), you will have to log onto the system with a user profile that is allowed to work with TCP/IP setup and services. Then you can issue the STRTCP command, and the intel server will come up. This, too, takes several minutes to boot. The important point is that until the subsystem that governs the IPCS is started in the traditional environment, the IPCS won't do anything but put a cursor in the corner of the screen. So, if that's what your getting now, it just means you don't have the service started.

Well, I've got to run along to work, so I'll check back in tonight...I'll see if I've got any spare 5250 compatible terminals hanging around. Though, an emulator may be your best choice.

mbbrutman
September 25th, 2007, 07:28 AM
Wow - I wish I had seen this thread yesterday, but I was too busy working!

I work for IBM and I have operating system code in that machine. I have code in every version of OS/400 from V3R6 to V5R1, and of course a lot of that code is still running in the current releases being shipped today. Most of my code was lower level exception handling/interrupt handing, with a little bit of task dispatcher code thrown in. I also did a lot of performance analysis work to make the whole thing faster.

Anyway, this isn't your typical PC. It's a server in the truest sense of the word.

The 'black' AS/400s (most of them at least) run on a chip that is a variant of PowerPC. It has a few extra instructions to help with some AS/400 specifics related to security. The operating system is very tied to that processor (and the rest of the hardware), so it will not run on another PowerPC box.

The operating system (OS/400) is unlike anything else that exists today. It is a classic proprietary operating system designed for a classic 'mid-range' machine, which is kind of a rarity now. (Unix has all but taken the market.) Older competitors included Digital and HP with their non-Unix boxes.

It requires a console device, which is usually a 5250 type terminal. 5250 is unlike a normal ASCII terminal because, well, it is EBCIDIC, and second, it sends data a 'page' at a time, not a character at a time. Connection is usually through something we call 'twin-ax' which is a special type of coaxial cable with two conductors instead of the normal one conductor. Later models could have the console running other a serial port or LAN to a PC running the correct software.

Normal users connect using a 5250 emulator over TCP/IP. A Linux 5250 client is available. IBM's Personal Communications Suite also has 5250 emulation.

My best description of the machine and OS is that it is the worlds best filing cabinet. The database is built into the OS and his highly integrated with it. It is very aware of the hardware as well. The integration makes it one of the easiest databases to administer. The slogan for the machine used to be 'Run your business, not your computer'.

Your machine looks like one of the smaller ones - an entry level machine for a small business. One CPU somewhere between 100 to 200Mhz, maybe up to 128MB of RAM, and some SCSI drives and peripherals on a custom bus. If you give me a specific type number (the 9406 is too generic) I can tell you much more about it.

Bigger machines from that timeframe were in a full sized rack and had 24 processors, 40GB of RAM, and rows and rows of hard disk cabinets. These aren't the fastest machines in the world, but they are built to move data.

mbbrutman
September 25th, 2007, 07:33 AM
BTW, this is not a casual hobbiest machine. Getting the OS installed and up to date and getting the right parts together can be done, but if you are just learning about the machine for the first time it will be daunting. Especially these older machines - 1998 was a long time ago, even for an AS/400.

5250 type terminal hardware can be easily found. Other hardware, such as Ethernet might be costly (relatively speaking) - there is a large second hand market for equipment, but it is setup for business users.

First get a 5250 console and the proper wiring - they you can determine which version of OS/400 is on it. Hopefully it has something - licensing the OS is less than straightforward. Any release from V4R3 to V5R1 (or something along those lines) will run comfortably. V4R3 will be the fastest, as it was the last release without hypervisor/partitioning support which is not needed on a uni-processor home hobbiest box.

Terry Yager
September 25th, 2007, 12:19 PM
Gee, all I can contribute is a couple of books, yours for postage:

Using the AS/400, Patrice Gapen & Catherine Stoughton

Programming in RPG/400, Judy Yaeger

Pm me an addy if ya want 'em.

--T

Mike Chambers
September 25th, 2007, 07:16 PM
BTW, this is not a casual hobbiest machine. Getting the OS installed and up to date and getting the right parts together can be done, but if you are just learning about the machine for the first time it will be daunting. Especially these older machines - 1998 was a long time ago, even for an AS/400.

5250 type terminal hardware can be easily found. Other hardware, such as Ethernet might be costly (relatively speaking) - there is a large second hand market for equipment, but it is setup for business users.

First get a 5250 console and the proper wiring - they you can determine which version of OS/400 is on it. Hopefully it has something - licensing the OS is less than straightforward. Any release from V4R3 to V5R1 (or something along those lines) will run comfortably. V4R3 will be the fastest, as it was the last release without hypervisor/partitioning support which is not needed on a uni-processor home hobbiest box.

wow mike thanks for all the info. i probably won't be getting an actual 5250 console. i'll just use an emulator on my laptop or something. so then, i can't just use a standard rs232 cable? there are a lot of female serial ports on the back of this thing.

so OS/400 has the ability to allow windows and linux machines to connect to it to transfer files to and from right? i would also like to put an httpd on it.

also, what number would you like me to find on it so you can better identify it? the S/N?

mbbrutman
September 25th, 2007, 07:55 PM
There should be another 4 digits after the '9406' on it that are a more specific type number.

You will need a console of some sort. I don't think that those will support a console over serial or lan, so you will need cabling and a 5250 terminal, or a PC with a 5250 emulation card in it.

OS/400 is a big, robust operating system. Windows machines can use it as a file server. It can run a HTTP server, or any other network server that you can find code for. And it has a great database and support for C, COBOL and RPG programming languages. But it's not your typical PC box ...

Lastly, just because it looks like a serial port does not mean that it is. Do not connect anything to a port until you positively identify the port and what it is to be used for.

SwedaGuy
September 25th, 2007, 08:43 PM
wow mike thanks for all the info. i probably won't be getting an actual 5250 console. i'll just use an emulator on my laptop or something. so then, i can't just use a standard rs232 cable? there are a lot of female serial ports on the back of this thing.



RS-232 won't run a console in the manner you're thinking. The only way to avoid a twinax connected console is to use the direct connected OPs (aka Client Access) console, but you'll need the software and a cable that runs around a hundred bucks on the after market. If you want to use your laptop, it's probably not a problem, PCMCIA twinax cards are made, I have one for my laptop. It has the ubiquitous Y-cable that the twinax plugs into.

I mentioned the four-port "brick" that plugs into the back of the machine. Up to four twinax lines can connect, with each line running seven devices. You'll need to find that before you can make the console run.

I must stress that a twinax connected console on Port 0, set to Device 0 is absolutely required to manage the system in absence of the ClientAccess console (or whatever they happen to be calling it now), and even with the Client Access Console there are certain things (like Dedicated Service Tools & software installation during attended IPL) that can not be done without the twinax console anyway.

BTW, you mentioned the female DB9 connectors--those aren't regular serial ports. One is UPS control, one is frame power control (to coordinate power management messages with other "frames") though I don't know why that's included on a little 170. I'm not looking at the machine right now, so I don't remember what the other two are, but I'm certain they are not PC-style serial ports.

mbbrutman
September 25th, 2007, 08:55 PM
It's nice to see another 'big-iron' type around here. :-)

SwedaGuy
September 25th, 2007, 09:07 PM
I guarantee I wouldn't trade my AS/400 for all the WinTel crap in the world--I want a reliable, stable system that does what it is supposed to without fail. That pretty much sums up the 400...

If there were a way I could be browsing this forum on my 5250 session, I certainly would be. ;)