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Thread: The football lives!

  1. #1

    Default The football lives!

    In a previous post, I described the briefcase computer at work that we called "the football". Like a fool, excuse me, true collector, I arranged with the company to acquire it. I convinced them to let me have it for $35. It's basically two of these 1U servers skinned, repackaged, and folded up into a briefcase. A 50 lb briefcase! It needed work, and I knew the company would not spend any money on it, so rather than scrap it, it's mine now. I'm posting to the forum from it! It needed work on the water cooling system, which is mostly complete now. IT wiped the drives, so I installed Centos 6 on it. Nothing newer would run on it. It used to run RHEL, but that's gone now. Centos is the logical replacement for RHEL anyway. Who knows, I may drag this thing to a vintage computer fair at some point...

  2. #2
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    Nothing newer? What is this thing that won't run NetBSD?

  3. #3

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    I tried several current, popular Linux distros, and they all went to a black screen with my monitor telling me it didn't support that display mode. I searched many forums, tried multiple boot options, but they didn't help. I tried Manjaro, Mint, Zorin, Ubuntu, Xubuntu, etc. No joy. Even Centos 7 was a disaster. Only Centos 6 worked, and looked a lot like the RHEL 4U6 that was on it before. I have Zorin on a few other older systems, including a Thinkpad X41, which is about the same vintage as the football, but the old Zorin release didn't work either. The black screen problem is really infuriating. This pops up on multiple Linux forums with multiple suggestions. I'm not sure if the problem is the old graphics chip in the system, or the installers guessing wrong about the monitor's capabilities, but once it's in that mode, nothing helps but a reboot. The other thing about this system is that there is physically no room to install a better graphics adapter. It would be PCI anyway, so not that much better. The on board graphics are ATI Rage XL which does 1280x1024x24 just fine, and that's my monitor's preferred mode. The Rage is VGA only. The Rage is DirectX 6.0 and OpenGL 1.1. The OpenGL limitation may be what kills other distros.

    I have not tried NetBSD, where the obvious answer is, “Of course it runs NetBSD.” NetBSD is a completely different family tree from the Debian/Ubuntu group of popular distros. It also looks like NetBSD has a bewildering array of packages. If I try this, I'll want to snapshot the boot drive with Clonezilla first, so I can retreat to Centos if need be. I notice that NetBSD uses Mesa to get around OpenGL limitations, so that may be a plus. At one point, I used Mesa to get around the fact that some VNC programs did not support OpenGL at all.

  4. #4
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    CentOS 6 is supported until some time in 2020; at least with it you can grab the hardware configuration and see what options you might have to pass on the boot line. OpenBSD should also run on it if you want a BSD.

    As to 'of course it runs NetBSD' that rather pointedly does NOT include IA64 machines like the 30 CPU SGI Altix 350 (54GB of RAM) I have available to me here that is running my own rebuild of CentOS 5.
    --
    Bughlt: Sckmud
    Shut her down Scotty, she's sucking mud again!

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by lowen View Post
    CentOS 6 is supported until some time in 2020; at least with it you can grab the hardware configuration and see what options you might have to pass on the boot line. OpenBSD should also run on it if you want a BSD.

    As to 'of course it runs NetBSD' that rather pointedly does NOT include IA64 machines like the 30 CPU SGI Altix 350 (54GB of RAM) I have available to me here that is running my own rebuild of CentOS 5.
    Lol, I also found in the list of ports that NetBSD does not and never will support the old Apollo DNxxxx machines. I was never foolish enough to let one of those follow me home. Apparently, NetBSD would run on my Mac G3 Blue and White that is stuck on a very old MacOS. The problem with Centos 6 is that a lot of newer programs like Blender and Luxrender won't run on it. There is a version of Blender for NetBSD, but it's not clear if Luxrender would work. I have a working copy of Luxrender on a Dell PE1950 which has Xeon processors, but the embedded graphics chip is no better than this thing.

  6. #6
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    NetBSD also has RPM emulation, so anything designed for an RPMy linux can work.

  7. #7
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    I've had the video mode "out of range" problem with PCI/AGP Rage cards in the past. Typically the GRUB menu causes it but once the system gets booted into a GUI it finds a video mode that works. Guessing the old Rage chips don't support monitor EDID properly, causing Linux SVGA console stuff to throw a fit, but X is smart enough to switch into a more compatible video mode when it launches. If you can force a true text mode console you might get around it.

    Neat system though, glad you saved it from the recyclers!

  8. #8
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    You can configure grub to use standard (640x480) VGA text-only modes. It's a rare installation where I don't modify grub.

  9. #9

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    I don't think it was just the grub menu, I could get to that point, change the grub options, then watch as it went forward, eventually to the black screen. Waiting did not make it go away. The grub options I tried were "nomodeset" and "grub_gfxmode=1280x1024x24" Both of these would have helped if it was just grub. The comment about EDID is probably on target, but I didn't want to go out and buy another monitor just to test a theory. Same with a VGA-to-HDMI converter. I did try other monitors, but I don't have any that are 1080p with a VGA input. I just don't understand why, in the absence of EDID data, the OS didn't default to something totally safe like 1024x768 or plain old VGA.

    Most of the live CDs I tried also had the annoying habit of installing or updating grub without telling me it was doing that.

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