Subject: Re: Changing to NetBSD
To: None <>
From: Douglas A. Tutty <>
List: netbsd-users
Date: 10/23/2007 10:59:51
On Tue, Oct 23, 2007 at 01:28:47PM +0000, wrote:
> On Tuesday 23 October 2007 11:30:59 Christian Baer wrote:
> > I need to be able to run the following apps:
> >
> > - Firefox & Thunderbird, both 2.x
> > - Keepassx
> > - mutt
> > - slrn
> > - tin
> > - inn
> > - some IM client (either Pidgin or Kopete)
> > - LaTeX
> > - OpenOffice
> >
> > on *all* of the platforms (currently only i386 and sparc64). Not all of
> > the machines will actually run all of the software but I don't really want
> > to choose what computer I want to use for what (yet). Do all of those apps
> > run on both (all) platforms? On FreeBSD I had problems with Keepassx and
> > Pidgin, Firefox and Thunderbird have been broken for a while now. I didn't
> > try inn, LaTeX, tin and OO on sparc64 yet.
> I have a few things to say about sparc64 platform. I have Ultra 10 and I used 
> NetBSD and Solaris on this machine. NetBSD on sparc64 used to be pretty 
> unstable with threaded applications, I think this has been fixed and threaded 
> applications don't crash anymore. The other problem with sparc64 is the fact 
> that 32-bit emulation is flaky, i.e. I couldn't get threaded 32-bit 
> applications to compile and run. There are many packages in pkgsrc which are 
> not 64-bit clean, and there is really no need for userland to be 64-bit, 
> unless you need access to huge amounts of memory, which is not even an option 
> for UltraSPARC II hardware. I pretty much doubt if you can run OpenOffice on 
> NetBSD sparc64, since OpenOffice is not 64-bit clean yet and the last time I 
> tried to build it on sparc64, I couldn't get past compilation errors, etc.
> Also, from what you described, you have a group of users who need access to 
> the same set of applications. It looks like your ideal  solution would be to 
> deploy SunRay thin clients. This way, you have one or more central servers, 
> on which you can configure your applications. The users then run those 
> applications remotely via SunRay thin clients. It's a pretty robust 
> infrastructure, which can also support encryption of data. SunRay Server 
> Software only runs on Solaris and Linux, but Solaris would be a much better 
> choice. Personally, I prefer Solaris over NetBSD on SPARC, it has a lot of 
> nice features which NetBSD does not, e.g ZFS and Zones. It's pretty easy to 
> build many software packages on Solaris by using pkgsrc.

Since we're keeping this civil and not starting a holy war, I'll chime

I love playing with old hardware but nobody has ever given me something
other than i386 so I know diddly about Sun stuff.   

I use my old hardware as thin clients and run the apps themselves on my
big Athlon box.  I would suggest that you look at your biggest old box,
whatever it is, that is capable of running all the apps you need.  Then
set up your other boxes with their own OS, X, ssh, ntpd, (and I install
lynx and mc [midnight commander]), to run as what I call "slim" clients.
As an X window manager, I generally use icewm (small, simple, but good
features).  As long as the Xs are compatible, you can run everything
with ssh -X, if set up to use pub keys.  Such slim clients need minimal
resources; my 486 with 32 MB ram and a 504 MB HD does just fine on
either NetBSD or OpenBSD.

You may choose a different OS for the main application server.  I would
suggest that you at least look at and consider Debian since they (I
think) do well with sparc.  Their package management is quite simple
with no down-time for compiling or updating; its done on-the-fly while
the system is still in production.  If you will be using multiple old
hard drives, they have raid capibility right out of the box in the
installer.  Put in a few drives, set up raid1 pairs, put LVM over top
and you get a nice email if a drive fails.  If you need further info on
Debian, ask on the debian-user mailing list.