Subject: SRM FlashFloppy for Cabriolet
To: Andrew Lauder <>
From: Miles Nordin <carton@Ivy.NET>
List: port-alpha
Date: 04/12/1999 20:20:50
AlphaBIOS was a major headache for me.  I highly reccommend you install
SRM even if you choose to run Linux, to avoid things like nonworking
serial console, throwing the TGA into some dumb VGA-specific mode in spite
of the fixed-frequency dip switches on the back, stupid RTC handling, and
other general mind-numbing insanity.

My Avanti shipped with AlphaBIOS, and i flashed it to SRM and upgraded to
the latest SRM twice, using the floppy disk drive.  The images are
definitely free from Digital--the CD is merely a convenience.

To make a boot disk easily, you need a PC running MS-DOS.  You can make
disks with Digital UNIX and OpenVMS, and I've also made them with a
utility named something like srmbootraw that runs under Linux.  NetBSD may
have a tool like that too.  However if you've had this thing for months
and it still isn't working, the MS-DOS solution is probably more to your

Start at:

This URL has firmware images and release notes for just about everything.
Read the release notes, keeping in mind that Digital supports three
different operating systems, and you're using the fourth.  You need to
figure out what to attend to and what to skip.  If you read carefully, you
might learn everything you need to know.

If this proves too difficult, you can try my partly Avanti-specific
instructions below.  You need to use the web site to get a single file
that ends in .exe containing the update utility.  It should be about 1M
and will probably have a filename more than ten letters long, modeled
after the Digital official marketing name for your machine.

The type of firmware update disk you need to make depends on what kind of
firmware you have right now.

ARC or AlphaBIOS		copy the .exe file onto an MS-DOS (FAT)
				floppy, and name it fwupdate.exe.
				Boot into your fancy blue menu and
				choose the appropriate menu option

SRM				if you have a fancy version of SRM, 
				you might be able to boot a FAT floppy.
				read your release notes.

				otherwise, make a floppy as described
				below, and type
				>>> boot dva0

no useful firmware		Make a floppy with a Digital UNIX-style
				boot block (no FAT bullshit) using
				/firmware/utilities/mkboot.exe on
				an MS-DOS machine.  mkboot.txt will
				explain how to use this tool.

				My Avanti has a desperation jumper
				that tells the Diagnostic ROM to 
				boot a floppy in this format, without
				starting AlphaBIOS or SRM.  You can
				only boot floppies, and they must be
				mkboot-style floppies.  Read your
				motherboard manual.  chances are your
				Cabriolet has a similar jumper.

Note that you can't boot an SRM floppy on AlphaBIOS.  You _can_ boot the
AlphaBIOS floppies on certain new SRM's, it seems, but yours probably
isn't one of them.  You're better off using mkboot.exe anyway.

I personally reccommend the jumper method, because that's what I used.
AlphaBIOS was completely useless for me, and i couldn't get any
intelligible menu at all on my fixed-frequency monitor or on the serial
console, so picking whatever candyass menu option was impossible.  Get out
the pliers and the manuals and do it right.

> My only alternative, is to go get a Linux compatible SCSI card, and install
> Red Hat.  And I don't think you guys want me to do that.

Whether or not you run RedHat doesn't interest me, because if you do I
won't feel any need to help you any more--it'll be someone else's mess. To
quote my horoscope from today's Onion (, ``It's not that
people won't care when they see you get hit by a bus.  It's just that they
know an attention-getting ploy when they see one.''

What I can tell you is that the only way I got RedHat running was to
compile minlabel on an i386 with a hacked kernel that recognized DU
disklabels, run the commandline rpm tool on the disk by hand, boot a
kernel with an 'init=/sbin/ldconfig' commandline option, power down
(without sync'ing--god i love Linux) and restart into a _god awful mess_.  
and that's when the real fun began, what with Alan Cox chainsawing
development features into My So-called Stable Kernel, and then there is
the Tale of the Aic7xxx driver that they ripped off from FreeBSD, which i
will have to dig up the next time someone suggests importing CAM from the
32-bit Little-endian OS from Wintel Fairyland.

I would have been running NetBSD long ago if Linux NFS knew the difference
between a rototiller and a Swiss whore.  But let us never speak of Linux
NFS again.

RedHat stole three months of my life.  And the flakiness you are
experiencing with AlphaBIOS is not a coincidence, either.  ``This far, and
_no further_,'' or you'll end up laughing yourself naked on the floor of a
mental hospital, popping Prozac and running the BeOS, while Leslie Burke
moves to Utah to bear the children of an Israeli chemical engineer.

Miles Nordin / 1-888-857-2723
555 Bryant Street #182 / Palo Alto, CA 94301-1700