Subject: AlphaStation 600 support...
To: None <port-alpha@NetBSD.ORG>
From: Chris G Demetriou <>
List: port-alpha
Date: 03/16/1996 21:00:40
Since Jason sent his repsonse to the WWW query about the Alpha port
here, I figured I might as well forward mine...  It's got a bit of
useful info in in.

------- Forwarded Message

To: (Dan Foster)
cc:, cgd@UX2.SP.CS.CMU.EDU
Subject: Re: Feedback on the NetBSD WWW server 
In-reply-to: Your message of "Sat, 16 Mar 1996 16:50:55 PST."
Date: Sat, 16 Mar 1996 20:32:51 -0500
Message-ID: <5633.827026371@UX2.SP.CS.CMU.EDU>
From: Chris G Demetriou <Chris_G_Demetriou@UX2.SP.CS.CMU.EDU>

> Curious why the port for the Alpha platform doesn't
> support the included SCSI controller for th eAlphaStation
> 600? Did DEC make thenecessary information proprietary
> or anything? Just wondering, because I'm looking at
> acquiring an AlphaStation 600, heard great things about
> NetBSD/FreeBSD, and interested in making a contribution
> somehow.

The SCSI controller on the AlphaStation 600 is an ISP1020, made by
Qlogic.  It's a relatively intelligent SCSI controller.

I have full documentation on it (all i had to do was call Qlogic, and
they sent it out that day, by overnight mail, if i recall!).
	(1) It's a relatively complex device to write a driver for, and
	(2) I've never had an AlphaStation 600 to work on.  I did the
	    port to the AlphaStation 600 via remote serial line, on
	    a borrowed machine that was across the country, and
	    couldn't even hit the 'reset' button if i crashed it...

In other words, because of the way the port to that hardware was done,
"serious" driver development was out of the question.

Another thing to be careful of with the NetBSD/alpha and '600s: the
'600 that i was working on had a ZLXp-E3 frame buffer, and the console
software (and X11) in NetBSD/Alpha only understands the ZLXp-E1.

If you're planing to get a '600, and want to use it with NetBSD, i'd
	(1) get a ZLXp-E1 frame buffer, rather than any other, if you
	    wish to use the console.  You'll not need more than
	    a ZLXp-E1 unless you're doing some seriously heavy-duty
	    graphics work, or require 24-bit graphics support.
	(2) get a NCR 53c810 SCSI board to use in addition to the
	    built-in SCSI controllers.

(1) will save you a thousand or two dollars (at least if the list
prices on the boards are anything like their prices in AlphaStation
600 bundles).  (2) will cost you less than $100, and NCR53c810 boards
are pretty easy to find.  (Get in touch with me directly, if you'd
like more info on where to find them; i think i have a few numbers
around here...)

In terms of complexity to support the hardware mentioned here as

The ZLXp-E2 and -E3 support shouldn't be that hard to write, for
the console or for simple X11 support.  To do it, you should get:
	DECchip 21030 documentation, available off the NetBSD/Alpha
	    web page and on the NetBSD ftp site, and available (bound
	    and printed) for free from DEC (at least when i got my
	    copy), and
	Brooktree Bt463 RAMDAC documentation (available from
	    Brooktree; ask me for the phone number if you need it).

The Qlogic ISP1020 support should be relatively difficult to write,
but by no means impossible.  The driver would probably end up being
similar in complexity to the driver for the Adaptec AIC7xxx SCSI
chips, that's in the NetBSD souce tree.  To give it a shot, you'll
need the documentation from Qlogic on the board; sak me for Qlogic's
phone number, if you need it.

Eventually, If i can convince my boss to buy me a ZLXp-E2 and to give
me the time to work on it, I'd like to do -E2 and -E3 support, but
it's unlikely that that'll happen in the near future.  We're planning
to order a bunch of new AlphaStations (some 255s, some 500s), and if
the 500s include an ISP1020 for SCSI (from DEC's description, it
sounds like they might), then i'll probably have to write that driver
eventually, too.  However, that's a reasonably time off.


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