Subject: Re: Status of NetBSD-VAX
To: Brian D Chase <>
From: Jacob Suter <>
List: port-vax
Date: 06/01/1998 00:58:27
On Sun, 31 May 1998, Brian D Chase wrote:

> On Sun, 31 May 1998, Jacob Suter wrote:
> It's been added to MicroVAX II (and others?) with QDSS video hardware. 
> There isn't anybody actively working on video for the VS2000 or VS3100s
> that I know of. Ragge has done some rearrangement of the serial driver
> code for the VAXstations in order to make way for future support of mice
> and keyboards.  One would assume this is with the ultimate intent of
> supporting non-terminal consoles. 

Very Cool [tm].  Even 2-bit X support for them would be rather nice.
> > Can I self boot off SCSI (all mine have dual SCSI controllers)
> Um, maybe.  I recall people saying they'd done it, but I never remember
> reading anything conclusively correct.  I have not even begun to play with
> that yet.  At the very least I think it'd be nice to be able to boot from
> floppy, which should be feasible.

Unluckily I don't have any SCSI floppies here...  I'll be at a swap meet
next weekend and hope to find some nice vax parts (and maybe a Sun 3/60
toy) cheap.  

> > Does the SCSI still suck?
> Um, it has it's issues still.

Darn...  Thats the thing I would consider being NetBSD/VAX's biggest
problem for me :(

> > Can I actually get the whole base system on two 100MB HD's and maybe a
> > little swap too?
> Yes.  I found the 160Meg RD54 to be just a bit too tight, but 200Meg ought
> to be okay.  Of course it really isn't an option until we get the SCSI
> driver fixed up some.

I'm hoping maybe I can find a bit bigger HD for cheap next week...  

> > I don't mind NFSing my home directories, but NFSing everything gets a
> > bit intensive on my lame PeeCees. 
> > 
> > I figured I'd put NetBSD/VAX through its paces as a little toy shell
> > server for a while... 
> I'm trying to tackle a couple of the fundamental weaknesses in the
> NetBSD/vax port, and I'm not talking about the code.  Basically, I think
> we've got enough competent people around to actually make serious progress
> on the port.  Free time is still an issue, but that's the case for other
> ports as well, so I figure that's just something we have to deal with.

its just a matter of finding common goals to work on and completing them.
Unluckily most people here have their "strong points", which makes things

> The biggest problems I see are: [1] a lack of documentation for the
> hardware we're attempting to support, [2] a lack of a way to easily
> distribute any documentation to which various individuals do have access,  
> [3] developers who're attempting to support hardware to which they don't
> have access.

I'll do some checking from the company that gave me my vaxes to see if
they have any of the old documentation around.  They wrote some very heavy
CAD programming stuffs for drafting/detailers.  They currently have about
150 seats of VMS running on Alphas, all the old VAXes went to other
offices except for the 4 I was given, that had a 2 year layover in a hay

> DEC has been kind in the past to both the development of Linux and
> other port of NetBSD, so I'm hopeful with the right approach we can get
> assistance from them in the way of documentation for these obsolete
> systems we're trying to support.  It'd be nice to get hardware donations
> for developers from DEC as well, but I really don't expect it.  I'm
> willing to financially support what meager endeavours I can reasonably
> afford through "Brian funded" hardware donations to key developers.

Has Linux/VAX actually gotten anywhere?  Last I looked it was still sort
of a joke than anything, even according to their homepage.

> Additionally, I'm looking for a decent ISP and a fixed IP address in order
> to get a NetBSD/i386 system on the internet proper. The system would be
> complete with cross-compile setup for VAX and accounts for developers. 
> Then off of that machine would be provisions for connecting to the serial
> consoles of a well rounded collection of VAX systems.  I mean, if you
> can't get hardware to all the developers, you can certainly try to get all
> the developers to the hardware. 

Hmm, where 'bouts are you?  Being an ISP I know a lot of other ISPs around
that are generally decent about helping efforts like this..

> At this point I've all the VAXen that I can possibly cope with (minus say 
> an 11/750), and I've got all the bits to make a nice NetBSD host PC,
> including a 16port serial card for connecting up to the VAX consoles.  
> I'm just shy a few serial cables, some time to assemble it all, and a
> dedicated net connection.

I've got a dedicated DS0 (56k Sync) line, but its rather overloaded
between 5PM - midnight Central US time.  I've got four Vaxes but I can't
really afford to run them, my power bill is already peaking $350/mo due to
the air conditioner (its been 100 degrees every afternoon for the last 4
days, and never getting under 80 at night - its miserable.)

> Anyway, so that is the plan.  Yes I am insane.

Not insane, all of your ideas sound very accomplishable.  With a decent
x86 machine on an internal network there you could add some serious
cross-compiling power to the whole thing to speed development, with the
capability to transfer data at ~1mb/sec (ok, more like 50k/sec to the
average decent VAX) internally and enable the developers to quickly test
their latest code changes right there online...

Beautiful...  Now if power was just free...