IA64 – An Exercise in Nostalgia..

Ever since I spent some considerable time promoting HP’s IA64 Linux systems, way back in the early-2000’s, I have always wanted one for myself, and I recently managed to acquire an RX2600 1U server for a very reasonable price, and beef it up with some inexpensive parts from eBay..

The spec – at the moment – is 2x 1.5Ghz ‘Madison’ CPUs, and 8GB memory, and one 74GB U320 disk.. This basic chassis is identical to the one used for the ‘workstation’ version – the Z6000 – and I am planning to do a conversion, to allow better (AGP) graphics..

RX2600 Chassis

I had managed to track down the remaining IA64 versions of various Distros, and the ‘latest’ (2008..) one was Fedora 9, which is still available online, if you are able to do some digging.. I created a DVD install disk, and made a complete copy of the old repo, including all the packages..

This exercise was a good test of my install recollections from 9+ years ago, and was relatively straightforward.. As expected, there were a several things not there – or too ‘new’ – including EXT4 support. I settled on EXT3 for the time being, and this may be OK..

I had been cross-compiling the latest (4.14) kernels on my F27 x86_64 system, as – fortunately – there is still a viable ia64 cross-compiler available..

export ARCH=ia64
export CROSS_COMPILE=ia64-linux-gnu-
 etc...

I also had to (re)remember all the old LILO stuff, as the system uses the EFI version of this – ELILO..

The server has 4 PCI-X slots (not PCI-Express..) and there are still a few i/o cards available for this.. It came with an old NVIDIA Quadro NVS280 card, and I was able to get a dual-hdmi connector ‘tail’ for this..

The install was only possible in ‘non-graphical’ mode, but this worked OK, and it was actually easier to use than the modern bells-and-whistles version.. IMHO..

At the end, I had a working system, running the ancient 2.6.25-14 kernel..

As the latest kernel still has some IA64 activity (although very little..) I decided to try to compile this natively, and get it running… More on this in a later article, but I did manage to get the compile to work, using a kernel config copied from the cross-compile testing, as I was unable to get any of the graphical configurators to work, and did not want to waste too much time..

Although there is some ‘nouveau’ content with FC9, I found that with nouveau configured in the kernel, the system started to boot and then crashed/re-booted, so I took nouveau support out for the time being (just using framebuffer)

Even with an ancient version of GCC (4.3.0) the kernel compile completed successfully, despite several warnings.. and after modifying the EFI and ELILO config a little – I actually got the system to boot:

.....................
 tg3 0000:20:02.0 eth1: Link is up at 1000 Mbps, full duplex
 tg3 0000:20:02.0 eth1: Flow control is on for TX and on for RX
 [rgadsdon@rgia64 ~]$ uname -a
 Linux rgia64 4.14.1 #1 SMP Tue Nov 21 06:19:05 PST 2017 ia64 ia64 ia64 GNU/Linux

So far, I have also got webmin to work:

Webmin IA64

That is all the progress to date, and my goal is to get MOCK working, and build an up-to-date Fedora 27 Distro, although this might be a touch too ambitious, as many of the tools to do this were never fully developed, and many projects on IA64 have been ‘abandoned’…

Robert Gadsdon..  November 21, 2017.


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