Surge in GPL source code releases

Is this just me or do we see a highly increased rate of (important and interesting) stuff being released (or announced to be released soon) under the terms of the GPL lately?

A few examples:

  • VirtualBox — a VMware-like virtualisation solution
  • Second Life — the client for now, but the server software might follow
  • Fortress — Sun's Fortran replacement
  • OpenSolaris — scheduled to be released under the GPLv3
  • Java — this might have a huge impact...
  • Sun UltraSPARC T1 — a complete, modern CPU

This is a great trend and good news for all of us. A special thanks to Sun for releasing more and more stuff under free licenses!

Stuff III

Debian on a Sun Sparc Ultra 10 - Lessons Learned

I recently had trouble installing/running Debian on my Sun Sparc Ultra 10. Lessons learned:

  1. There seems to be a huge crowd of people out there who own SPARCs (lots more than I would have expected)! I received tons of helpful comments, thanks everyone!
  2. Booting into single-user mode with "boot -s" requires you to enter the root password. However, you can use "boot -b", an undocumented feature, to do the equivalent of "init=/bin/sh". It doesn't quite work for me, I get "Cannot write to /foo/bar" errors (and I'm then asked to provide the root password, very funny), but that might be an unrelated problem...
  3. The problems I experienced (screen turns black, nothing happens) had a simple reason: there are two video cards in the box, but I only had a monitor attached to one of them. As things go, the bootloader used exactly the one where the screen was attached, but as soon as Debian started to boot, it would use the other video card. Which had no monitor attached. Hence I would not see anything. The installer was waiting for me to choose a keyboard layout and I was waiting for the installer to do just something... I suck. Solution: attach second monitor. Smarter solution: use some boot parameters to choose the video card I want to use (todo).
  4. None of the Debian boot images come with cfdisk or just plain fdisk (I tested businesscard, netinst, and the full install CD). Why? Do you use some other tool on SPARCs? Which?
  5. I cannot seem to mount my disks. There's no /dev/hda* (should I create them with mknod?) and trying to mount /dev/ide/* fails with some strange errors. I guess I need to read more docs, both SPARC-related as well as udev-related.

In related news: Sun has released the design of the OpenSparc T1 under the terms of the GPL. Great news, thanks Sun!

Help: How do I boot Debian on a Sun Sparc Ultra 10? [Update]

Dear Lazyweb,

I was trying to boot Debian on a Sun Sparc Ultra 10 box yesterday, without success. I got myself this Sparc box from eBay many months ago, but until yesterday it was merely standing around here and taking up valuable space (just like the other dozen or so computers standing around in my room). So I thought I should really make some use of it, finally...

I booted it up and noticed that it came with SunOS 5.8 pre-installed. It boots quite fine into the graphical login prompt, but I don't have the root password (or the password for any other account). So my first task was to reset the root password. But I failed so far.

Out of curiosity I connected the machine to my laptop and ran nmap on it. It has several ports open (e.g. ntp, ssh, X11, nfs, ...), so I could probably try to find a remote root exploit (or run an ssh brute-force attack) and crack it open that way ;) While I might try that later just for the fun of it, I wanted to simply boot a Debian first and change the root password manually. That sounded simpler at first...

Anyways, here's what I tried so far:

Boot into single-user mode

As I had no experience whatsoever with Sparcs, it took me some time to read up all the stuff I needed... After a bit of googling, I found out that I need to press STOP+A to get into the boot prompt (the box has OpenBoot 3.19). There, I can type boot -s to boot into single user mode. Unfortunately, you still need the root password to boot into single-user mode. Argh!

Boot from CD-ROM

Next, I found out how to boot from CD-ROM. Typing boot cdrom in the boot prompt should do the trick. So I downloaded and burned a the current Debian "businesscard" image for Sparc:

cdrecord -eject -v speed=2 dev=/dev/hdc -data -pad debian-31r1a-sparc-businesscard.iso

Booting seems to work partially. SILO seems to start fine, and I get to the "boot:" prompt. When I press Enter I get to the point where it says "Loading Linux..." but then the screen turns black and nothing happens anymore (hangup). The same happens when I type "linux" or "rescue" on the "boot:" prompt.

The monitor works fine, SunOS 5.8 can display graphics etc., so it's probably not a hardware problem.


After that, I tried to perform a network boot. This was fun and I learned a lot about RARP and TFTP, as I have never played with this stuff before. While the netboot part itself worked, it didn't solve my real problem, unfortunately...

First, I installed rarpd and tftpd on my laptop:

apt-get install rarpd tftpd

In /etc/ethers I added a line which tells rarpd which MAC address should be assigned to which IP address. I looked up the MAC address of the Sparc box (it's displayed when you boot) and then added "xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx" to /etc/ethers. I configured my laptop to have the IP address ifconfig eth0 broadcast netmask Of course, I plugged an ethernet cable in the Sparc box and in my laptop so they can talk to each other.

Then, I created /etc/xinetd.d/foobar which contained:

service tftp
disable = no
socket_type = dgram
protocol = udp
user = nobody
wait = no
server = /usr/sbin/in.tftpd
# server_args = /tftp

This should tell tftpd to serve the Debian netinst boot image from /tftp, but that didn't work for me. So I commented out the "server_args = /tftp" and let tftpd fall back to the default location /tftpboot. You need to reload xinetd after any change: /etc/init.d/xinetd reload. Also, tftpd is compiled with TCP wrapper support, so you have to temporarily allow the respective connections, e.g. by adding "ALL:" to /etc/hosts.allow. Don't forget to remove that line again later on!

Now I downloaded the Debian netinst boot image for Sparc (hopefully the correct one):

mkdir /tftpboot
mv boot.img /tftpboot/XXXXXXX

You need to place that image into /tftpboot using the name under which the Sparc box requests it. I found that name by net-booting the Sparc machine and watching the network traffic with Ethereal on my laptop...

The final steps: boot the Sparc box, type STOP+A, type boot net. The Sparc machine gets the boot image from my laptop just fine (it seems), and I get to the "Loading Linux..." part again. But then I have the same problem as with the CD-ROM boot: the screen turns black, nothing happens anymore...


Update 2006-03-22: I have posted some lessons learned.

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