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Minimal CD kernel panics on AlphaServer 1201 during CD boot
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MartinHowe426
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 5:47 pm    Post subject: Minimal CD kernel panics on AlphaServer 1201 during CD boot Reply with quote

Hello

I am taking the first steps into Gentoo as it is a modern distro supporting Alpha AXP. Debian 5 works OK on the machine, but is very old and it would be better to use something more recent. Fortunately I do have a Unix background from work and some experience of DEC systems via Vax/VMS, plus I run Mint as my daily PC OS.

So when I boot from the minimal install CD, I get a kernel panic saying that it is not syncing and it attempting to kill init. This is always preceded by urandom warnings about failure due to rate limiting. There appear to be no options in the startup bootloader, so maybe I'm missing a specific file to boot? Or arguments to pass to the boot command? Or is it something else?

Machine is a Digital AlphaServer 5305 / 6533A; these were rebadged 1201 types intended for running NT; I'm booting from SRM and not using AlphaBios. The machine contains 4 x SCSI HDDs, a floppy drive and a Toshiba DVD/CD ROM drive, a Digital network/external-SCSI card, Permedia 2V graphics card, Creative Audigy sound card and a generic USB card, plus 2GB RAM. I took out the sound and USB cards, just in case, but to no effect.

The only odd thing about it is that the system clock forgets the year when powered off and resets to 2001, but remembers the month, day and time.

Since there's no way to capture the output, all I can do is re-run the boot and make notes of what I can see on the screen that doesn't scroll off to fast to read, but would need to know what to look for.

Please can anyone suggest anything?
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fedeliallalinea
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 5:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Moved from Installing Gentoo to Gentoo on Alternative Architectures.
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NeddySeagoon
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 6:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MartinHowe426,

Welcome to Gentoo.

You can capture the console during boot in several ways.
a) Make a video with a mobile phone and post it to a free image hosting site.
b) Use a serial console and capture the console output in the terminal emulator on another system.

Its also possible to bypass the problem and not use the minimalCD to install Gentoo.

None of the the code from the boot media goes into your install. The minimal CD is just a toolkit.
The binaries to get you started are in the stage3, which you download later.

Use any toolkit that works and will give you a root shell.
You will need one extra command if you install this way. That is
Code:
mkdir /mnt/gentoo

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MartinHowe426
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 6:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

NeddySeagoon:

Thanks for that; it was a shock to find even the install CD can't boot!

I'm used to installers that take most of the burden of installing an OS and it seems I am going to have to get my hands even dirtier than I thought - just to get started 8O

Using a mobile phone video is a cool idea, I'd never have thought of that; it would take ages to set up anything to do with an olde-worlde serial link, let alone identify and buy the right cable, configure a PC app to access it, etc., so will try the video thing first.

So the procedure is reinstall (a minimal) Debian on one HDD, then use that to download the stage3 and install Gentoo to one of the others, as if booted from the minimal CD? Well it's worth a try, so will do.

Regarding the Gentoo CD, I'm guessing this was moved to the AA forum as you think it more likely to be a problem with the computer than with the CD despite Debian CD booting OK, is that right?
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NeddySeagoon
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 6:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MartinHowe426,

Boot Debian - the install CD will do if you can get a root shell there. In not, install it.
Follow the Gentoo Handbook to install, with that extra step I gave you above.

Gentoo has a very nice installer. To see it, go to the bathroom and look in the mirror. :)

-- edit --

Its likely to be a platform specific problem and we don't have an Alpha subforum.


-- edit more --

Its much nicer to install Gentoo over a ssh link that at the console. Think about it.
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MartinHowe426
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PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2021 3:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK, well I finally took the plunge and started installing Gentoo using an installation of Debian 5 ('lenny') which is the only other bootable Alpha AXP linux that I know of. The problem is the age of that system; as it was I had to build tar 1.27 from source just to unpack the stage 3 tarball as the tar on the system doesn't have the extended attributes capability. But now when I try to chroot, it says the kernel is too old. uname -a yields: 2.6.26-2-alpha-generic #1 Sun Mar 4 21:08:03 UTC 2012 alpha GNU/Linux.

Since I can't boot the Gentoo CD on this machine, does anyone have any idea what else I can do? The Gentoo stage 3 is just sitting on that HDD, just begging to be started, I just need a way to bootstrap it :)
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NeddySeagoon
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PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2021 4:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MartinHowe426,

Do you have another Gentoo - any arch will do.
Could you attach the Alpha HDD, with the Gentoo on it to do the install there?

If both systems have networking, then nfs will do nicely.
You do an nfs export from the Alpha and mount it inside the other Gentoo.
The chroot step is tricky but possible.

Do you want to learn about cross compiling?
You do really because your other Gentoo(s) can help the Alpha build. As I said, any arch will do.

You have a stage3, the kernel is one of the easiest packages to cross compile, so its possible to put a cross compiled kernel under a stage3.
I have no idea how the Alpha boots, do you need a boot loader, if so what. I need to read the Alpha handbook.

Typically, boot loaders, kernels and glibc cross compiling is well tested.
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MartinHowe426
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PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2021 4:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, I'd never have thought of doing that, especially nfs (as I've no other systems old enough to have SCSI, not even at work).

As to booting Alpha machines with linux, they use something called aboot which is a short (couple of cylinder's worth) bootloader and is installed by the install process; the machine must be using SRM bios (for Unix and VMS) instead of AlphaBios (for NT); most later systems have both firmwares installed and one can switch between them. If you really do want to learn more about Alphas, one can find via Google various archives of HP and Compaq website with manuals for them, but it's hard going - though for a Gentoo god, it should be a walk in the park:)
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NeddySeagoon
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PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2021 4:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MartinHowe426,

I'm not a god, just a very old child still playing with computers :)
I started in about 1963. I was the only kid in school that had computer programming as a hobby. I would have known about any others, as my mother was the computer operator :)

I had a quick scan through the boot loader section of the handbook. It lists aboot and Milo.
aboot requires
Code:
swriteboot -f3 /dev/sda /boot/bootlx
which can't be done over nfs as there is no filesystem on /dev/sda to export.

MILO can be installed on a floppy away from the Alpha but that's only useful if you have another system that can write floppies and if the Alpha can boot them.
A modern kernel won't fit on a floppy ... well, it would be a challenge.

Maybe you can do the building by cross compiling over nfs or building app-emulation/qemu for Alpha, with static-user and chrooting into the Alpha install from some random arch.
Then with all the bits built, use the Debian install to put the bits in the right places.
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Hu
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PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2021 5:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One option, which is dangerous if done wrong, would be to have swriteboot write to a file on the other system (possibly via a loopback device if it insists on being given a block device), then use NFS to transfer that file to the Alpha, and dd to lay down the file on the Alpha's drive. This depends heavily on whether you can provide swriteboot with an environment that will produce the right file for the Alpha. As with any situation invoking dd, be careful. You can easily do serious damage by writing to the wrong block device.
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