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Re: Debian IA-64

Hello Émeric, Patrick et al,

My apologies once more for the delayed response.  I try to devote
as much time to the good cause of Linux IA-64, but it can be hard, especially as there's so much to do and to be done.

On 10-6-2012 22:16, Émeric Maschino wrote:
I'm running Debian Testing. At time of install, netinst CD was wrong
(EFI didn't see anything). I don't know if still the case. I thus
fresh-installed Testing on a separate HDD from a working stable
install using debootstrap. Current kernel is 3.2.0-17 (I think).
Bootloader is elilo. Everything was fine, except for broken
initramf-tools (overwrite busybox binary) that need to manually
recreate initrd.img:
- mkdir ~/initrd
- cp /boot/initrd-3.2.0-1-mckinley.img ~/initrd
- cd ~/initrd
- zcat initrd-3.2.0-1-mckinley.img | cpio -i
- rm -f initrd-3.2.0-1-mckinley.img
- cp /bin/busybox bin/
- find . | cpio --create --format='newc'>  ../initrd.img
- gzip ../initrd.img
- cp ../initrd.img.gz /boot/initrd-3.2.0-1-mckinley.img
- elilo -v

First of all, thank you for the very clear steps!  What I used to
do myself, was sloppier but it'd work for me.  I'd simply use
Debian V5.0.3 (or V5.0.8 at most, I don't remember exactly).  A
"stable" net-inst distribution, which I'd minimally install and
from there upgrade.

I think a combination of the APT sources not being available
anymore(?) and my system, an rx2620 (compared to the rx2600s
I used to own), with the IPF 9000 "Montecito" processors,
has changed this.  Besides the APT issue, the Debian V5-era
"McKinley" kernel does not seem to work, neither does the
'generic' "Itanium" one.

I'm running Debian on a 2003 hp workstation zx6000 with two
1.5GHz McKinley CPUs

Those are "Madison" processors actually, but I assume you
run the "McKinley" kernel?

24GB RAM, three stock 15000rpm SCSI U320 73GB HDDs and
stock ATI FireGL X1 256MB AGP Pro graphics adapter.

Nice, did you recently upgrade the memory?  These are great
systems, it's a shame that Linux isn't optimal in its
current shape and we definitely need to change that!

By the way, about AGP.  In the rx2620, that's somewhat
problematic.  It will work, but in a very unstable fashion.

The strangest thing happened to me, once, when I ran Windows
XP IA-64 (yes, I know; mostly a 'curiosity' [sic] platform).
I originally installed it onto a disk from an rx2600, then
I ran it for a bit in a rx2620 with the AGP+PCI-X card cage
(which isn't supported actually, nor listed anywhere; so,
entirely at my own risk).

What basically happened, was that Windows over time simply
broke itself.  The system also took ages to boot up, in the
rx2620.  Probably because the hardware abstraction layer,
device drivers, etc. were going nuts.  My guess is that since
the "Montecito" processor, IA-64 doesn't have the 'IA-32'
instructions embedded anymore and this must cause some problems
for platforms relying on it.

Then I also tried Linux, both Debian and Gentoo at points (a
few months ago, with a somewhat vague recollection of my
attempts at installing, setting up, compiling custom kernels
and so on), with very mixed results.

I recently also got the advice from an (ex-?)Gentoo developer
that it's best, or recommended actually, to *remove*(!) the
iLO/MP card (with the Radeon 7000 on-board), for the obvious
EFI-inadequate reasons...  I may just try that and see if I
get more luck.  Just to see if DRM/DRI, or any other worth-
while progress in terms of getting a good, solid, up-to-date
Linux IA-64 environment up and running.  From there on I can
slowly start experimenting with combinations of iLO/MP cards
included and excluded, per different graphics adapter
combination.  I'll also start documenting my steps more.

3D hardware acceleration (through r300g driver) can be rock stable
nowadays... or not at all. That is, the exact same binary (e.g.
Quake III) can run flawlessly for hours or randomly triggers high
CPU usage within minutes or seconds (with lot of IB schedule error
messages recorded in the logs), leaving system barely usable. I'm
not wanting to swap for another graphics adapter as FireGL X1 is
the only one providing 3D hardware acceleration for Windows 64-Bit
Edition 2003 and hp-ux 11.23 (a.k.a 11i v2) too. I have these two
other OSes installed on 1st and 3rd HDD, Linux being installed on
2nd. And I sometimes boot them ;-)

Yes, I can understand that (especially for HP-UX 11i V2.3).  I'm
myself actually trying to get the somewhat recent'ish HD5450 to
become more usable.  I mean, since AGP doesn't appear to be much
of a choice for me with my rx2620 nowadays.  None of the operating
systems seem to really 'like' it when the AGP+PCI-X card cage is
installed in one of my rx2620s.

By the way, unrelated (to the subject at hand), but purely out of
curiosity: Did you manage to install the SPs for XP IA-64?  That
might be rather worthwhile for you, with your maxed out memory.
(Else I think there's a memory limit of 16 Gbytes.)

I'm just a (long-time?) IA-64 user. I'm also a C++ developer. I have
no knowledge of system programming or Linux or IA-64 internals, though
I contributed 2-3 kernel patches in the past with the help of the
Debian and IA-64 gurus. You can reach me by email anytime as I'm still
willing to help Debian run on IA-64. I'm however not an IA-64 porter,
as I probably don't have sufficient knowledge of our beloved platform.

Your dedication is very much appreciated!  Maybe we should set up a
site like LinuxAlpha has, or rather its Wiki section.  Have you ever
seen it?  I really love the sense of community there.  Especially the
parts where people, those involved, share which systems they have and
so forth.  I think this may do wonders for Linux IA-64, so that people
out there see that there are people running Linux, or making attempts
thereto, and proudly so.  (I'm not sure if I brought this up before.)

What I'll be doing, in the near future, is to follow your excellent
advice and try to install Debian as manually as possible (based on a
recent Debian IA-64 "testing" distribution).

I'll record my steps better this time, or at all.

Kind regards,


2012/6/5 Patrick Baggett<baggett.patrick@gmail.com>:

On Tue, Jun 5, 2012 at 2:10 PM, MG<marcogb@xs4all.nl>  wrote:

Hello Émeric and Patrick,

Recently Tobias Hansen and Aníbal Monsalve Salazar stepped forward and
proceeded to contact me, after I expressed that I'm willing to forward
a system for porting purposes.

Both of you already have IA-64 hardware and you see to have used Linux
IA-64 more recently than I have.  Since I'm wanting to provide this on
a relatively short notice, I'm --- and I hope you don't mind --- here-
by asking you two for advice and help.

One of my first questions to you would be: Which 'version' of Debian
are you running (i.e. "Wheezy" and kernel version) at the moment and
which packaging repository (i.e. "stable", "testing" ...) and --- if
necessary --- which boot loader?  The latter question is because the
last time, when I succeeded at (re)installing Debian, I had to go
through a somewhat unusual route of installing an older version
first and from there doing a distribution upgrade.  I sadly don't
even remember all the steps.

Debian "testing", life on the edge for me. ;) I think the kernel version is
at least 3.2.0 The bootloader is "elilo", which seems to be standard for
EFI-based IA64. There is still a pretty bad bug with initramfs-tools; Emeric
did pretty much all of the research on it, but it looks like you have to
manually fix the initrd.img file each time. It's a bit of a pain. I started
with Debian "squeeze" and switched to "testing".

Another question to you would be: Which video card would be the most
lucrative to install?  (Not that someone via a remote connection
could accurately test it.)  I'm most comfortable with the AMD/ATi
HD5450 PCI card.  AGP doesn't seem to optionally function in my HP
rx2620 with 9000-series "Montecito" processor (note: that's an IA-64
processor where the 'IA-32' instructions aren't present on any more,
with all possible consequences as a result thereof).

What is the goal? Access to modern GPU features or a focus on stable X
experience? Hmm. I am using an x86-based AGP graphics card (HD 4650), and it
is an utter hackjob (external AC adapter turned into a 6-pin PCIe power with
ground wire soldered to PSU ground -- can't remove graphics card without
desoldering the wire). It probably requires the IA-32 emulation to function
while EFI is running. I do have some experience using weird combos (sparc +
geforce4, e.g.) and they worked OK but Linux had to be running -- before
DRM/DRI takes over, you're effectively headless. If you've got a PCI card
that functions before Linux is loaded, just get more of those. My card setup
isn't the most stable, so I don't know if that is something you want porters
to deal with.

Lastly, is there besides e-mail, the mailing list, etc. perhaps a
more direct means of us staying in contact?  I'm very grateful for
Debian still committing itself to IA-64 and actively maintaining it.
I'd like to make up for not having been very active, in the last

I'm just a guy. You can always email me on this address. I'm not a
maintainer, porter, or anything special. I just like weird hardware and
Linux and low-level programming. There isn't a more direct line of
communication, aside from maybe calling a cellphone, which I'm not quite
ready to hand out just yet. ;)

I don't know how else I can help you, but I'm glad you're willing to help
the Debian ia64 project. I'll try to give back a little too where I can. So
far, I haven't really done much of anything of note. :|

Patrick Baggett

Thanks in advance and I hope I'm not too much of a burden, with
all these questions and so forth.

Kind regards,


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