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Re: SS5 newbie

Herbert Raimund wrote:

Recently I got an interesting offer, a Sparc 5 with 2 SCSI (SCA) disks, 64 MB RAM. It goes for about $ 100. So I browsed and read anything I could get on websites and HOWTOs, but there are many elementary questions left. Not knowing anything about the performance and setup of these systems I have some trivial questions:

I plan to run Linux (Debian, Slackware). The Linux HOWTOs say that there are dedicated distribution for Sparcs. Sounds obvious. Though applications have to be compiled for Sparcs - is that right?

How is the performance of the SS5 (TI MicroSparc II 85 Mhz). The Specs talking about 70 bogomips - thats not quite exciting compared to contemptorary systems. But how does it perform with 'modern' software? KDE? Gimp?

How is the response of X11 over the sparcs graphic card? Annoying slow? Or are you even able to use xine? I have really no idea at all..

Note that your SS5 cannot use standard PC hardware, meaning that $100
had better include a Sun keyboard, mouse, and monitor. Note also that
many of these old machines were never equiped with floppy or CD-ROM,
meaning that you'll be learning the joy of setting up a network
Linux install. Most CD-ROMs for these machines will require animal
sacrifice to properly read many CD-R (burned) discs.

My SS5 has a high-end "24-bit framebuffer" installed. Unfortunately,
so far as I can tell, the XFree86 driver gives me 8-bit colour and
one fixed resolution. That's 256 colours. That means that many
modern applications will simply refuse to start and the ones that
do look like a 4-year-old has mangled them with a box of crayons.

Also, my SS5 is twice as fast as yours and has 3-times the RAM;
yet I'd not ever consider putting KDE or Gnome on it. There
simply isn't enough CPU to give the windowmanager more than the
apps themselves should get. Fluxbox with a very minimal colour
scheme works nicely, and even this is usually just so I can
fit 4 xterms on the display rather than looking at entire VTs.

And the audio chip CS4231 - are there drivers?

Yes. It's only 8-bit audio though.

These Sun Stations are an old dream since I work with computers and now its avalaible for such a little money. I hope theres somebody out there who can shed light on this exotic machines...

If you havn't already, check out the FAQABOSS for info on these
older 32bit SPARCs.


If you're willing to shell out a bit more for a slightly more
modern (though genuinely drool-worthy) Sun machine, check out
this site (I have no affiliation other than being a very happy


Now, I hope I havn't sounded like I'm trying to deter you,
just making sure you know what you're getting. I'm the very
proud owner of several pizzaboxes and lunchboxes, and host
a few websites, mail, subversion, cvs, etc. from an Ultra 1
that has been humming along quietly for a long, long time,
and I'm convinced that if I could keep a UPS under it, it'd
survive a nuclear blast and keep humming reliably while
crappy PC hardware melted down and died.

- David A. Riggs <riggs at csee dot wvu dot edu>

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