Thursday, August 23, 2007

DVD upgrade adventures

I had an irresistible opportunity to rescue an Ultra 60 workstation from a trash nap recently. This is the sort of thing I really shouldn't do because I'm trying to reduce my data center footprint. On the other hand, it's such a cool workstation that I had to do it. This box was reported to be unable to boot, but I'm pretty good with hardware repairs, so decided to go for it.

Although it took forever to get through the process, the classic method worked. I can't count how many systems in this era seemed to have problems that turned out to be solved by reseating memory or CPUs. I did both, and it came to life like a resuscitated drowning victim.

Next stop, storage. I replaced the 9GB disks with 36GB disks from the unused half of my D1000 array. This was going too easy. As I was poking around the drive bay I noticed that the cable had been removed from the CD-ROM. Not a good sign. Tracing to the other end of that ribbon I noticed that someone must have been having a bad day as it was half ripped from the daughter board's crimping. Confirmed ugliness.

Being the fatal optimist I grabbed my tool kit and carefully pressed the ribbon back down onto its pins. Next stop, the drive bay. I reconnected he CD-ROM thinking that it might work... Nope. This one had a bad case of indigestion and spit out any disks I inserted. What's worse, once it spit them out, the drive tray could not be closed. Stick a fork in it - it's toasted.

I borrowed a Sun DVD from my 420r just to test out the SCSI channel, and successfully loaded Solaris 10, so it looks like the drive needs to be replaced. Next stop: eBay. I picked up a Pioneer DVD-302, which is one of the few remaining SCSI DVD options out there. I could have bought a Sun DVD, but they are all grey, and this case is beige. Can't compromise the aesthetics. (I'm really in bad shape, aren't I?). The drive arrived, looking shiny and new. I managed to get the thing installed, but it's not happy.

Booting from a DVD results in error messages like "Short read. 0x0 chars read". Eventually the retries end, and it complains about errors finding interpreter, and "Elf64 read error". Booting from a CD-ROM gets a little farther along before it spits out "incomplete read- retrying", and "vn_rdwr failed with error 0x5". Oddly, it does seem to be working once the OS is loaded, so this appears to be an incompatibility at the OBP level.

What annoyed me the most in this whole exercise was not finding anything in an hour of Google searches that indicated anyone had even attempted such an upgrade. I know there are quite a few U60s still kicking around out there, and I'd have to think their owners would be looking for DVD capability and higher speeds. I must have thought wrong. If you happen to be reading this post and have experience with a SCSI DVD-ROM being bootable in a Sun Ultra workstation I'd love to hear about it.

I guess I'll just have to keep looking for a beige Sun DVD-ROM on eBay, but so far the pickings are slim. Wish me luck.


solaris9uk said...

Why not buy a grey dvd drive and replace the bezel with the one from your broken cdrom drive or buy a replacement. Most toshiba bezels are interchangeable.

Christopher Hubbell said...

That's certainly an option. It's just a matter of how much time I want to spend experimenting with bezel compatibility. Just found it surprising that there is actually something that's hard to get on eBay and had to vent.