Debian on a SunFire V120

Well, after a number of attempts and numerous restarts, I’ve learned what it takes to install Debian on a SunFire V120. It’s an antiquated computer, for sure, but it’s… interesting. Makes a lot of noise, to. Maybe possible to mod it some way, reducing the fan-speed for example, but I think its self diagnostics system would have a fit if I tried.

I’ve used this link quite a bit to get things set up, and am grateful to its original author.

Since I had already set up a virtual Debian server (debbie) to do network installs earlier, all I had to do was download the netboot for Sparc and put it in the correct directory (as stated in the guide).

I found a great guide for how to connect using the minicom application as well, since you can’t see the console output during boot any other way.

I used an RJ45 – DB9 modular adapter to get my connection set up, along with a common CAT5 network cable to hook it up to my virtual server host, making it possible to ssh to my host server, and from there do minicom to the SunFire V120.

One thing that didn’t work despite the guide was that the system got a kernel panic when it tried configuring the network. That was fixed using the tip here (plug in two network cables, but once the Debian installation screen is seen, unplug NET0, then continue as normal). Thanks Roland!

One last thing stopped me for a while. When I rebooted, the server couldn’t be booted with the usual “boot disk”. I had to tell it specifically where to boot from.

boot disk1:1

That boots from the first disk and its first partition. It worked perfectly, and I was lead to doing that by another user guide.

To make it use the proper disk when booting, the following command is sufficient.

setenv boot-device disk1:1

That is enough to make the system boot from the correct disk next time it reboots.


About magvar

Technical guy, worked with computers since I was twelve, complete nerd, but managed to get married and am now the happy father of three kids.
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