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Quick and Dirty Alpha Milo RedHat 7.1 FTP Install

  1. Why?
  2. Boot Loader
  3. Milo Disk
  4. Arc Boot Option
  5. Boot/Root Disks
  6. Install
  7. Booting from Floppy*
  8. Making it Stick
  9. Dude.  That didn't even close to work!

Update -- Mon Feb 18 14:10:09 MST 2002

My Trials and  Tribulations Upgrading a Milo Linux System


1.    Why?

Because of this discussion on UseNet:  RH 7.1 on an Alpha XL-266

I traded a few bucks and an Intel PC for a DEC Alpha XL300 for 64-bit application testing.  It came originally with RH 7.1 installed, but I preferred Slackware at the time.  Slackware 7.x was current at the time I downloaded the distribution to a local file-server and thrashed and hacked the distro onto the XL300.  I also was able to get the machine to compile and boot kernel 2.4.9-ac1, which ran fine for almost 100 days.  Recently I needed to make some network changes and wanted to bring the Alpha on line for some for-pay work and needed to get some things updated, and secured against exploits since the initial Slackware for Alpha was announced and released.  Back to the question above:  Slackware for the Alpha development has been pretty dead for over half-year and glibc-2.1.3 hasn't been upgraded to 2.2.3 for security issues found in recent months in glibc.  Without a decent set of libraries no Operating System is worth two cents.  If you disbelieve, then downgrade to libc-5 and see how well more current releases of Apache and MySQL work.   Additionally, I wanted to have the most current/stable kernel for Alpha, but with flawed libraries, compilers, binutils, etc. it's been difficult to get one that works better than 2.4.9-ac1 up and running (the kernel is at 2.4.17 as of this writing). 

Since RedHat discontinued "support" for the ARC console as of 7.1, RedHat is the last vendor (that I know of) to cease official support for a Milo-based DEC Alpha architecture.  The following can be made to work with varying degrees of usefulness:  Slackware 7.x, Debian (Potato/Woody), RedHat 6.2/7.1.  You could probably get OpenBSD or FreeBSD to run on this machine, but you'd have to mock up a similar installation process to the document you're currently reading.  Ironically, this machine was originally slated to be useful for running Microsoft NT 4.0 workstation.  Bottom line is, if you can't get a Unix/Linux OS on this machine, it is probably worthless to you.

Legal Notice:  The information contained in this document is not suited for anything at all and not guaranteed to do anything at all.  If anything at all happens, whether it be good, bad, or neutral as a result of anyone at all reading this document it cannot be legally or morally accredited to or blamed on me.  

Enough on that; this is a 'Quick and Dirty' document.  

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2.    Boot Loader

Alpha machines don't boot the same way Intel machines do.  SRM is the supported version, but XL200, XL233, XL266, XL300 machines are unique in that they require a MiniLoader (MILO) to be configured before booting control can be passed to the kernel.  You can read more about how it works from the Alpha Miniloader Howto.

In short:  if you don't need MILO, use SRM.  If you can't use SRM, read on to get your OS installed.

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3.    Milo Disk

  1. Get milo
  2. Get linload.exe
  3. Format a floppy as DOS
  4. Copy the 2 files above to the floppy
  5. Insert this this disk and hit the hardware reset switch on the chassis of the machine.
*RedHat's milo support is broken as of 7.1  Use the milo from DEC.
Also, you could spend a living year with bad floppies.  Get new ones before you start!
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4.    Arc Boot Option

  1. Press [F2] to enter set up (This takes you into AlphaBIOS Setup)
  2. Select Utilities | OS Selection Setup...
  3. Create and option (or, edit an existing option) and assign the following properties:
  4. Boot Name:  Floppy
  5. Boot File:  A: \linload.exe
  6. OS Path:  CD: [blank]
  7. OS Options:  [blank]
  8. Press [F10] to save changes
  9. Reboot the machine with the MILO disk in the A: drive
  10. Select the "Floppy" option you just created on boot.

*Ignore the "Warning:  Operating System Selection not Valid!" message saying "Floppy" not valid.  It's a make-believe warning.

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5.    Boot/Root Disks

  1. Get generic.img and ramdisk.img;
  2. Create the floppy images;

    Use rawrite.exe under windows/dos

    dd if=generic.img of=/dev/fd0 bs=1440k (Under unix/linux)

    dd if=ramdisk.img of=/dev/fd0 bs=1440k

  3. Your DEC should have booted to MILO by now 
  4. type:  boot fd0:/vmlinux.gz root=/dev/fd0 text load_ramdisk=1 prompt_ramdisk=1
  5. Insert the ramdisk.img floppy created above when prompted for "VFS:  Insert root floppy disk to be loaded into RAM..."
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6.    Install

  1. Follow the prompts through "Choose a Language," "Keyboard Type," 
  2. At "Installation Method,"  select FTP 
  3. "Configure TCP/IP"
  4. "FTP Setup:"  FTP sitename:   ftp.redhat.com   
  5. Red Hat directory:  pub/redhat/linux/7.1/en/os/alpha/
  6. "Installation Type"  Custom System
  7. "Automatic Partitioning"  Manually partition 
  8. "Disk Setup" fdisk
  9. Edit, and create a 25MBytes partition on /dev/sda2 as type MSDOS (6) DOS 16-BIT >=32M????  Don't assign a mount point..  I would also recommend setting your root partition as /dev/sda1.  The rest is up to you, but you need the DOS one!
  10. "Choose Partitions to Format:
  11. "Hostname Configuration"
  12. "Firewall Configuration"
  13. "Mouse Selection"
  14. "Language Support"
  15. "Time Zone Selection"
  16. "Root Password"
  17. "Add User"
  18. "Authentication Configuration"
  19. "Package Group Selection:"  Mail/WWW/News Tools, Networked Workstation, Network Management Workstation, Development, Kernel Development, Utilities
  20. It should be on it's way.  
  21. "Complete" 
  22. Insert the MILO disk and press [ENTER] to reboot...
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7.    Booting from Floppy*

*Currently, I can't get a working FAT partition on my Alpha and have to boot with a DOS-formatted floppy with a 2.4.9-ac1 kernel on it.  You may have to do the same if I can't resolve the issue 

  1. Go back into AlphaBios [F2] and add a new boot option, making it the default:
  2. Boot Name:  Live
  3. Boot File:  Disk 0, Partition 1: \linload.exe
  4. OS Path:  CD: [blank]
  5. OS Options:  boot fd0:/vmlinux.gz root=/dev/sda1
  6. Press [F10] to save changes
  7. Reboot.  
  8. You should be finished until I figure out how to get MILO to boot from the DOS partition.  
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8.    Making it Stick  (TODO)

Currently, I can't get a working FAT partition on my Alpha and have to use the above method to boot from disk.

  1. Boot up with the MILO disk and type:  boot fd0:/vmlinux.gz root=/dev/sda1
  2. Go back into AlphaBios [F2] and enter Hard Disk Setup.
  3. Format the /dev/sda2 partition (trust me, it will be DOS once finished)
  4. Exit AlphaBios and boot up with the MILO disk and type:  boot fd0:/vmlinux.gz root=/dev/sda1
  5. Copy milo and linload.exe to /dos with: mount /mnt/floppy && cp /mnt/floppy/milo /dos && cp /mnt/floppy/linload.exe /dos
  6. Copy the kernel to DOS with:  cp /boot/vmlinuz-2.4.3-12 /dos/vmlinux.gz
  7. Go back into AlphaBios [F2] and add a new boot option, making it the default:
  8. Boot Name:  Live
  9. Boot File:  Disk 0, Partition 1: \linload.exe
  10. OS Path:  CD: [blank]
  11. OS Options:  boot sda2:/vmlinux.gz root=/dev/sda1
  12. Press [F10] to save changes
  13. Reboot.  You should be finished with the basic MILO setup.

Currently, I can't get a working FAT partition on my Alpha and have to use the above method to boot from disk.

2002-01-10 13:08:22 -0700:

Using MILO Built against Linux version 2.0.30 (rusling@linux.reo.dec.com) with:
boot sda2:/vmlinux.gz root=/dev/sda1

<whole bunch of stuff flew by the screen and ended>
#attempt to access beyond end of device 
08:02: rw=0, want=2147483136, limit=26624 
block_read: read failed (after 0 bytes) 
MSDOS: error reading first half
attempt to access beyond end of device 
08:02: rw=0, want=2147479279, limit=26624 
block_read: read failed (after 0 bytes) 
MSDOS: error reading first half
attempt to access beyond end of device 
08:02: rw=0, want=2147474910, limit=26624 
block_read: read failed (after 0 bytes) 
MSDOS: error reading first half
attempt to access beyond end of device 
08:02: rw=0, want=2147479279, limit=26624 
block_read: read failed (after 0 bytes) 
MSDOS: error reading first half
attempt to access beyond end of device 
08:02: rw=0, want=2147474910, limit=26624 
block_read: read failed (after 0 bytes) 
MSDOS: error reading first half
#attempt to access beyond end of device 
08:02: rw=0, want=2147483136, limit=26624 
block_read: read failed (after 0 bytes) 
MSDOS: error reading first half

At this point the machine was halted requiring a cold boot.

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Dude. That didn't even close to work!  (and, other comments/questions)

Q:    Didn't the DEC Alpha XL300  go the way of the Brontosaurus and the NCR3410 MicroChannel system?  Why waste the time?
A:    Like to dink with gizmos.  But, since the Alpha (by definition) is a 64-bit machine, it helps to have one around to port and test my applications on a 64-bit architecture.
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I updated this page on Wednesday December 31, 1969 5:00:00 PM Van

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