Headley article / Disp adaptors / Article (04/98) / fwupdate howto


1. What is an alpha?

Snippet from the Red Hat 6.0 CD:
"Alpha" is the name given to Digital's 64-bit RISC architecture. The Alpha project in Digital began in mid-1989, with the goal of providing a high-performance migration path for VAX customers. This was not the first RISC architecture to be produced by Digital, but it was the first to reach the market. When Digital announced Alpha, in March 1992, it made the decision to enter the merchant semicondutor market by selling Alpha microprocessors.

2. What drives can I use in a Mustang?

As you may have noticed, the Alphastation does not have an IDE controller. While it may very well be possible to install an IDE controller card for a drive, I wouldn't recommend it. The 200 series supports SCSI-2 which runs at 10 Mb/sec, as compared to SCSI which is 5MB/sec and IDE, which is 4Mb/sec. You can use a SCSI or SCSI-2 device; it should be a non-SCA, non-differential device, with a narrow (50 pin) connection. With an adaptor, you can use other drives, of course, but I like to keep it simple. With most hardware, you might want to check the HCL at microsoft for compatibility. With hard drives, however, I don't believe you need to be so stringent.

3. If there's no drive, why does it boot to an OS?

If you have the firmware set to the SRM console, it may appear that you have a full operating system. You don't. It's just the SRM console that resides in the firmware chip which is on your motherboard.

4. How come when I try changing the display driver, it keeps reverting back to 'vga compatible driver' (NT)?

I had the same problem. Apparently, the previous owner didn't use NT and it had an ExpertColor 3325 card that was S3 Virge compatible. There don't seem to be any AlphaNT Virge drivers, so I ended up getting a Stealth 64 which is S3 968 compatible.


5. How do I update the firmware from the SRM console (Mustang)?

Just get the update-as200_v7_0.exe, mkboot.exe and a floppy. Put the floppy in and run mkboot on a DOS compatible machine. It will put the update on the floppy in an SRM readable form. Next, for illustrative purposes, go ahead and enter 'show device' at the SRM console prompt (>>>). You should get something like this:

>>>show device

dka0. DKA0 RZ26L 440C
dka400. DKA400 TOSHIBA CD-ROM 0064
dva0. DVA0
ena0. ENA0 08-00-2B-38-67-6B
pka0. PKA0 SCSI Bus ID 7

'dva0' is the floppy. So now just enter boot dva0:

>>>boot dva0
Bootfile: [alpha200]as200_v7_0.exe
bootstrap code read in

6. How do I update the firmware from the ARC console?

Just insert a floppy with fwupdate.exe (or as200_v7_0.exe renamed fwupdate.exe) on it and select 'Install new firmware...' under the supplementary menu.

7. How do I change consoles (Mustang/Avanti)?

I've never actually gone from ARC to SRM. But to change from SRM to ARC, just type 'set os_type=nt' at the console (>>>). You do not need the Firmware Update CD, as the 'User Info' guide would have you believe.

-----Operating Systems (& Installation)-----

8. What operating systems can I use?

Digital or Tru64 Unix, Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD and OpenVMS.
Windows NT and Windows 2000 (Build 2128 for Professional, Build 2072 for Advanced Server).

9. How do I install NT (Mustang/Avanti)?

Easy. Copy arcinst.exe from the Windows NT CD to a floppy (or better yet, get the arcinst.exe from www.alphant.com). Select "Run a program..." under the "Boot menu" and type in a:\arcinst.exe with the arcinst floppy inserted.

If you're using the NT 4.0 arcinst (ver 4.0) it will automatically make the first partition created the system partition (which will hold the osloader). Subsequent partitions will be non-system. That means you should make the first parition 10M or less, if you don't want to play with the boot selection.

I recommend getting arcinst 2.0 from www.alphant.com. It gives you the option of choosing whether or not you want to make the partition system or non-sytem. This way you can create a system partition on something other than the first partition without editing the boot selection.

Anyway, make a 4M system partition for the OS loader (6M is the official recommended size) or a 6M+ partition if you're going to dual boot linux (6-10 being the official recommended size).

(I made 3 partitions: 2000M, 10M, 2203M, with 127M leftover)

It's also not a bad idea to take note of which partitions were named what.

Now select "Install Windows NT from CD-ROM" under the "Supplementary menu" and install Windows NT (with the WinNt CD in the drive).

10. What's with the boot selection error?

After the first reboot of an NT installation, you may get a "boot selections" error. Everytime I get it, I just go to "Set up the system..." under the supp menu and Delete all the "NULL" values (under the "Manage boot selection menu..."). If they're not "NULL", that's another story.

Another problem I keep running into is that my Micropolis drive disappears often on a cold boot. The boot selection error will clearly signal this, and I simply reboot (sometimes more than once).

And, of course, you can mess them up manually. If you wrote down or know which partition was which, you should be able to fix it easily.

11. How do I set up my Alphastation to (dual) boot RH linux?

If you're a long time windows user, I'd recommend using both NT and linux. Linux is quickly gaining market popularity and the open source movement is rapidly gaining momentum. Aside from it being the OS of tomorrow, it's 64-bit and it's free. Meanwhile, as of 2000, Microsoft still has a dominant position in the software industry, which is why it's nice to have windows to run just about any software available while linux is getting started (methinks fx32 is faster than WINE).

[Red Hat 6.0 Alpha CD-ROM installation (ARC console)]

Note: You need to have some free space to dedicate to the Linux partition(s). Either have room for for a sizeable partition, or be prepared to delete parititions.

First, choose your MILO, which you can pick appropriately from the RH CD: \doc\alpha\booklet\doc009.htm (the 4/233 image is avanti.img, by the way)

Second, you make 3 image disks...

.1. Add \dosutils to your path for rawrite with: c:\path=%path%; x:\dosutils
.2. Navigate through the CD to find and rawrite the appropriate images to the floppies.

rawrite -f avanti.img -d a <--MILO \milo\images
rawrite -f generic.img -d a <--boot \images
rawrite -f ramdisk.img -d a <--ramdisk \images

[Avanti] The MILO disk should end up with linload.exe and milo on it (dir on the floppy will show this). Next, perform the following steps (taken verbatim from \doc\alpha\booklet\doc016.htm off the RH 6.0 CD):

[note: OSLOADFILENAME is the file on the MILO floppy (milo)]

1. At the boot menu, select "Supplementary menu..."
2. At the "Supplementary menu", select "Set up the system..."
3. At the "Setup menu", select "Manage boot selection menu..."
4. In the "Boot selections menu", choose "Add a boot selection"
5. Choose "Floppy Disk 0"
6. Enter "linload.exe" as the osloader directory and name
7. Say "yes" to the operating system being on the same partition as the osloader
8. Enter "\" as the operating system root directory
9. I usually enter "Linux" as the name for this boot selection
10. Say "No" you do not want to initialise the debugger at boot time
11. You should now be back in the "Boot selections menu", choose the "Change a boot selection option" and pick the selection you just created as the one to edit
12. Use the down arrow to get "OSLOADFILENAME" up and then type in the name of the MILO image that you wish to use, for example "noname.arc" followed by return.
13. Press ESC to get back to the "Boot Selections menu"
14. Choose "Setup Menu" (or hit ESC again) and choose "Supplementary menu, and save changes" option
15. ESC will get you back to the "Boot menu" and you can attempt to boot MILO. If you do not want Linux as the first boot option, then you can alter the order of the boot options in the "Boot selections menu".

At the end of all this, you should have a boot selection that looks something like (if your systems parition is 0 that is):


You can now boot MILO (and then Linux). You can load linload.exe and MILO directly from a file system that Windows NT understands such as NTFS or DOS on a hard disk.

The contents OSLOADOPTIONS are passed to MILO which interprets it as a command. So, in order to boot Linux directly from Windows NT without pausing in MILO, you could pass the following in OSLOADOPTIONS:

boot sda2:vmlinux.gz root=/dev/sda2
See 2.6 for more information on the commands available.

Since I was having some MILO problems (by the way, the MILO doesn't seem to like some enhanced-101 keyboards), I played around and copied the avanti milo and linload.exe from the floppy to my system partition (where the nt osloader is). I put them in the 10M partition root path, then changed the boot selection to:


Meanwhile, my NT boot selection remained as such:

LOADIDENTIFIER=Windows NT Workstation Version 4.00

As you can see, they're on the same osloader partition, but the OSLOADPARTITIONs are different.

At this point, you should be able to boot directly to the MILO, no strings. Do so, put the boot (kernel) diskette in and enter:

boot fd0:vmlinux.gz root=/dev/fd0 load_ramdisk=1

You should be prompted with 'VFS:Insert floppy to be loaded into RAM disk and press ENTER', which is, of course, your cue for the ramdisk diskette you made.

Next comes the installer:

Choose custom installation, so you can manage the partitions yourself. Use the Disk Druid. Select and delete any partitions as necessary if you don't have any room. When you're ready to create the linux paritition, select 'Add' to create the following partitions:

Mount Point Type Size
/ Linux native 500M absolute minimum for workstation
Linux swap 127M max

Take note of which devices are what and continue. If you get any errors while installing packages, just try again (I recommend going with the default packages if you're having problems, or none if you're still having problems). After finishing, mine tried to start, but I got a kernel failure, since I didn't have the kernel diskette in, so I went and added a boot selection:

OSLOADOPTIONS=boot sda5:generic.gz root=/dev/sda7

Since I didn't know where the kernel was, I used one I got off the net and put onto the osloader partition (sda5 was my osloader partition, and sda7 was my linux native partition). I guessed correctly that partition 4 would be the linux native, since I made my swap partition first.

Finally, with a little help I figured out where the kernel was on the native partition and changed the loadoptions:

OSLOADOPTIONS=boot sda:7boot/vmlinuz-2.2.5-16 root=/dev/sda7

It took me days to get this far into my installation, so don't fret if you have problems.


12. Where can I go for help?

While I'd be glad to answer questions myself, I'm no expert. For RH linux, the Red Hat CD is filled with lots of good info. Your best bet in any case is to subscribe to a good mailing list:

The AlphaNT mailing list (www.alphant.com) -

This mailing list used to have hundreds of subscribers, including Compaq and ex-Digital employees, hardware and software engineers, DECUS representatives, and all around very knowledgeable people. It's for NT users, but general alpha questions are welcome. With the migration from NT due to microsoft's dropping of alpha support, just about any question is probably acceptable if you are in dire need of alpha related help.

The AlphaLinux mailing list (www.alphalinux.com) -

This linux geared list is quite resourceful. There are users of various interfaces and flavors of linux (even though it is Red Hat's list).

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