KA650-B V1.2 CPU EPROM image

Michael Sokolov mxs46 at k2.scl.cwru.edu
Tue Jan 26 14:50:33 AEST 1999

Let's look at things from the practical viewpoint, OK? One of my goals is to
establish a repository containing the latest available microcode revision for
every machine supported by my UNIX system. Why? As you may remember from our
extensive phone discussions, UNIX is quite picky about which hardware to run
on. In many cases (on a 730, for example), UNIX won't boot if the firmware is
below the minimum required revision. I know for sure that this is the case on
730, 8200, and if James Lothian's WCS changes get integrated, 750. It will also
be the case on BabyVAXen when I get around to supporting them. Now, so far I
haven't heard any reports of UNIX refusing to boot on KA650s with early
microcode revisions, but one may come in at some point. Since my KA650 runs
UNIX right now, I know for sure that at least my version of the firmware is
UNIX-friendly. By making it available to other 4.3BSD-Quasijarus users (note
that keeping the microcode repository within the PUPS archive has the advantage
of giving the images out only to Ancient UNIX enthusiasts, i.e., only to those
who really need them), I can make sure that the greatest possible number of
people can benefit from my 4.3BSD-Quasijarus work.

Come on, removing the KA650 from the list of CPUs for which I make microcode
updates available won't change anything. I will still have to carry a ragbag of
DEC-copyrighted bits and pieces in order to make my OS project successful. Soon
UNIX will require a copy of VMB.EXE in order to boot from MSCP disks and TMSCP
tapes on large VAXen. Yes, there is one distributed with the machine itself,
but it's too old. UNIX requires a very recent version, and if I want my OS to
be viable, there will simply be no other choice but to distribute VMB.EXE. Or
look at BI-bus machines. There were two different BI network cards made, DEBNA
and DEBNI. They have the same hardware, but different EPROMs. DEBNA is the
older one and DEBNI is the newer one. They have completely different software
interfaces, and DEBNI is a lot simpler to program. Right now UNIX doesn't
support any BI network cards. Suppose I decide to add this support. Given how
hard it is to find documentation, write drivers, and test them, what do you
think, will I welcome the idea of writing two drivers instead of one? Rather
than spend months hunting for a BVP manual and writing a DEBNA driver, it's
much easier to write a driver for DEBNI only (much simpler software interface)
and tell DEBNA users to upgrade their boards to DEBNI. The catch is, if you are
getting your 8200 or whatever for free, you don't get to choose which network
card to use, you take what you can find. But with me keeping the repository of
all important EPROM images and microcode patch files, the poor DEBNA user can
just download the image, borrow an EPROM blaster, and run his free VAX with a
UNIX-supported DEBNI!

The thing of it is, all this hardware is orphaned. If you have a DEBNA and want
to upgrade it to DEBNI to run UNIX, or if you have KA650 V1.1 and want to
upgrade it to V1.2 to run UNIX, if you call COMPAQ and ask them for a firmware
upgrade they'll laugh at you. If DEC still existed and supported this stuff it
would be a different story, but with all this hardware orphaned, the poor VAX
UNIX users have no one to turn to for microcode upgrades and troubleshooting
support except the VAX UNIX maintainer, i.e., me.

Michael Sokolov
TUHS 4BSD Coordinator
4.3BSD-* Maintainer
Quasijarus Project Principal Architect & Developer
Phone: 440-449-0299 or 216-217-2579
ARPA Internet SMTP mail: mxs46 at k2.scl.cwru.edu
TUHS WWW page: http://minnie.cs.adfa.edu.au/TUHS/
Quasijarus WWW page: http://minnie.cs.adfa.edu.au/Quasijarus/

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