Linked by Tony Bourke on Thu 18th Mar 2004 18:16 UTC
NetBSD NetBSD is the king of operating system portability, running on 40+ different hardware platforms, including x86, MIPS, and even the Sega Dreamcast. So it comes as no surprise that among the supported platforms, NetBSD runs on my Sun Ultra 5. This will be the first in a series of operating system reviews for the SPARC platform. You can find the specifics of my evaluation machine here.
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staying away for a bit
by Nate on Thu 18th Mar 2004 18:39 UTC

Thanks for the article, I thought it was very helpful. I've got a Sun Enterprise 250 that I've just started playing around with, I was contemplating NetBSD, but now I'll stay away for a bit. Most likely I'll be going OpenBSD or Solaris. The marriage of Sun hardware and Sun software interests me some. Thanks again for the good review.


Tony's Articles
by andy richter on Thu 18th Mar 2004 19:43 UTC

Your articles consistantly rock. Keep them coming!

Re: staying away for a bit
by Anonymous on Thu 18th Mar 2004 19:53 UTC

OpenBSD has the exact same code for SPARC support as NetBSD

by Marcelo on Thu 18th Mar 2004 21:26 UTC

I respect *BSDs but seem to me Linux is much better to use in Sparcs. I already used one and I have no troubles to install it and use as a scientifical workstation. It was much better than Solaris.

your articles
by pyx on Thu 18th Mar 2004 21:35 UTC

Hi Tony,
although I do not (yet ;) .) own (working ;) .) sun hardware, i like your reviews very much ;)
More of that, please ;)

RE: Linux
by his articles on Thu 18th Mar 2004 21:44 UTC

"I respect *BSDs but seem to me Linux is much better to use in Sparcs."

Well it seems to YOU. Hope it will come as no surprise that exactly the opposite seems to ME. I found Linux on Ultra5 pain in the rear to use compared to NetBSD.

v Re: Linux
by Anonymous on Thu 18th Mar 2004 22:41 UTC
by tim h-rack64 on Fri 19th Mar 2004 00:06 UTC

lol, the BSDs were ported to the sparc way before linux was.
I'd personally run freebsd on sparc instead of netbsd. NetBSD has some performance issues that I've noticed--but maybe thats just me? I'll stick with solaris since its the leader in all operating systems for the sparc (and its faster and more scalable on the sparc)

My kind of review...
by Jason on Fri 19th Mar 2004 00:13 UTC

You seem to capture the kind of experiences I've had over the years with Linux and *BSD (Snort/ACID on OpenBSD comes to mind).

I look forward to more of your reviews.


NetBSD sparc on UltraSPARC
by Christian on Fri 19th Mar 2004 00:20 UTC

According to the 1.6.2 installation guide[0], the 32-bit sparc port can be used with a 32-bit kernel compiled for sun4u.

To quote:
"Some (but not all!) notable sparc-specific improvements include:
- Provide 32-bit sun4u (UltraSPARC) kernels."

I will try to get hold of a spare Ultra10 at my office and install 1.6.2 in 32-bit mode.


RE how about on ipad?
by Anonymous on Fri 19th Mar 2004 01:02 UTC

could it install under HP ipad?

Solaris Vs. ALL
by AndrewZ on Fri 19th Mar 2004 01:16 UTC

Another great article. Considering that the Sun SPARC boxes are the backbone of many high-uptime enterprise applications its a little shocking that this BSD implementation is so fraught with serious issues. There is hope, however, in the form of Solaris. A really, really good OS that is free for non-commerical purposes, runs lots of great free applications, and actually does support SPARC64 hardware! Yay! 8-)

- AndrewZ

RE how about on ipad?
by Anonymous on Fri 19th Mar 2004 01:17 UTC

sorry it's HP ipaq ;)

I've run NetBSD/sparc (the 32bit version for the pre-UltraSPARC systems) on an Ultra5, using the GENERIC_SUN4U kernel. It works.

In fact, due to gcc 2.95.x compiler bugs on sparc64, I found that various applications (e.g., squid) were more stable on the NetBSD/sparc GENERIC_SUN4U kernel than the NetBSD/sparc64 GENERIC kernel. This is the fault of the compiler, not NetBSD 1.6.x.

NetBSD -current (and NetBSD 2.0 when it ships) has gcc 3.3.x, which is a much more stable compiler for NetBSD/sparc64.

by poundsmack on Fri 19th Mar 2004 01:54 UTC

will netbsd run on ULTRAspark 4 or 5 based comuters?

mysql, right
by hubertf on Fri 19th Mar 2004 01:54 UTC

i tried compiling mysql on netbsd/sparc, and it bombed as some assembly language files didn't work properly. postgres worked out of the box and does an excellent job for me.

Now please tell me again it's NetBSD that sucks (WRT mysql).

- Hubert

by tim h-rack64 on Fri 19th Mar 2004 01:55 UTC

netbsd runs on pretty much anything, i think it does work on ipaq. look it up. I know QNX can.

by TonyB on Fri 19th Mar 2004 02:32 UTC

I don't doubt it's an issue with MySQL, although given it was the NetBSD's pkgsrc version that I couldn't get working, it's something that should probably get fixed, and given MySQL's popularity, something to keep in mind for adoption.

I also was unable to get MySQL to compile for my UnixWare review as well.

I was able to get PostgreSQL compiled on NetBSD, but I couldn't find any decent benchmarking tools for it. I tried running MySQL's sql-bench against PostgreSQL (it does support it), but the run was into its 6th hour when I just killed it, and that was on Solaris. So it seems there's something wrong there with sql-bench's support for PostgreSQL.

As such, I couldn't use PostgreSQL as a benchmarking platform. If you know of any worthwhile benchmarking tools, that run a variety of tests like sql-bench does, I'd love to see it.

Re: TonyB (IP: - Posted on 2004-03-19 02:32:10
by Anonymous on Fri 19th Mar 2004 03:18 UTC


by TonyB on Fri 19th Mar 2004 03:47 UTC

I tried pgbench. It didn't look like it provided an in-depth benchmark, with a variety of functions to report on, the way the sql-bench does.

Netbsd SPARC64
by Matthew Garrett on Fri 19th Mar 2004 17:40 UTC

Firstly, as others have pointed out, NetBSD sparc32 is happy to run on an Ultra - just use a sun4u kernel. Secondly, yes, the compiler shipped with 1.6 sucks. Badly. gcc 2.95 doesn't claim to support sparc64 in any useful fashion, and it shows. It's unable to build large bodies of code unless optimisation is disabled (the compiler sits there for hours or crashes), and even then it's unable to build GNU coreutils. Don't even think about C++. 2.0 will be shipping with 3.3 and ought to be massively better for it.

by TonyB on Fri 19th Mar 2004 21:32 UTC

That's interesting that SPARC32 runs on sun4u systems, as the SPARC port page explicitly says sun4u is not supported:

System Models Not Supported

* sun4u-class machines (These are covered by NetBSD/sparc64)

It may be worth a try, and to do an evaluation on SPARC32 on sun4u in addition to the one I just did.

I tried out netbsd 1.6.2 on sparc32 recently
by Jim on Sat 20th Mar 2004 00:15 UTC

I tried out netbsd 1.6.2 on sparc32 recently... it kernel panicked when I ran ifconfig on a wireless card in a sbus-pcmcia adapter (which is supposed to be supported).

I'm running OpenBSD 3.4 on it now... it works at least. OpenBSD kernel panics when I enable WEP, but I can live without WEP.

Advantages to NetBSD?
by mips on Sat 20th Mar 2004 03:55 UTC

I have installed OpenBSD 3.2 and 3.3 on my Ultra 5's before and have never run into any problems whatsoever, so I'm surpised to hear about all these issues with NetBSD. I have installed NetBSD on a Sparc 5, but haven't done much with it. It just doesn't seem to shine or fit a nice anywhere not already covered by FreeBSD or OpenBSD. It's great that it's so portable, but realistically, there's not much point to many of the platforms like the Dreamcast. Does it have any other notable merits that may make it advantageous over the other BSD's in any given circumstances?

32-bit SPARC
by TonyB on Sat 20th Mar 2004 13:24 UTC

Firstly, as others have pointed out, NetBSD sparc32 is happy to run on an Ultra - just use a sun4u kernel.

Ok, it sounds like you haven't tried this, because I did, and you can't just use a sun4u kernel that's included with the SPARC32 distribution.

One, the SPARC boot cd-rom doesn't work, it just won't boot on a 64-bit system. There is a 32-bit sun4u kernel on the disc, but no way to boot it directly.

Rebooting with command: boot cdrom
Boot device: /pci@1f,0/pci@1,1/ide@3/cdrom@2,0:f File and args:
The file just loaded does not appear to be executable.

You can't just boot a SPARC64 system with a 32-bit sun4u kernel either, as all the libraries and binaries are 64-bit. They wouldn't work. You need to have the 32-bit libraries installed.

This guy lists some steps to get it working:

I'm not up for trying that. So just saying "NetBSD sparc32 is happy to run on an Ultra" is is true in a sense. But while it might be happy to run, but getting there would be a pain in the ass. There's been talk on the NetBSD list of making a 32-bit install as an install option, but that hasn't happened yet.

NetBSD problems on sparc64
by dive on Wed 24th Mar 2004 13:56 UTC

This writer's description of the problems with NetBSD/sparc64 is greatly exaggerated. I've been running NetBSD-current/sparc64 (full 64-bit userland, with 32-bit compat in the kernel) ever since I got my Ultra 5, and it works just fine. Building things with pkgsrc works just fine. I haven't tried mysql, because I have no need to nor interest in running an SQL server, but I do use the Ultra5 every day - it is a dedicated SpamAssassin spamd server. I think perhaps the author should consider evaluating a -current snapshot; maybe these problems are netbsd-1-6 branch specific.

Although, I'm forced to agree on one point: sysinst *is* a broken piece of crap. Try it on Alpha. It's even worse there, or at least it was the last time I used it. But, at least it's only the installer, and once you manage to kick it into line, you don't have to deal with it again ;-)

With all the trouble you had. . .
by jim smith on Wed 24th Mar 2004 19:37 UTC

you should have tried OpenBSD instead. About the only thing OpenBSD doesn't have is SMP support. Graphics card support is better, there are more buildable packages/ports, and, well, it's pretty secure.

Re: staying away for a bit
by Anonymous on Thu 25th Mar 2004 01:12 UTC

> OpenBSD has the exact same code for SPARC support as NetBSD

OpenBSD was initially derived from NetBSD but to say that OpenBSD has the exact same code for SPARC support as NetBSD does is completely false.

NetBSD Sparc64 Pre-Compiled packages
by Anonymous on Thu 25th Mar 2004 20:33 UTC

There are precompiled packages for NetBSD Sparc64:
This is of course with the 1.6.2 version though and its possible you discovered there 'were no packages' when you were using 1.6.1 initially. It is unfortunate you encountered so many issues with pkgsrc because I know several people who have been using NetBSD Sparc64 for a while now and have had no issues whatsoever. As for sysinst I've never had a problem (Alpha, i386). But perhaps I'm just lucky.