"Jensen" aka DEC Alpha AXP150 aka DEC2000 model 300

The "Jensen" aka Alpha AXP150 aka DEC2000 model 300 was one of DEC's first Alpha machines and isn't quite like any of the others. Among other things, it has an EISA bus, which makes it unique right there. They were readily available for cheap for a while, but unfortunately their uniqueness has posed some challenges in terms of free Unix support.

This is the inside of a (probably) factory-stock Jensen. It has the stock Adaptec AHA-1742 SCSI adapter, DE422 ethernet adapter, and Compaq video card, all EISA. This unit is currently configured with 32 megs of RAM, four banks of two 4M 72-pin FPM parity SIMMs.

external front view external rear view
side view, outer side panel off
Underneath the outer side panel, there is a metal panel which covers the cardcage area.
external rear view
drive bays
Besides the floppy and CD-ROM, there are two half-height 5.25" front-accessible bays. To the left, underneath the power supply, is a mounting for a 3.5" half-height hard drive.
From top to bottom, the video card, DE422 10baseT/10base2 ethernet, and the AHA-1742 SCSI with floppy controller. To the right of center, you can see the SIMMs: a top group of two, a middle group of four, and a lower group of two again. Below them is some kind of daughterboard which I never did determine what it was for.
cardcage cardcage

When the firmware started up, it complained on the video out that it could not detect a keyboard, even though one was connected. As the message said, the firmware power-on test output went to the serial console, which is the serial port closest to the edge of the case. When in ARC mode, once the ARC firmware starts, it uses the video card and the keyboard normally. When in SRM mode, it stays with the serial port.

This unit ran Windows NT in a previous life and came up in ARC firmware. Fortunately it is very easy to switch over to the SRM firmware which NetBSD requires: when the boot menu comes up (it takes a while!), select "Supplementary menu..." At the next menu, select "Set up the system..." At the next next menu, select "Switch to OpenVMS or OSF console". Finally, at the next next next menu, select "Switch to OSF", then select "Setup menu..." and power-cycle the system when you're prompted to do so.

I found the EISA Configuration Utility (ECU) here. It comes as a raw disk image which you can put on a 1.44M floppy using dd or rawrite.exe. The easiest way to run it is to switch to the ARC firmware ("set os nt" at the SRM command prompt and power-cycle), and then go through the menus. Once you're at the "next next" menu described above, select "Run EISA configuration utility from floppy".

I decided not to upgrade my firmware since I get a "ROM Version 1.9" banner when I boot. That's a bigger number than the 1.7 firmware which is at the site, but I don't know if they're the same thing. The "Alpha AXP SRM Firmware Version - 34a" banner is completely unhelpful in this regard too.

Before fooling with the hardware, I decided to get NetBSD 2.0.2 installed. I figured that once I had it running on the standard hardware, that would give me a good base to start adding hardware.

Jensens cannot boot from the floppy drive. This is not mentioned in the NetBSD install notes anywhere but you'll find it if you Google for it.

The remaining options were netbooting or booting from a CD. Since I don't have a burner hooked up to a Unix system, I thought netbooting might be easier. There is reasonably good documentation for it between the NetBSD Diskless HOW-TO and the Install document. After some futzing around which was mostly my fault, I got it to start booting:

>>> boot ez0


NetBSD/alpha 2.0.2 Network Bootstrap, Revision 1.9
(builds@works.netbsd.org, Tue Mar 22 03:54:50 UTC 2005)

Boot device (BOOTP 1 2 0 0 0 2 JENS-IO) open failed.
Boot failed! Halting...

  PC= 00000000.2000003C PSL= 00000000.00001F00


I have the suspicion that nobody has tried installing NetBSD on a Jensen for a while now and that the support for it in the network bootstrap has decayed over time.

Following the FAQ, I used my copy of Nero to burn cdhdtape to a CD. I popped the CD into the Jensen and issued "boot dka400" (try "show device" to see what your machine has).

>>>boot dka400

NetBSD/alpha 2.0.2 ustar Bootstrap, Revision 1.3
(builds@works.netbsd.org, Tue Mar 22 03:21:50 UTC 2005)

VMS PAL rev: 0x100010530
OSF PAL rev: 0x20123
Switch to OSF PAL code succeeded.

Boot flags: A
8376704@@@@@@@@@read text: Input/output error
@@@@@@@@@open netbsd.gz: Input/output error
@@@@@@@@@open netbsd.bak: Input/output error
@@@@@@@@@open netbsd.bak.gz: Input/output error
@@@@@@@@@open netbsd.old: Input/output error
@@@@@@@@@open netbsd.old.gz: Input/output error
@@@@@@@@@open onetbsd: Input/output error
@@@@@@@@@open onetbsd.gz: Input/output error
@@@@@@@@@open netbsd.alpha: Input/output error
@@@@@@@@@open netbsd.alpha.gz: Input/output error

Boot failed! Halting...

  PC= 00000000.2000003C PSL= 00000000.00000007


I also tried 'boot -fl "" dka000', in case the "A" flag was causing the problem, and got exactly the same results.

I tried cdhdtape from 1.6.2 too. The kernel started booting but hit the lpt0 crash that is mentioned in the NetBSD port-alpha mailing list archives. cdhdtape from 2.1 got the same "Input/output" errors.

I tried the alphacd.iso for 2.0.2. The kernel started booting, and then:

DEC2000 model 300, 150MHz, s/n
8192 byte page size, 1 processor.
total memory = 32768 KB
(2048 KB reserved for PROM, 30720 KB used by NetBSD)
avail memory = 21688 KB
mainbus0 (root)
CPU 0: fatal kernel trap:

CPU 0    trap entry = 0x4 (unaligned access fault)
CPU 0    a0         = 0xfffffc00005b4cbf
CPU 0    a1         = 0x28
CPU 0    a2         = 0x2
CPU 0    pc         = 0xfffffc0000584e7c
CPU 0    ra         = 0xfffffc0000584e3c
CPU 0    pv         = 0xfffffc00005b0114
CPU 0    curlwp     = 0xfffffc0000b36b18
CPU 0        pid = 0, comm = swapper

panic: trap
Stopped in pid 0.1 (swapper) at 0xfffffc00005a6330:     ret

OpenBSD and FreeBSD explicitly don't support the Jensen. AlphaLinux.org has a page covering a tortuous procedure for bootstrapping a Jensen, which boils down to "do this, this, and this, then install your distribution normally." Unfortunately, when I went through their list of distributions which support Alphas, most of them don't anymore, and the few which do at all are "yeah, man, we compiled it on this machine..." Nobody in the Linux world seems to have any serious support for the Alpha. NetBSD is the only game in town for the Jensen, and it doesn't really work. I may have to see if I can dig up an old version of OSF for it, or maybe just put NT4/Alpha back on it.


All text and pictures copyright (c) 2006 James Birdsall.