Installing Linux on an SGI Visual Workstation
By Florian Boor
The following tutorial outlines a technique for installing Linux on a Silicon Graphics 320/540 Visual Workstation. A standard install procedure for common Linux distributions will not work with these workstations because unlike traditional BIOS reliant PCs, the VWS uses ARC firmware which initiates a bootloader executable from a small FAT partition.
Support for VWS dates all the way back to 2.5.63. Even though this document uses Andrey Panin's heavily adapted port, most of the procedures described here will work with older kernels. The old tutorial for installing Linux on VWS using floppy disks will not work with new kernels because the latest kernels will not fit on a floppy.
Linux support is not perfect for the VWS, the main problem being the lack of information from SGI for their proprietary architecture. This is necessary for full Linux support. Currently most of the hardware has basic functionality and existing development kernels are quite stable. The following parts work:
What does not work
If the right kernel is used without interfering with some of the more proprietary hardware, a stable, fully multiprocessing workstation can be set up. This comes complete with an excellent sound system as well as the optional SGI 1600SW flat panel display.
Apart from the VWS you will also need a standard PC for basic Linux installation, including any disk interfaces used to control the drive. In this example we use a SCSI controller which was an option on some of the workstations. The following files will need to be created/obtained before the installation:
* Optional. For advanced users only