Blowing the Dust off of an IBM AS/400 Server

If you’ve never seen an IBM AS/400 machine, don’t feel bad. Most people haven’t. Introduced in 1988 as a mid-range server line, it used a unique object-based operating system and was geared specifically towards business and enterprise customers. Unless you’re a particularly big fan of COBOL you probably won’t have much use for one today, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth playing around with if the opportunity presents itself.

So when a local IT company went belly up and was selling their old hardware, including a late 90’s era IBM AS/400e Series, [Rik te Winkel] jumped at the chance to take this unique piece of computing history home. He knew it was something of a risk, as maintenance and repair tasks for these machines were intended to be done by IBM certified technicians rather than the DIYer, leaving little in the way of documentation or even replacement parts. But in the end it worked out, and best of all, he documented the successful process of dragging this 90’s behemoth into the blinding light of the twenty-first century for all the world to see.

After getting the machine home and sitting through its thirty minute boot process, [Rik] was relieved to see the code 01 B N pop on the server’s display. This meant the system passed all the internal checks and was ready to go, he just had to figure out how to talk to the thing. Built to be a pure server, the machine didn’t offer any video output so he’d have to log into it over the network.

[Rik] noted that there was no new DHCP entry in his router for the server, but of course that was hardly surprising as the machine would have certainly had a static IP when it was in use. So he shut the server down, plugged it directly into his laptop’s Ethernet port, and watched the output of Wireshark as it went through its arduous boot sequence. Eventually he started to pick up packets coming from the IP address 10.10.10.9, and he had his target.

There are a few clients out there that allow you to remotely log into an AS/400, so he downloaded one and pointed it to the server’s IP. He was surprised to see the operating system was apparently in Dutch, but at least he was in. He tried a few common usernames and passwords, helped along by the fact that this OS from a somewhat more innocent era will actually tell you if you have the username right or wrong, and eventually managed to hack the Gibson with the classic admin/admin combo.

So he was in, but now what? [Rik] decided that he couldn’t truly call this machine bested until he could pull up the Hackaday Retro Edition, so he started work on writing a program to let him pull down the page directly on the AS/400 in IBM’s proprietary Report Program Generator (RPG) programming language. You know, as one does. He didn’t quite feel up to writing a whole HTML parser, but he got as far as generating a HTTP GET request, downloading the page’s source, and opening it up as a local file. That’s good enough for us.

Our very own [Al Williams] documented his adventures poking around an Internet-connected AS/400 machine, which might serve as a helpful primer if you ever find one of these delightfully oddball computers kicking around the local recycling center.

There’s A Computer In This Hard Drive

Throughout the history of personal computers, there are some unique form factors. The 3com Audrey was sold as a computing appliance, meant to sit on a kitchen counter, to display recipes or something. For some reason, Macs were cubes once, and it actually wasn’t a bad machine. At one point, you were supposed to put a monitor on top of your computer.

A few years ago, [glitch] read about an interesting system from the early 80s. The SIIG S286 was designed by the same people that made SCSI cards and external hard drives, and it shows: this is a complete 286-based system stuffed into what was probably an external enclosure for a 5 1/4 drive at some point. After finding one of these bad boys on an auction site a few months ago, he finally got it working. It’s weird, but it can get on a network, and you can read Hackaday with it.

The entire computer is stuffed into a case that’s about 5″ wide, 4″ tall, and 10″ long. There’s a motherboard with built-in VGA, ‘game port’, and a printer port. There’s a riser card for real 16-bit ISA cards, two serial ports, and a connector for a hard disk and floppy drive. Basically, it’s an entire 286 system wrapped up in a tiny box.

After acquiring this machine, [glitch] took it apart and found the usual damage. The CMOS battery leaked, but not too bad. This was replaced with a hermetically sealed lithium thionyl chloride battery. These are non-rechargable, but a quick swipe of the soldering iron disable the motherboard’s charging circuitry. The hard drive was replaced with a 128 MB Flash module, and an Ethernet card was installed.

With that, [glitch] has a complete system that can connect to the Internet. Of course, getting on the Internet with a 286 is a challenge, but we have a Hackaday Retro Edition for just the occasion. The browser is Arache, with the mTCP package. That’s about as low as you can go in Intel-land, and excellent proof that the computer will work for another 35 years or so.

Hackaday Prize Entry: WiFi Game Boy Cartridge

[DaveDarko] has entered a unique project into this years Hackaday Prize a WiFi Game Boy Cartridge. If you are active over at Hackaday.io I’m sure you’ll have run across Dave at some point or other, maybe we need to start charging him rent.

The aim of this project is to create a WiFi enabled Game Boy cartridge using an ESP32 which would then enable the user to do a number of different things. For example, it could be used as a portable war driving device. You could drive around scanning local WiFi networks all from the comfort of a classic Game Boy bringing back fond memories of your childhood.

This WiFi Game Boy cartridge may even be capable of some extremely light web browsing or be used as a unique controller for all your Internet connected things. Either way this project looks promising, We look forward to seeing how this progresses in the coming months.

Hackaday Links: The 2017 One

You screwed everything up last night. The end of 2016 had a leap second, so instead of the seconds going up from 57, 58, 59… 00, there was a 61st second in the last minute of the year. Yeah, 2016 just wouldn’t quit. [Michel] built a device to keep track of 2016’s leap second using GPS, and everything worked beautifully.

Remember MechWarrior? There’s a reason those mid-90s games used mechs instead of more organic characters. Computers couldn’t draw that many polygons, making MechWarrior a stylistic choice driven by the limitations of technology. Here’s a real MechWarrior that could rip your head off without trying.

The Hackaday Retro Edition is a Web 1.0 version of our main blog, and a challenge to retrocomputing enthusiasts. [PK] recently got his Psion Series 3a surfing the interwebs with a little help from PPP and a Raspberry Pi. He also got a Psion Series 7 online using the same method, but that was a little more anti-climatic.

The NES Classic Edition costs too much, the cords are too short, and you can’t play anything but the pre-installed games. There’s a solution to this: [Andrew] has been working on the Beagle Entertainment System for a while now, and it’s ready for a proper release. The BES uses the SNES9X, VBA-M, and Nestopia emulators, with the original ROMs, and has a ‘shield’ for SNES gamepads. You can’t do better than this, and it’s cheaper than the NES Classic Edition.

Vacuum pens, or vacuum pickup tools, or whatever you want to call them, are really useful when working with SMD parts. You can build your own out of an aquarium pump, duct tape, a lighter, paperclip, and a mechanical pencil, but that lacks the elegance of a footswitch-operated, solenoid valve pickup tool. [Dave] built a great version of a vacuum pickup tool from scratch for less than $200. There’s NTP fittings on here, so you know it has to be great.

fundungeonTerrible news! I’m in Vegas next week for CES. While I’ll be spending most of my time figuring out ‘which internet of things is best internet of things’, I might have some time for a Hackaday CES meetup.

The best idea I have for a Hackaday CES meetup is the Fun Dungeon in the Trashy Castle. It has Skee Ball and Crazy Taxi. If you have a better idea of where Hackaday fans and aficionados can meet up for an hour or two, leave a note in the comments below.

Hackaday Links: September 11, 2016

You know about the Hackaday Superconference, right? It’s the greatest hardware con ever, and it’s happening on November 5+6. Details incoming shortly.

The Hackaday Retro Edition exists. It’s the Hackaday blog, HTML-1-izized for weird and old computers? Why did I do this? Because Google is the quickest page to load on a Powerbook 180. There’s a new Retro Success, this time coming from @LeSpocky and his Nokia 3109c phone from 2008.

This is your official notice. The Open Hardware Summit is less than a month away. It’s going down in Portland, OR. Why Portland? The Vaporwavescene, of course. Hackaday, Tindie, and the rest of the crew will be out in Portland next month getting the latest news on the state of Open Hardware. We won’t be sitting in church pews this year, but then again there is no lady made out of soap.

Speaking of OHS, [Dave] just solved all their problems. The ‘problem’ with Open Hardware, if you can call it that, is that people use it as a bullet point on a sales deck. That neat gear logo can be marketing wank, without any of the sources, schematics, or anything else that makes a project Open Hardware. Last year, OSHWA announced they would be creating a certification process, with a trademarked logo, so they can sue people who don’t post schematics and mechanical designs (slightly inaccurate, but that’s the jist of the program). [Dave] is suggesting keeping the cool gear logo, but adding letters the teeth of the gear to designate what makes something Open Hardware. Add an S for schematic, add a B for a BOM, sort of like the creative commons logo/license. Is it a good idea? If OSHWA keeps using the gear logo for the ‘official’ Open Hardware logo/designation, there’s no recourse for when people misuse it. I’m of several minds.

[Colin Furze] is famous for his zany builds. His latest Youtube is anything but. It’s a shed. Of course, it’s the entry for his underground bunker, but this is a quality shed with a concrete pad, a few bits to keep it off the ground, and insulation. The roof is slate (because why not?), but if your design decisions are based on the phrase, ‘you only live once,’ copper may be a better choice.

The ESP32 has been released. The ESP32 is the follow-on to the very popular ESP8266. The ’32 features WiFi and Bluetooth, dual core processors, and a few undisclosed things that will make it very interesting. You can buy ESP32 modules right now, but no one has them on their workbench quite yet. To get you started when they finally arrive, [Adam] created an ESP32 KiCad Library for the ESP32 chip, and the ESP32-WROOM and ESP3212 modules.

Hackaday Links: September 4, 2016

Nozzle socks! Just keep saying, ‘nozzle socks’ until the semantic satiation undoes any semblance of sanity. E3D, makers of the world’s finest 3D printer hotends have released silicone nozzle covers that prevent caramelized plastic gunking up your hot end. Nozzle socks.

Let’s talk guitar pedals. If you’ve ever built your own guitar pedal, you probably stuffed it inside a Hammond enclosure. There’s more to guitar pedal enclosures than custom-painted electronic boxes, and arguably the best enclosures are the ‘Boss’ style – a metal cover over the switch that can be removed to access the battery independently of the circuit. Now you can buy this type of enclosure. [Rixen] is producing blank die-cast aluminum pedals that look so much better than the standard Hammond enclosure.

The Antonov AN-225 is the largest and heaviest airplane in the world. Only one was built. For the last thirty years, a second airframe, about 70% complete, has sat in a field or hangar in the Ukraine, waiting for someone to put it into service. After numerous false starts over the past decade or so, the second AN-225 is finally being built.

The Hackaday Retro edition is our version of Hackaday optimized for embedded devices. When someone gets some old hardware on that vast World Wide Web and manages to pull up the retro edition, we like to celebrate. [Michael] recently got his old Amiga 1200 online and managed to find the software and hardware to get this machine on the net. Inside the A1200 is a 4GB CompactFlash, an ACA 1232 accelerator card with 128MB of RAM and a 33MHz 030. The network is handled by a Linksys EC2T card, and the software is KS3.0, WB3.1, MiamiDX IP stack IBrowse 2.4, and a bunch of 3rd party libs he can’t remember. Here’s a pic.

On a related note, I haven’t touched the Hackaday Retro Edition in years. Right now, it’s just a script running every five minutes that assembles five random posts from the first 15,000 Hackaday posts since the beginning of time. The retro edition does what I want it to do, but I’m wondering if it can be better. If you have an idea of how to improve the Retro Edition, leave a note in the comments.

Hackaday Links: July 31, 2016

Going to DEF CON this week? Getting into Vegas early? We’re having a meetup on Wednesday, in the middle of the day, in the desert. It’s all going down at the grave of James T. Kirk. Rumor has it, the Metrons will abduct a few of us and make us fight to the death on a planet with impossible geology.

The Hara Arena is closing down. The Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio is the home of Hamvention, the largest gathering of amateur radio enthusiasts in the US. I was there last May, and I can assure you, the Hara Arena has fallen into a state of disrepair. The ARRL reports hamvention will be at a new venue next year. The last scheduled event, after which there will be an auction for venue equipment and furniture, will be on August 27th. It’ll be a comic book and toy show.

Hackaday.io has a log of projects. Some might say it has too many projects. The search is great, but sometimes you just want to look at a random project. That’s the problem [Greg] solved with his Hackaday.io randomizer. It returns a random Hackaday.io project, allowing you to gawk at all the boards and resistors found within.

Primitive Technology is a YouTube channel you should watch. It’s a guy (who doesn’t talk), building everything starting with pre-stone age technology. He built a house with a heated floor, somewhat decent pottery, and this week he entered the iron age. The latest video shows him building a squirrel cage fan out of clay and bark to smelt iron. The ore was actually iron-bearing bacteria, mixed with charcoal and wood ash, and placed into a crude but accurate smelting furnace. The end result is a few bb-sized grains of iron and a lot of melted flux. That’s not much, and is certainly not an accurate portrayal of what was being done 5,000 years ago, but it does mean the Internet’s favorite guy in the woods has entered the iron age while completely skipping over bronze.

Freeside Atlanta says they’re the largest hackerspace on the east coast, and to show off all the cool goings on, they made a walk through video.

Hackaday has a retro edition. It’s a wide selection of Hackaday posts presented in a format without JavaScript, CSS, ads, or any other Web 2.0 cruft. There’s an open challenge for anyone to load the retro site with a 4004 CPU. I know it can be done, but no one has presented evidence of doing it. [Lukas] just sent in his retro submission with a Z80 single board computer displaying some of the page on seven-segment displays. It’s basically a terminal emulator connected to a laptop that does most of the work, but this is the most minimal retro submission we’ve ever received.