Apple System 7… On Solaris?

While the Unix operating systems Solaris and HP-UX are still in active development, they’re not particularly popular anymore and are mostly relegated to some enterprise and data center environments They did enjoy a peak of popularity in the 90s during the “wild west” era of windowed operating systems, though. This was a time when there were more than two mass-market operating systems commercially available, with many companies fighting for market share. This led to a number of efforts to get software written for one operating system to run on others, whether that was simply porting software directly or using some compatibility layer. Surprisingly enough it was possible in this era to run an entire instance of Mac System 7 within either of these two Unix operating systems, and this was an officially supported piece of Apple software.

The software was called the Macintosh Application Environment (MAE), and was an effort by Apple to bring Macintosh System 7 applications to various Unix-based operating systems, including Solaris and HP-UX. This was a time before Apple’s OS was Unix-compliant, and MAE provided a compatibility layer that translated Macintosh system calls and application programming interfaces (APIs) into the equivalent Unix calls, allowing Mac software to function within the Unix environments. [Lunduke] outlines a lot of the features of this in his post, including some of the details the “scaffolding” allowing the 68k processor to be emulated efficiently on the hardware of the time, the contents of the user manual, and even the memory management and layout.

What’s really jarring to anyone only familiar with Apple’s modern “walled garden” approach is that this is an Apple-supported compatibility layer for another system. At the time, though, they weren’t the technology giant they are today and had to play by a different set of rules to stay viable. Quite the opposite, in fact: they almost went out of business in the mid-90s, so having their software run on as many machines as possible would have been a perk at the time. While this era did have major issues with cross-platform compatibility, there was some software that attempted to solve these problems that are still in active development today.

Thanks to [Stephen] for the tip!

Illumos Gets A New C Compiler

Illumos is an OpenSolaris-derived Unix system, and no Unix is complete without a C compiler or two. And with a name like Portable C Compiler (PCC), you would think that would be a great bet to get up and running on Illumos. That’s probably what [Brian Callahan] thought, too, but found out otherwise.

PCC already generates x86 code, so that wasn’t the problem. It was a matter of reconfiguring the compiler for the environment, ironic since PCC probably started on true Unix but now won’t work with 64-bit Solaris-like operating system. According to the post:

It looks like some time ago someone added configuration for 32-bit x86 and SPARC64 support for the Solaris family. But no one ever tried to support 64-bit x86. So first we had to teach the configure script for both pcc and pcc-libs that 64-bit x86 Solaris

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Relive The Glory Days Of Sun Workstations

When the IBM PC first came out, it was little more than a toy. The serious people had Sun or Apollo workstations. These ran Unix, and had nice (for the day) displays and network connections. They were also expensive, especially considering what you got. But now, QEMU can let you relive the glory days of the old Sun workstations by booting SunOS 4 (AKA Solaris 1.1.2) on your PC today. [John Millikin] shows you how in step-by-step detail.

There’s little doubt your PC has enough power to pull it off. The SUN-3 introduced in 1985 might have 8MB or 16MB of RAM and a 16.67 MHz CPU. In 1985, an 3/75 (which, admittedly, had a Motorola CPU and not a SPARC CPU) with 4MB of RAM and a monochrome monitor cost almost $16,000, and that didn’t include software or the network adapter. You’d need that network adapter to boot off the network, too, unless you sprung another $6,000 for a 71 MB disk.¬† The SPARCstation 1 showed up around 1989 and ran from $9,000 to $20,000, depending on what you needed.

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Solaris Might Be Free If You Want It

There was a time when “real” engineering workstations ran Linux Unix. Apollo and Sun were big names and Sun’s version was Solaris. Solaris has been an iffy proposition since Oracle acquired Sun, but Oracle announced last month that you can download and use Solaris 11.4 CBE free for non-production use.

Do you care? If you ever wanted to run “real” Unix this is an option although, honestly, so is Free BSD and it probably has better community support. On the other hand, since you can virtualize a machine to spin up, it might be worth a little time to install it.

On the other hand, if you have an old SPARC machine — this could be big news. We aren’t sure how far back the hardware this will support will go, but this could be just what you need to breathe new life into that eBay pizza box from Sun you’ve had in the basement. Of course, if you have an FPGA SPARC system, this might be interesting too, but we have no idea how much other stuff you need to implement to be able to benefit from Solaris.

Will you install Solaris? If so, tell us why. We are sure we won’t have to prompt you to tell us why not. In 2017, we thought we’d seen the end of Solaris, but apparently not. Maybe this will help those folks still on Solaris 9.

Bye Bye Solaris, It Seems.

For readers of A Certain Age, this may bring a tear to the eye. Reports have been circulating of the decision by Oracle to lay off a significant portion of the staff behind its Solaris operating system and SPARC processors, and that move spells the inevitable impending demise of those products. They bore the signature of Sun Microsystems, the late lamented workstation and software company swallowed up by the database giant in 2009.

So why might we here at Hackaday be reaching for our hankies over a proprietary UNIX flavour and a high-end microprocessor, neither of which are likely to be found on many of the benches of our readers in 2017? To answer that it’s more appropriate to journey back to the late 1980s or early 1990s, when the most powerful and expensive home computers money could buy were still connected to a domestic TV set as a monitor.

If you received a technical education at a university level during that period the chances are that you would have fairly soon found yourself sitting in a lab full of workstations, desktop computers unbelievably powerful by the standards of the day. With very high resolution graphics, X-windows GUIs over UNIX, and mice that weren’t just used for a novelty paint package, these machines bore some resemblance to what we take for granted today, but at a time when an expensive PC still came with DOS. There were several major players in the workstation market, but Sun were the ones that seemed to have the university market cracked.

You never forget your first love, and therefore there will be a lot of people who will never quite shake that association with a Sun workstation being¬†a very fast desktop computer indeed. Their mantra at the time was “The network is the computer”, and it is the memory of a significant part of a year’s EE students trolling each other by playing sound samples remotely on each other’s SPARCStations on that network that is replaying in the mind of your scribe as this is being written.

A Raspberry Pi with a Raspbian desktop probably outperforms one of those 1980s SPARCStations in every possible way, but that is hardly the point and serves only to demonstrate technological progress. It feels as though something important died today, even if it may be a little difficult to remember what it was when sat in front of a multi-core x86 powerhouse with a fully open-source 64-bit POSIX-compliant operating system running upon it.

Unsurprisingly we’ve featured no hardware hacks with such high-end computing. If you’d like to investigate some Sun Microsystems hardware though, take a look at the Centre for Computing History’s collection.

Arduino Development On OpenSolaris

Part of the draw of Arduino development is that it is open-source and cross-platform. It is hard to believe that it took this long but OpenSolaris can be added to the list of operating systems that love to work with Arduino. Although not officially supported, the device drivers for were added in build 113 of the OS and a patched version of the toolchain is available for download.

[Thanks Alexander]

How To Destroy A Filesystem

rmrf

The G1 ‘execute every command you type‘ bug naturally spawned ‘rm -rf /’ jokes. rm is the Linux command for deleting files. The -r and -f flags will cause it to remove files recursively and ignore confirmation. Executed as root it will annihilate the entire filesystem. Won’t it? [Jon Hohle] decided to test exactly how destructive the command was to *nix systems. How functional would the system be afterwards? He tested it side by side with the Windows equivalent, both ‘format c:’ and ‘del /F /S /Q’. He wanted to see what protections were available and what would be left working. Linux ended up completely broken while Windows, thanks to file locking, actually shutdown cleanly… and never came back. Some OSes, like Solaris, refuse to run the command ‘rm -rf /’ to prevent accidents.