Howto Netboot SunBlade 100 | Day in my life

July 24, 2010

Howto Netboot SunBlade 100

I recently bought sun blade 100 of eBay for throw away price, as I was curious to explore SPARC based systems as I more used to x86. To put in short, I was new to this architecture; here are some of the difference that I found rather interesting or boring however you choose to look at

BIOS == OpenBoot

OpenBoot is equivalent to BIOS, and it’s far away from those familiar curser based interface to change settings on your computer, as OpenBoot give you a prompt to query system configuration and also to set it similar to Common Prompt on Windows or Shell in *nix systems. Future reading on OpenBoot

Booting Options

Unfortunately CD Drive in the system I bought was not working, and since OpenBoot doesn’t have the fancy interface to browse through system configuration, my only bet was on Google. Network boot was only viable option as I was not having floppy drive in any of other systems, to make floppy disk image. I know network booting is not a big deal these days as most systems defaults with it, but this system was discontinued in 2002 at that time I was only aware of booting though CD or Floppy on affordable x86 systems.

In this blog I would only be discussing Network Bootstrapping and Initial installation hurdles I encountered setting up Debian (Lenny).

Steps involved

  1. Update your system with latest SUN OpenBoot patch – this is critical, as I faced lots of issue with system hanging during installation. Collect your system MAC address, which is displayed during OpenBoot initialization

All steps below needs to be done on another linux box. You can use same steps to update your OpenBoot firmware where you would be using firmware image instead of linux image.

  1. TFTP (Trivial File Transfer Protocol) Installation

     $ apt-get install tftpd
  2. Configuring TFTP
    Add below line in /etc/inetd.conf, and restart inetd service

     #:BOOT: TFTP service is provided primarily for booting. Most sites
     # run this only on machines acting as "boot servers
     tftp dgram udp wait nobody /usr/sbin/tcpd in.tftpd /var/lib/tftpboot/
  3. RARP (Reverse Address Resolution Protocol) Installation

     $ apt-get install rarpd  
  4. Configure RARP Add following line to /etc/ethers, if the file doesn’t exist; just create new one with below line


    xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx is mac address of your system, collected at step 1 and ip address is the one you wish to assign to your sun blade.(You can always changes ip address during installation)

  5. Download a boot image from Debian repository, below is the link I used check its availability here

  6. Copy boot.img to /var/lib/tftpboot, and rename image file to the hexadecimal representation of ip address you are going to assign to your sun system, for example in above snippet of /etc/ethers I have kept ip address of my sun blade to be when it is converted to hexadecimal notation, I would get C0A80164, the way I calculated it was through this online tool; so now I would have file named C0A80164 in /var/lib/tftpboot

  7. Change the file permission on boot image to world i.e.

     $ chmod 777 /var/lib/tftpboot/C0A80164
  8. Power-on your sun system, at OpenBoot prompt type

     boot net

Your blade should be booting to debian now

© Nataraj Basappa 2021