SUMMARY: GXplus and OW

From: Robert G. Brown (
Date: Fri Oct 25 1991 - 18:05:57 CDT

Hi again! It is barely worth summarizing, so I'll give it a shot.

============ Original article ============================

Hello! A group in our physics department just got one of the new 32MB
SS2's with a GX-Plus frame buffer and color monitor. The OS was
pre-installed on its 427 MB internal. We also have been running a
subnet with several SS2's, SS1's, SLC's, and an IPC all running 4.1.1
and Open Windows.

I have not been able to get OW to come up on the new machine. The
best I can achieve is a set of postscript errors (it crashes on
createdevice) and an exit. Sunview, on the other hand, would run

Now, Sun distributed GFX-2 (kernel level software support for
accelerated graphics) with the system. Although their docs for this
and installation instructions left much to be desired, I thought that
the absence of this might be the problem, so I went through the ritual of
installation (which included installing a new generic small kernel as
well as replacing a bunch of software) and the system promptly "exploded".
I could not get it to boot at all, and it bombed very early and very
badly, with no init.

Booting from the old kernel and mounting /usr over the network, I was
able to repair most of the damage (throwing away the modified /usr and
GFX kernel and starting over), but the old problem is still there.

So my questions: A) has anyone else out there bought a SS2 with GX-plus
and encountered a similar problem; B) and solved it? Since none of the
docs I have describes what GX-Plus is, what it does, why it needs kernel
support and modified executables, etc. I am pretty much stuck and thought
I'd post to this newsgroup before calling Sun.

If the responses I get justify it, I'll summarize to the net.


To summarize:

The GXplus is the high-resolution version of the 8-bit color GX. It
is around 1200x1000 instead of 1000x700. If you display a standard
19" display OW desktop setup, there is a little better than an inch on
the right and bottom. Nice!

The GXplus does indeed require the GFX-Rev-2 patch that was shipped
with the system, although that fact is not well documented. If you
attempt to startup OW without installing the patch, it will exit
during the execution of a NeWS/Postscript initialization with a
postscript error ('sic transit gloria postscript'). If you try to run
Sunview, it will usually work, but sometimes it will barf during
startup for no apparent reason.

The problem I ran into occurred for two reasons, both covered --
barely -- in the accompanying documentation. First, the kernels they
ship with the patch are for the 24-bit GS graphics, NOT for the 8-bit
GXplus. They crash nastily for the GXplus.

This means that one can NOT take the "easy" route through the patch
script -- one has to choose a "custom" setup when asked. The custom
setup allows you to save your old kernel setup. You MUST do this, or
at the very least save /usr/kvm/sys/sun/conf.c before starting (in
/tmp/conf.c or something). You will need to PUT YOUR OLD conf.c BACK
in place of the conf.c they give you, and then rebuild your working
kernel the usual way. (Note to neophytes: cd to /usr/sys/sun4/conf,
copy GENERIC to MYKERNEL or whatever, edit it to add your favorite
items, run config MYKERNEL, cd ../MYKERNEL, make, cp /vmunix
/vmunix.old, cp vmunix /vmunix, reboot, test, iterate until all is ok,
read the System Administrator's Manual). This is explained briefly in
the GFX Release Notes, sort of.

We have a custom kernel to enable accounting and to increase the paltry
resources available in the distribution kernels and I had no trouble
putting back conf.c, rerunning config, etc. The new kernel booted
right up (appending "-GFX-Rev-2" to the "SunOS Release 4.1.1" and we
have had no further trouble. OW starts right up, sunview works, etc.
I haven't tried the kernel to see if it will cause a straight GX or
non-GX Sparcstation to crash, so I don't know how portable it is.

All this will be moot with 4.1.2 (as I understand it) since it will
incorporate GFX support directly, but it as there will probably be a
bunch of SS2's going out with GXplus in the meantime, I thought I'd
post the summary. I devoutly hope that they manage to make the 4.1.2
kernel work with all the graphics devices without additional hassle so
one 4C kernel can be used on all the SS's in a department.

My thanks to all those who responded. Several of you had gotten the
installation right the first time (the moral is probably to always
choose custom configurations since generic ones never work) and enough
others had seen the same error and were perplexed that it seemed
worthwhile to post this.

Robert G. Brown
System Administrator and All That
Duke University Dept. of Physics
Durham, N.C. 27706
Phone: 1-919-684-8130 Fax (24hr.) 919-684-8101

"I'll do anything you want," she crooned, "Anything!"
Then she frowned. "As long as it doesn't involve learning YAPL..."


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