Installing SLES 10 SP1 on IA64

by on Dec.04, 2007, under software

I admit it, I’m a Windows guy. Almost 20 years ago I started with MS-DOS, continued on Windows 3.11, then 95, replaced them with OS/2 Warp (may it rest in peace…), back to Windows NT, then XP and 2003, now friendshipping with Vista. But time to time I get the crazy idea to try something new and I’m off to hunt penguins.
Yes, Linux has improved in the past few years and the installation of many distros is quite simple and straightforward – as long as you don’t have any ‘exotic’ hardware. If you find out that your audio, video or whatever card is not supported, then you’re in trouble. Especially when you don’t expect it just like me…

Last week I decided to try SLES 10 SP1 on my Dell PowerEdge 3250 server. Knowing that there are actually only THREE different mainboards made for Itanium 2 CPU’s (all from Intel and two are no longer manufactured) I didn’t expect any problems since it seems quite easy to test the final release on three different configurations. Oh, how I was wrong.

Just when the graphical part of the installation (YaST2) kicked in, the screen went blank and greeted me with ‘Signal out of range’ error. Ok, maybe I overlooked something or made wrong selection, let’s try again and reboot…

 Second try, and the same result. I didn’t notice any errors or anything out of ordinary, so maybe the LCD in the rack tray is too crappy. Connected regular 19″ LCD and tried again. ‘Out of range’ again, with additional information about the frequency YaST2 is trying to use – 125Hz. Wow, even CRT can’t do that!

I’m starting to wonder if guys from SuSE actually tested the installation since the magnificent almost-dozen-pages installation guide covers anything except the installation process.

So I spent couple of hours searching on internet with no luck. Then out of desperation I ended up on Intel’s website and found Intel® Server System SR9000MK4U Operating System Installation Guide (maybe this is where I should have started in the first place, but…). This is actually guide for the new dual-core Montecito Itanium systems, mine is using the older and now obsolete SR870BH2 board. But the solution works for all three mainboards and is awfully simple (and stupid).

The graphical user interface (GUI) for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 is not supported on the
Intel Server System SR9000MK4U. These instructions install the operating system using the
text user Interface (TUI). The GUI will be supported in a future release of SUSE.

CAUTION: This process formats the media and deletes all content from the attached SAS drive.
1. Attach the SAS hard disk drive to the left drive bay (SAS(Pun0, Lun0)).
2. Insert the SUSE* Linux operating system CD.
3. Power on the server. It might take up to 20 minutes before the video is initialized.
4. Select the Boot Option Maintenance menu from the EFI Boot Manager.
5. Select the Boot from File.
6. Select the Removable Media Boot option representing the CD-ROM drive.
7. Type textmode=1 and press <Enter>.
8. Select the appropriate options.
9. After the system restarts, select SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 in the EFI Boot
Manager Menu to continue the installation.
NOTE: After the install is complete the system boots into the SUSE GUI causing the screen
to go blank.
10. Reboot into the EFI Shell.
11. Go to fs#:\efi\SuSE\, where # is the file system for the drive where SUSE is
12. Type edit elilo.conf
13. Change the line from:
append = “ splash=silent
append = “ splash=silent 3
This forces SUSE to start in text mode.
14. Press <F2> to save, <Enter> to confirm, and <F3> to exit.
15. In EFI Shell type exit to return to the EFI Boot Manager menu.
16. Select SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 and press <Enter>.
17. The system boots into the Text User Interface (TUI).

I would say that SP1 is a future release (couple of months has passed since the GA) and still it won’t work. Is it really so hard to write a working IA64 display driver either for ATI Rage XL (SR870BH2 and SR870BN4) or ATI ES1000 (SR70000MK4U) when the x86 driver works without any problems?
Funny thing is that in SLES 9 the video driver works just fine. Seems like comrades from Novell made a mistake somewhere…

2 Comments for this entry

  • Ratheesh

    Let me know weather i can able to install 32 bit OS in the same way in 5000 series intel chipset or not. I am not having USB FDD, hence i can’t able to give driver through FDD. But i am having pen drive

  • Dave Anderson

    your instructions are amazing. i did the install for the first time and it was very easy

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