Project Hunting


Ah, it’s that time of year again: I need a project for the RetroChallange 2014 Winter Warmup.

A few have asked for another whimsical project, and (for the sake of balance) a SPARC or Solaris-based one.
Unfortunately, I can’t think of anything quite as whimsical as last years effort, The Sound of Violence.

I had toyed with the Indigo PSU rescue project (Indigo Tendencies), but I am still stumped trying to find a suitable donor PSU to use due to the archaic DC power requirements of the SGI Iris Indigo.

On the SPARC front, my surviving SS10 PSU is starting to flake – it will run a pair of 133 MHz HyperSPARC CPUs perfectly fine for months on end, but as of June this year it will no longer run a pair of 180 MHz CPUs – it hard-hangs after a few minutes – and it is not the CPU modules that are at fault, as I have tried several modules and they all work in pairs in an SS20, and work individually in the SS10. The SS10 PSU seems to be getting a bit marginal, so the thought would be to replace it with an adapted modern higher-rated PSU (it needs to be a slim tiny unit, and need adaption, due to the very specific size and shape of the SS10 bay and the oddball fan arrangement there). I have identified current PSUs that would be usable – the TDK Lambda NV1-350TT-N3 or NV1-453TT-N3. For the SS10, the PSU needs to be able to provide 5V@21A, 12V@3A and -12V@0.1A, and *must* provide a 5V HCMOS “power-good” signal and a 5V@1A standby supply, and ideally also 5V HCMOS power-off and power-on lines.

The only problem is that although those TDK PSUs are currently available, they cost approx GBP140, which is way too much for a hobbyist project. Although Ebay and Amazon turn up a few NV1 units, none of them are the -N3 version, which is what is needed for the SS10.

OK, so what else is there? Perhaps building NetTrek game for Solaris and running a multi-player network game would be interesting – NetTrek is one of the earliest multi-computer multi-player networked games (1988), so I guess it would meet the “Retro” requirement…

The other possibility would be “SETI@again”: for three months in 1999, I had been running SETI@home on a network of 50 SPARCclassic (50MHz) machines and a Sun Enterprise 6000 (14 * 250MHz) in the off-hours overnight; until the network bandwidth required got a little too much to hide. The SPARCclassic machines took 10 days CPU time to process a single work-unit, so it was a good job there were 50 of them! The E6000 processed approx 25 work-units per day. I have recently been trying to build the new (since 2005) BOINC-based SETI@home software on the SS10 under Solaris 2.6, a difficult job due to the dreadful (broken) autoconfig scripts – works OK on Solaris 8 with GCC 4.x, but (in spite of the scripts claims) are no-go on Solaris 2.6. I have been trying to get this going all December, so perhaps the project could be to complete two SETI@home workunits on the SS10 by end of January?

Hmmm, decisions, decisions!

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3 thoughts on “Project Hunting

  1. I know what you mean about dodgy SS10 PSUs. Mine finally went a few months ago after a YEAR of limping along. I wanted to replace it for this year’s RCWW, but finances have dictated otherwise!

  2. Don’t throw the flaky PSU out, you may need it to donate the fans and connectors for an “adapt a Lambda” approach. Buying a new Sony APS-39 (SS10) PSU would do, but avoid 2nd-hand or reconditioned, as their lifetime may be somewhat limited.

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