Running NetBSD on a VAX

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First of all, if you want to run this on SIMH, the NetBSD people already have a great guide for you at [1]

First of all, check whether your VAX can even run NetBSD: check out and scroll down to Supported Hardware Models. You'll also want to check whether your ethernet card and graphics (if any) are supported as well as your various drives.


I've found that the quickest and easiest way to jumpstart a NetBSD install on SIMH, is to use the MicroVAX II emulator, along with the miniroot.fs file from the install sets....


simply decompress, and boot the miniroot to kick it off. Naturally you'll need some kind of tape or CDROM with the rest of the NetBSD files, but you get the idea.

% ./vax

VAX simulator V3.8-1
sim> show rq
RQ, address=20001468-2000146B*, no vector, 4 units
RQ0, 159MB, not attached, write enabled, RD54
RQ1, 159MB, not attached, write enabled, RD54
RQ2, 159MB, not attached, write enabled, RD54
RQ3, 409KB, not attached, write enabled, RX50
sim> att rq0 miniroot.fs
sim> boot cpu
Loading boot code from ka655x.bin

KA655-B V5.3, VMB 2.7
Performing normal system tests.
Tests completed.
>>>boot dua0:


>> NetBSD/vax boot [1.11 Sat Feb 6 22:37:47 UTC 2010]
>> Press any key to abort autoboot 0
getdisklabel: no disk label
nfs_open: must mount first.
open netbsd.vax: Device not configured
> boot netbsd
getdisklabel: no disk label
2388172+308476 [193664+183590]=0x2eea9c
Copyright (c) 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005,
2006, 2007, 2008, 2009
The NetBSD Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.
Copyright (c) 1982, 1986, 1989, 1991, 1993
The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

NetBSD 5.0.2 (GENERIC) #0: Sat Feb 6 22:45:58 UTC 2010
MicroVAX 3800/3900
total memory = 16328 KB
avail memory = 12480 KB
mainbus0 (root)
cpu0 at mainbus0: KA655, CVAX microcode rev 6 Firmware rev 83
lance at mainbus0 not configured
uba0 at mainbus0: Q22
dz1 at uba0 csr 160100 vec 304 ipl 17
mtc0 at uba0 csr 174500 vec 774 ipl 17
mscpbus0 at mtc0: version 5 model 3
mscpbus0: DMA burst size set to 4
mt0 at mscpbus0 drive 0: TK50
mt1 at mscpbus0 drive 1: TK50
mt2 at mscpbus0 drive 2: TK50
mt3 at mscpbus0 drive 3: TK50
uda0 at uba0 csr 172150 vec 770 ipl 17
mscpbus1 at uda0: version 3 model 3
mscpbus1: DMA burst size set to 4
ra0 at mscpbus1 drive 0: RD54
ra1 at mscpbus1 drive 1: RD54
ra2 at mscpbus1 drive 2: RD54
rx0 at mscpbus1 drive 3: RX50
qe0 at uba0 csr 174440 vec 764 ipl 17: delqa, hardware address 08:00:2b:aa:bb:cc
rlc0 at uba0 csr 174400 vec 160 ipl 17
rl0 at rlc0 drive 0: RL01, drive not loaded
rl1 at rlc0 drive 1: RL01, drive not loaded
rl2 at rlc0 drive 2: RL01, drive not loaded
rl3 at rlc0 drive 3: RL01, drive not loaded
ts0 at uba0 csr 172520 vec 224 ipl 17: TS11
ts0: rev 0, extended features enabled, transport offline
Kernelized RAIDframe activated
ra0label: 0

no disk label: size 311200 sectors

ra1: attempt to bring on line failed: unit offline (not mounted) (code 3, subcode 1)
ra2: attempt to bring on line failed: unit offline (not mounted) (code 3, subcode 1)
rx0: attempt to bring on line failed: unit offline (not mounted) (code 3, subcode 1)
boot device: ra0
root on ra0a dumps on ra0b
root file system type: ffs
WARNING: clock gained 185 days
erase ^H, werase ^W, kill ^U, intr ^C
Terminal type? [sun] vt100
Erase is backspace.

Welcome to the NetBSD/vax 502 installation program.

This program is designed to help you put NetBSD on your disk,
in a simple and rational way. You'll be asked several questions,
and it would probably be useful to have your disk's hardware
manual, the installation notes, and a calculator handy.

As with anything which modifies your disk's contents, this
program can cause SIGNIFICANT data loss, and you are advised
to make sure your data is backed up before beginning the
installation process.

Default answers are displayed in brackets after the questions.
You can hit Control-C at any time to quit, but if you do so at a
prompt, you may have to hit return. Also, quitting in the middle of
installation may leave your system in an inconsistent state.
1l>Proceed with installation? [n] y
Cool! Let's get to it...

Select a time zone for your location. Timezones are represented on the
system by a directory structure rooted in "/usr/share/zoneinfo". Most
timezones can be selected by entering a token like "MET" or "GMT-6".
Other zones are grouped by continent, with detailed zone information
separated by a slash ("/"), e.g. "US/Pacific".

To get a listing of what's available in /usr/share/zoneinfo, enter "?"
at the prompts below.

What timezone are you in [`?' for list] []? EST5EDT
You have selected timezone "EST5EDT".

The installation program needs to know which disk to consider
the root disk. Note the unit number may be different than
the unit number you used in the standalone installation

Available disks are: