Installation on Ultra 5

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The following guide covers the base installation of FreeBSD on the Sun Microsystems' Ultra 5 platform. This should also be suitable for the Ultra 10 platform, a faster and improved variant of the Ultra 5. The installation is similar to an installation of FreeBSD on regular x86 systems. The following covers the specifics of the Ultra 5 system installation.



The specific SPARC-based installation media must be downloaded (or purchased through one of the affiliated on-line stores) - the x86-based installation media will not work! If using the ports system only CD1 is required for the base system installation.

Since the Ultra 5 uses the OpenBoot system to initiate system start-up, the equivalent of the ubiquitous PC BIOS, accessing it is different to what you may be used to coming from the PC world. Upon starting up and viewing the white boot screen (featuring the Sun classic logo and various system details) the key combination 'Stop' and the letter 'A' must be pressed together. This results in a prompt that simply states: "ok".

This allows commands to be typed that control the system's start-up. For example, typing "probe-ide" and pressing enter will reveal the devices attached to the IDE ports. Typically one hard drive and a CD-ROM will be revealed though that is dependant on the installed hardware.

Initiating the FreeBSD installer

With the OpenBoot system in command mode (see above how to interrupt system start-up) and the FreeBSD for SPARC installation cd-rom in the drive, type the following command to begin the process:

ok boot cdrom /boot/loader       (press Enter)

Note: The ok above is the command prompt, so enter only the part in bold-type.

Installing FreeBSD

After a short while with lots of information scrolling across the screen the familiar Country Selection page appears. From this point the installation becomes the same as an x86-based installation.

Please refer to this guide for continued installation instructions.

Booting FreeBSD

Following a successful installation the system will reboot and attempt to load an operating system. If the system fails to load type the following command to begin the process:

ok boot disk /boot/loader       (press Enter)

Note: The ok above is the command prompt, so enter only the part in bold-type.

If the server fails to start upon reboot, requiring the above command to be run manually each time, the following commands should be issued on the OpenBoot screen:

ok setenv boot-device disk       (press Enter)
ok setenv boot-file /boot/loader       (press Enter)
ok nvstore       (press Enter)

These commands will set the environment variables 'boot-device' and 'boot-file' with the appropriate values for FreeBSD's boot loader and then commit the values to the system's non-volatile memory (similar to Save Settings in a conventional PC BIOS).

Either reboot the system or re-issue the 'boot' command above to continue loading FreeBSD.

FreeBSD on UltraSPARC specific issues

The following lists some variations to the typical x86-based installation.

Country Selection

This page does not follow to the prompt for Code Page selection.

Hard Disk Partitioning

The various hard drive stages and boot loader options are skipped and the FreeBSD Disklabel Editor starts directly.

This could be because dual-booting and co-existing with other operating systems is not possible under this architecture.


The Network interface information required page will list the available (recognised) Ethernet cards installed. The on-board network card is supported by the 'hme' driver, known (and listed on-screen) as the "Happy Meal Ethernet" adaptor. Other network cards, if installed and are compatible, will also be listed.

Most, if not all, PCI network cards supported by the x86 release should be supported by the UltraSPARC release.


The Ultra 5 has on-board audio featuring line-in, line-out, microphone and speaker sockets on the rear (using conventional jacks) and a CD-audio connection internally. The audio device is based on the Crystal Sounds CS4231A and FreeBSD for Sparc64 features a driver for this chip-set.

The file '/boot/loader.conf' requires the following lines added to it:


Note: this file might not exist and will need creating.

The system will need rebooting for these drivers to load. It is possible to use kldload to start them without a reboot as follows:

kldload sound         (press Enter)
kldload snd_audiocs         (press Enter)

The dmesg command will output a similar entry to the following after successful detection of the audio device:

pcm0: <Sun Audiocs> addr 0x147...

There is also an audio driver for the 'Ensoniq AudioPCI ES137x' series of chip-sets from Creative Labs. Substitute the above 'snd_audiocs' with 'snd_es137x' to utilise this audio device.

Settings used

During the installation on a real Ultra 5 system the following choices were used.

The hard drive was split up into the following slices:

Part Mount Size NewFS
ad0a / 512MB UFS2 Y
ad0b 1024MB SWAP
ad0d /var 1024MB UFS2+s Y
ad0e /tmp 512MB UFS2+S Y
ad0f /usr 32768MB UFS2+S Y
ad0g /svr 114GB UFS2+S Y

The 'SWAP' is set to 2x the on-board RAM size (a FreeBSD system recommendation). The '/usr' splice is 32GB, but shown as 32768MB on the screen. The '/svr' slice used the remainder of the disk, which happened to be 114GB of the 160GB (give-or-take) capacity and exists as a place to host the 'server' specific data instead of the default '/usr' locations used by Apache and others.

See also

The Sparc - Installing FreeBSD article contains some further information regarding OpenBios and the installation of FreeBSD.

For more details on configuring the OpenBoot system, see Sun Microsystem's Command Reference Manual web page.

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