[coreboot] Sun Ultra 40 M2 Board - Obscured coreboot status

Bostjan Kravcar bostjan.ign.k at t-2.si
Sat Jul 21 22:31:15 CEST 2018

"...and am curious...what is compelling for you and this ?"

The short answer - >nostalgia< and >spirit< . 

A little bit longer answer (for those with patience);

You may take the following lines with a grain of salt, or . you can choose
to give it a though, a moment of reflection, if you want. I'm talking about
something, that I can only describe as a >human spirit< . that intangible
something, which rubbed off the minds of highly motivated engineers, and
transfered onto cold work of art in the process. I'm referring to people
from computer industry, who considered themselves to be lucky, for being
allowed (every now and then) to come up with a marvell of engineering, as
they were not forced to cut corners like nowadays (design, materials,
rigorous testing). Think IBM Model M keyboard for one, though there may be
far better examples.

Rest assure though . I can hear you all, loud and clear. I am actually aware
of the Sun's U40 M2 workstation age, but I can't help it . having a weakness
for stuff that was build to last, and - on top of that - has been known to
function reliably and pretty much flawlessly, for what seems like ages by
today's >standards<. Sure, I could have picked something younger, as in - a
newer board, to widen the pool of those who prefer >today & yesterday<
hardware, and thus contribute more relevant test results to the project's
efforts.  The real question is - how do we qualify, with all the wisdom we
can muster, what to include and what to exclude (and when), and how do we
draw a sharp line, between the board being too old, and the one being still
young enough ? These things don't have easy answers, and Sun Ultra 40 M2 is
one of the best examples for this, IMHO.

It's so easy to jump the conclusions, by scanning fleetingly the second-hand
market every once in a while (been there), when trying to determine just how
many of certain >exotic< machines or boards are still out there - be it
actively used, or collecting the dust in some IT surplus warehouses. Just
take a look at eBay (US) offerings, which I've been following for years, if
not a decade; you can still find a dozen of U40 M2 machines, pretty much at
any given time. They don't sell, as more often than not the prices are
ridiculous. It would be also prudent to consider all those people, who might
have never felt the need to upgrade or change anything on their Sun
machines. This doesn't mean they never will, but it sure means you probably
never heard of them. Bear in mind that only a fraction of computer users are
actually active, to one degree or another, on any given computer forum, or .
on a project mailing list, for that matter. 

Those crazy prices of U40 M2 machines, be it on eBayUS, or those being
offered by several Sun resellers in US, will have to come down eventually
(they crowd the warehouse space.). Likewise - a considearble number, of all
those >Happy Camper< U40 M2 users, will eventually hit the wall . wishing to
update their Sun's proprietary BIOS (to overcome limitations of old version,
or to repair their machine), only to realize they can't . at least not for
free, or not even against payment, if they are not customers with cotracts.
Chances are that many of these - the >invisible users< - will eventually
come out of the bushes and try the coreboot flavour, because .

a.) Their machines are still purring like healthy teenage cats,
b.) They just discovered, in all their excitement, how their >oldies< just
may work with Quad and Six-Core Opterons;

But all of that won't matter much, unless the coreboot port for U40 M2 is
kept alive. If it ends up in a dust bin too soon (burried in the pile of
older releases), those >regular Joes< like myself will have a hard time to
find it, or even be aware that something like that ever existed (as the
Google hits start to dwindle) . they will just dump the machine in the
junkyard, and that would be a shame.  I'll say it again - I could have
cherry-picked one of the C32 boards I have at home (Tyan S8010, Supermicro
H8DCL-i), and I most probably will in the future . but I picked the Sun's
machine, to be my apprenticeship piece in the coreboot forge. Only time will
tell, if I'm worthy to continue my involvement in coreboot, to aid the
master blacksmiths with keeping the project alive. Like I already explained
before, admittedly in a bit long and winding fashion - I'm not a programmer
type of guy (well . I  just ain't), but I'm also not a laid-back type of
person, to just sit and wait till someone else makes all the work, then
whine about it if they don't, or nod approvingly if they do, have a beer or
two, then download their work and off we go. Nope, that's just not me; I did
my share of nerve-wrecking computer diagnostics, for months on end and with
>graveyard shits< and all, so I know what I'm made of and I know that I'm up
to the challenge.

Perhaps it's just me, but . I  sensed that I was somewhat gently nudged, for
being one of those in the coreboot flock who inevitably, albeit
inadvertedly, fragment the available >brain resources<, for the sake of
keeping our computer relics alive. It may as well be so, that we're nibbling
off the bits of finite spare time, of all those able and hard working genius
bees at the coreboot project, who contribute the bulk of ports and maintain
them with admirable tenacity . for all of us, the >eager beavers< (keen to
learn and advance ourselves), who would love to give back more if we knew
how to.  It's pretty much the same in all communities of this type . there's
never enough time, and there's never enough brainy people, willing to work
pro-bono and sacrifice their spare time, to maintain the healthy heartbeat
of the good-cause projects. 

I'm a strong believer in one's personal mind and determination . you do
listen to others, but you don't have to ditch something >old< and embrace
something >new & better<, just because you were told that >it's normal<, or
>that's how it is<, or >you can't change it<. Perhaps I really am one of the
dying breed, for even considering a purchase of such a dated machine, but
that's who I am . I decided to  jump on the train, even if it might be THE
last train for the Sun Ultra 40 M2 board. All that with a purpose to learn
something new, to build the confidence by grabbing this bull by the horns,
to give back to community as my skills improve, but also to use the
knowledge acquired for my bread & butter job.

Looking forward .

Kind regards,

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