P4 64bit Modern Linux

MGaddict

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I inherited an IBM eServer with a 64bit P4 with hyper-threading. It has 8GB RAM and 4x 500GB SAS drives. I enjoy playing with a lot really retro computers and thought this would be a good system to bridge the gap allowing me to connect via serial without needing adapters, make floppy disks as needed, etc. but be able to run a modern OS with security updates so I could connect it to the internet.

I can't get ANY Linux distro to load on this thing. They ALL hang with a flashing curser. I've tried multiple 64bit distros. I thought maybe it was because the P4 x64 is missing several true 64bit instructions, so I tried several different 32bit flavors. Still with the same result. I even tried an old copy of Ubuntu from 2010 I had lying around.

I'm thinking, because this is a server and not a typical desktop, there is some driver I need that doesn't come with a typical iso. I can't boot from USB which is really annoying so I have to burn DVDs every time I try another distro.

Just to see if it was a hardware issue, I installed Windows 7 and Windows Server 2012 R2 both 64bit with absolutely no issues. Windows 10 32bit loaded with only half the RAM available, obviously, but the 64bit version wouldn't install because I'm missing PrefetchW. (I really don't want to run Windows on this thing.)

If the 2010 copy of Ubuntu had worked, I would have started looking at compiling my own kernel. But since that didn't work, I don't think it's a modern instruction that I'm missing that's causing the problem.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
 


jglen490

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The CPU architecture is a bit different apparently from the 32 bit Prescott core it is based on. I'm no expert, but this CPU is likely not going to run any OS that is not specifically written for its unique instruction set.

You might find a specialty server OS (Unix, Windows, maybe Redhat), but a common consumer version of a Linux is probably not that.
 

MGaddict

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So update from this evening's progress...
Got Debian 10.4 installed without a GUI. That actually went really well. I've figured out it's trying to start x server where it hangs. And it's not really hanging, I can Special+F3 to a prompt.
I thought it might be the 8meg graphics card. But in trouble shooting I see it's only detecting 1GB of RAM.
It's also showing warnings about not finding a video bios during boot up. So for that I followed all the steps in the Debian wiki but still same thing.
So I have 2 major problems and I dont know which one to attack 1st. I guess I'll work on the RAM while I try to find a graphics card from this century that's PCI, PCI-X, or PCI-e x1 or x8.
I know the RAM works, Windows 7 saw it all just fine. Could be a proprietary driver for the memory controller since this CPU only supported 4gb out of the box.
20200623_220646.jpg
 

jglen490

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That is probably indicative of the difficulties a non-custom OS will have a with a one-off system. It's good that you got as far as you did! Look through the link I quoted above, there may be some clues for constructing a google search for some package.

Who knows it may be a firmware problem with the MB as much anything else. Keep digging!
 
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darry1966

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Ok you have tried Debian on that, if things don't work out with that route try Puppy it has wide support for hardware than some other distros.
 

sp331yi

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welcome!
yes- fix server RAM & RAGE issues, then try either a Puppy or 32bit PCLOS as a suggestion (i heard 32bit 'Trinity' good). pclos worked on last P4 i had ages ago.
Best wishes!
 

dos2unix

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JasKinasis

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If I’m not mistaken, the output of inxi appears to show two AMD graphics cards, but no drivers are loaded for them. So perhaps see if any drivers are available?!
apt search amd —names-only
That might explain why x fails to start!
 

MGaddict

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So, I'm feeling really stupid.
I put the original boot disk back in the machine that had Windows 7 installed to check device manager for anything that looked odd. Then it dawned on me that Windows was using the standard VGA driver. Then I saw device manager was showing an error on the graphics card that it couldn't load the driver.
I should have pulled all the expansion cards and tried to use the onboard graphics card 2 days ago as a standard trouble shooting step. Doing that proved that the ATI Rage XL that was in this thing had gone bad. Pulling it out and using the onboard allowed the computer to boot normally with no issues. That's been my issue this whole time!
So I guess I just need to find a good graphics card to pair with this thing.
 

MGaddict

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welcome!
yes- fix server RAM & RAGE issues, then try either a Puppy or 32bit PCLOS as a suggestion (i heard 32bit 'Trinity' good). pclos worked on last P4 i had ages ago.
Best wishes!
Haven't fixed the RAM issue, but I did figure out the ATI Rage XL card is no good.
I've never enjoyed using Puppy Linux, don't know what it is about it, but I just don't enjoy it. Plus, I want to use a 64bit OS so I can take advantage of the 8GB of RAM and the hyper-threading on the CPU. I think I'm going to take a look at PClos though. That looks interesting. It's just hard to let go of Manjaro or Debian which are my favorites.
 

darry1966

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Fair enough, I would point out there are 64bit pups and puppies with other desktops like LXDE.

However Puppy is not for everyone and I am not running myself but have found it reliable but have come to enjoy using Devuan, Refracta and other distros so understand where you are coming from.
 

MGaddict

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If anybody is curious, here is the update...
Got Geforce GTX 680 installed with an 8x to 16x pcie riser cable.
I replaced the thermal paste and pads on everything and now the RAM is all being detected, the fans are running much quieter, and it doesnt feel like an inferno behind the case. I installed an extra fan in the front of the case too because it was sitting around.
I'm running Manjaro Linux with xfce for the time being. Which appears to work perfectly. But it's running on an old SSD I had sitting around.
Currently it runs Crysis at around 30fps in Wine. It runs Portal at 100fps. And it streams AAA games with no noticable input lag from my desktop. Got a shot of it running Doom 2016 at 100fps for fun. It even runs Minecraft as long as Optifine is installed.
Gaming wasn't the point of this but I've had fun benchmarking it.
Still having issues: somehow my cat5e cable got damaged. That set me back because I thought the nic had died. I'm using just cat 5 and I cant get over 60 mb/sec connection. I can play games at 1080p with no problem, but I cant watch youtube at 480p without serious stuttering. For some reason it thinks I have a GTX 670 instead of a 680, still overkill, but I think that's because of the riser cable.
To do: reinstall the SAS drives. I might put a multicard card reader in if I find a cheap used one or something. Lastly, Enjoy the system for what it is.
Thank you to everybody for all the suggestions. This was a really fun project.
 

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