Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy hospitalized freakin' birthday...

Right now, as I'm writing this, my brother's in surgery up at St. Vincent's. He managed to pick up a case of diverticulitis, a fun intestinal malady. I understand what they're doing is usually a routine procedure, but they had to run some tests first to see if he's got this exciting blood-clotting condition called "Protein S Deficiency" (more technical article here), which can obviously make surgery more complicated. It's a rare condition, but it's hereditary and a number of close relatives have had it, so . Some years ago, an uncle went in for similar "routine" intestinal surgery, had PSD-related complications, and died, when he was just a few years older than I am now. So I'm rather curious how my brother's test turns out, to put it mildly. Oh, and did I mention it's my brother's birthday? And this is how his new GF gets to meet the family for the first time?

It's strange how, even now in 2007, so many guys won't go to the doctor no matter how bad they feel. It always requires a great deal of hassling and cajoling from someone of the female persuasion before they'll go, like it was still freakin' 1955 or something. That's what finally got my brother to the doctor, and I remember my dad behaving the same way a few years ago, and I've done it before as well. I came down with a spot of bronchitis a few years back, and it was literally weeks before I was persuaded to go in and have it looked at. A couple of antibiotic pills later, I was good as new, which really ought to convince me to go without being told next time, or at least to go without being told repeatedly. And I know I probably should, and I'd hope that I would, but I can't say with absolute certainty that I will.

On the other hand, I'd like to sing the praises of another stereotypically male trait, the ability to compartmentalize things and simply choose to think about something else for a while. Medical stuff grosses me out, and thinking about it worries the hell out of me, so it's good to just set it all aside for the moment and think about something I can actually do something about, like puzzling out how to netboot a Sun Ultra 30 from a Mac. I picked up this el cheapo Sun box last week, and everything seems to work except for the SCSI CD drive. The OpenBoot firmware on the Sun box doesn't even see it. The cables look ok, and it has power, but the drive doesn't appear to spin up when you insert a disk, so I think the drive itself is broken. Sure, I could just go looking for a new SCSI CDROM drive, but this netboot stuff is way more l33t. I haven't quite gotten it all working yet, but the process works something like this:

  1. Client (Sun box) sends out a RARP request, asking what IP address it should use. On the server side (OSX box), rarpd needs to be able to map the client's MAC address to an IP addy, which you configure by editing /etc/ethers
  2. Client then grabs a bootloader from the server via tftp. Tftp is usually disabled on OSX, so you need to edit /etc/xinetd.d/tftp and hup the xinetd daemon if it's running. The filename the client asks for is based on the IP addy you just gave it, so that you can have different bootloaders for different machines, if you need to.
  3. The bootloader asks the server where to find the rest of the OS. I haven't quite gotten this step sorted out, but it can involve either bootparamd or dhcp, apparently. In any case, the response is the name of an NFS share where the netboot OS image lives.
  4. When you share stuff from the Finder on OSX, you aren't setting up an NFS share, so you have to do this on the command line, or with a 3rd party tool like SharePoints. Setting up a Solaris boot directory on a Mac seems to be rather complex, so right now I'm trying to get NetBSD/sparc64 to start up, and hoping it'll see the Solaris UFS partitions and be able to mount them read/write without trashing anything.
  5. Then do a "boot net" at the Sun's 'ok' prompt, and away we go, if we're lucky.

Alright, I guess I omitted the details of how to get an 'ok' prompt when you have a headless machine like this one. There's a null modem cable, and therefore a USB-to-serial adapter on the Mac side, connecting with serial port 'A' on the Sun side; knowing to send a 'break' character in lieu of the Sun keyboard's 'Stop-A' to drop to the 'ok' prompt; changing the nvram's "auto-boot?" variable to false so the machine doesn't boot off the internal HDs for now. There's probably something else I'm forgetting at the moment.

The Sun box already has Solaris 8 on it, and all I'm trying to do right now is boot enough of an OS so I can reset the root password. Once I do that, everything else should be a breeze. Hopefully.

So you see, being able to compartmentalize is a sanity-saver at times like this.
Good luck, and get well soon, bro.

1 comment :

Kate said...

Hope your brother gets well soon. Quite a sad birthday for him. Check out my blog for some unique birthday gift ideas.