Running 2.9 BSD on Xhomer
Thanks to John Layman's detailed instructions, I have produced an experimental
2.9 BSD hard disk image (29bsd.rd.gz) for Xhomer. There are a number of known
issues, which could likely be issues with the Xhomer emulation, as follows:
1. "vi FILENAME" crashes BSD
Use the username "root" and password "xhomer" to log in.
This hard disk image runs with a standard Xhomer emulator (e.g.
version 9-16-06 from the Xhomer website). However, I had difficulty
creating the image with the standard Xhomer version. The problems
I encountered seemed to vary according to the speed of the host
system I ran Xhomer on. On some systems, the installation boot floppy
(e.g. maintenance1.dsk) would appear to hang during the boot process.
On other systems, the boot floppy would boot fully, but processes
(e.g. ls, restor) would die at random points, giving a "no more children"
error message. I do not have a proper solution to the problem.
However, given that the issue seemed to be related to timing,
rather than to functional aspects of the emulator, I played around
with various methods of slowing the emulator down, from the perspective
of BSD. Eventually, I believe it is the following set of modifications
to Xhomer which resulted in an emulator which was able to boot the
BSD installation floppy and build a hard disk image:
1. I turned off RTC mode in the Makefile
(This results in fewer emulated instructions between timer
2. I turned on IOTRACE mode in the Makefile
(This very quickly generates a huge log of every register
access performed. It also has the side-effect of changing
the timing behavior of emulated interactions with real
hardware (e.g. the floppy subsystem).
Interestingly, the disk image which was built using this method
appears to run fine on a stock Xhomer. It does not exhibit any of
the issues seen with the installatin floppy.
The following additional files (over the stock 2.9BSD Pro distribution)
have been added to this disk image:
/bin/rx2f (see below)
/usr/GKERMIT (G-Kermit source)
For those looking for an RD53 pre-built image for Xhomer, I have created
Transferring Files into BSD
The following are instructions for a somewhat crude method of
getting a file from an external host (e.g. a Linux system) into
a 2.9BSD system running on a DEC Pro/350.
This method involves converting an arbitrary file (up to 400,000
bytes in length) into a raw RX50 disk image (no file system) and
then extracting the file from the raw disk on the Pro/350. This
method has been tested with the Xhomer emulator, but it should
work on a real system as well.
On the Linux host, a script called f2rx converts the file to a
disk image. On BSD (on the Pro), an executable called rx2f extracts
the file from the disk image.
(NOTE: Steps 3-5, below, are not necessary if using the above-referenced
29bsd.rd image on Xhomer as it already has the rx2f binary installed
1. Ensure that the following files are present on the Linux host,
in their own directory (the script creates and deletes some
f2rx (make sure it is executable)
2. Build lbn2xhomer:
On Linux host: cc -o lbn2xhomer lbn2xhomer.c
3. Convert rx2f.c to disk image format:
On Linux host: ./f2rx rx2f.c
4. Transfer rx2f.c to BSD system:
A. Attach rx2f.c.dsk to rx0 (on Xhomer)
A. Write rx2f.c to real RX50 floppy and insert into
first floppy drive (on real Pro)
B. On BSD: dd if=/dev/r50 of=rx2f.c skip=18 bs=1 count=891
5. Compile rx2f.c on BSD
On BSD: cc -o rx2f rx2f.c
Once these steps have been completed, perform the following to
transfer individual files, one at a time:
1. Convert FILE to disk image format:
On Linux host: ./f2rx FILE
2. Attach floppy image to BSD system:
Attach FILE.dsk to rx0 (on Xhomer)
Or, write FILE.dsk to real RX50 and insert into floppy drive (on real Pro)
3. Exract file from floppy image:
On BSD: rx2f
That's it! For now, to transfer files larger than 400,000 bytes, I
suggest splitting them into smaller chunks, transferring the chunks
individually and then reassembling them on BSD with cat.
It is also possible to combine multiple files into a tar archive and
then to transfer them as a single file, using this technique. However,
the standard Pro/350 distribution does not include a tar executable.
See below ("Adding Additional Components") for a way to add tar.
Or, download the tar binary directly from here and install
it using rx2f.
Building G-Kermit on BSD
The rx2f method of getting files into BSD is only intended to be a
temporary measure until a more functional file transfer program can
be built natively. To that end, I have tried to build G-Kermit,
but I have not been successful yet.
The Xhomer BSD image (above) contains the source for G-Kermit in
/usr/STUFF/GKERMIT. It was transferred in, file by file, using
rx2f. I have tried building with "make bsd" and "make bsd211."
The first problem is that cc seems to have a problem with "unsigned
char" data types.
Adding Additional Components
The Pro/350 2.9BSD distribution is somewhat stripped down.
Additional components of the operating system may be pulled from the
following more general 2.9BSD distribution:
Please see the files root.tar.gz and usr.tar.gz. For example, I pulled
a tar binary from /bin in root.tar.gz and transferred it into the Pro's
BSD system using the rx2f method described above.
1. Shutting down BSD
I'm not sure what the best way is. "sync; sync," followed by turning
off power seems to lead to file system corruption at times for me.
Currently, I do the following, which seems to be safe, so far:
A. shutdown +1
B. Wait for message that system is going down IMMEDIATELY (takes 1 minute)
C. sync; sync
D. Turn off power
"shutdown +now" does not work, resulting in a wisecrack, instead.
(Note: "reboot -h" seems to work well.)
2. Setting the timezone
The time zone seems to be set to EDT and I have not found where to change this.
BSD installation and configuration
Using Larger Hard Drives
The standard 2.9BSD distribution for the Pro/350 understands only RD50 (5 MB)
and RD51 (10 MB) disks. To support larger drives, several items need to be
changed. The complete set of changes is not necessarily fully understood at
this point. However, at a minimum, the following are affected:
1. The disk geometry table in rd.c must be updated to understand the correct
2. The partition table in ioconf.c must be updated to specify the new size of
the /dev/rd0c (/usr) partition.
1. The standalone rdfmt needs to understand the new disk geometry.
2. An appropriate version of /rdboot must be used (accounting for the correct
number of disk heads)
3. /boot must be patched to understand the new disk geometry and the boot
command line (rd(0,64)unix) must be updated to specify the correct offset
(64, 96 or 128, for 4-, 6- or 8-head disks, repsectively).
There are actually two Unix kernels which come into play and both
need to be updated. The first is the kernel on the installation floppy
(maintenance1.dsk). The other is the hard disk kernel itself.
In this section, I show a technique for applying these changes by patching binaries,
rather than by recompiling from source. I have written a script which automates
the patching process. One needs only to specify the number of cylinders, heads,
sectors, number of root partition cylinders and number of swap partition cylinders
for a given disk and the script performs the necessary binary patches.
To perform patching, download the following:
patch_kernel (make sure it is executable)
patch_kernels (make sure it is executable - produces mutliple patched kernel images)
maintenance1.dsk (The only change I made was to add a /mnt2 mount point)
Execute the following: (this example is for an rd31)
./patch_kernel rd31 615 4 16 70 30
In this case, the script produces the following output:
unix.rd31 (patched RD kernel - not needed in the following instructions)
maintenance1_rd31.dsk (replacement installation floppy image)
kernel_rd31.dsk (Unix file system floppy image with RD kernel)
Additionally, when the script runs, it prints various status information. This
includes the size of the total hard drive in bytes (relevant if making an RD
image for Xhomer) and the size of /dev/rd0c in blocks (needed for the mkfs stage
of the installation process).
Alternatively, if you are only interested in the rd31, rd32 or rd53 patched binaries,
pre-generated floppy images are available:
The script "patch_kernels" calls "patch_kernel" multiple times, generating images
for RD50, RD51, RD31, RD52, RD32 and RD53, as well as a hypothetical 4-head disk
with 1024 cylinders ("max4").
To use this technique on an RD31 (20 MB), the following slightly modified process may be
used: (modify these steps as needed for other disk sizes)
1. ./patch_kernel rd31 615 4 16 70 30
2. Note the size of the total disk image (20152320 bytes for an RD31).
3. Note the number of blocks in /dev/rd0c (16416 for an RD31)
4. If installing on real hardware, then create floppies from:
If running on Xhomer, save these images.
5. Boot maintenance1_rd31.dsk on the maintenance console. The following
commands are typed on the maintenance console.
Type 0 and press return. Wait for the disk to format.
8. /etc/mkfs /dev/rrd0a 2240
(For a 70-cylinder root partition, this would be 2240, 3360 or 4480 for 4-head,
6-head ot 8-head disks, respectively)
9. /etc/mkfs /dev/rrd0c 16416
(Adjust this number for disks other than RD31)
10. Insert first root floppy in the second floppy drive and restore the root filesystem:
restor rf /dev/r51 /dev/rrd0a
(Follow instructions and cycle through all disks)
11. Insert first usr floppy in the second floppy drive and restore the usr filesystem:
restor rf /dev/r51 /dev/rrd0c
(Follow instructions and cycle through all disks)
12. Insert kernel_rd31.dsk into second floppy drive.
13. Replace kernel, boot and rdboot on root partition with patched versions:
/etc/mount /dev/r51 /mnt
/etc/mount /dev/rd0a /mnt2
cp /mnt/unix /mnt/boot /mnt/rdboot /mnt2
14. (Optional) Copy rx2f and tar binaries to hard disk:
cp /mnt/rx2f /mnt/tar /mnt2/bin
15. /etc/umount /dev/r51
16. /etc/umount /dev/rd0a
17. sync; sync
18. Cycle power
19. When the boot prompt reappears on the maintenance terminal:
rd(0,X)unix (where "X" is 64, 96 or 128, for 4-, 6- or 8-head disks, respectively)
20. The following are typed on the Pro console:
21. dd if=/rdboot of=/dev/rrd0h count=16
(NOTE: rdboot is actually 17 concatenated copies of the 512-byte boot sector.
The original instructions specify writing all 17 sectors to the disk. However, this
causes the first sector of /dev/rrd0a to be overwritten. By writing only 16 sectors,
every sector on cylinder 0 ends up with a copy of the boot sector)
22. passwd root
(Enter root password)
23. reboot -h
(Cycle power when machine halts, having removed all floppies and having disconnected
the maintenance terminal)
24. If all went well, the Pro should boot BSD directly from the hard drive.
(Note: On Xhomer, following a fresh installation, I get filesystem consistency problems
when I create and delete large files. After several passes of filling the disk completely,
running fsck, erasing the new files and runnign fsck again, eventually, the problems
clear up and the filesystem stays clean)
Also, see the bottom of the first section (above) for a pre-built Xhomer image for an RD53.