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New life for old iron – Gnome on my Octane September 30, 2006

Posted by Florian in Source, World.

IRIX is dead, right? Well… even if it isn’t most of the software for it is quite old-fashioned or just outdated. Time to try Linux on it again :-)
I installed Debian to my SGI Octane about one and a half year ago already, but it was not that useful because at this time the kernel port was at a quite early stage.

With the patches from the port website and the Linux-MIPS kernel releases i was able to build a 2.6.14 kernel. The patches seem to be against a slightly older kernel tree so that i had to fix some minor issues manually. The kernel works without any trouble, except of the fact that udev from Debian Sid does not like it because it is too old.

The XImpactSR driver from the port website needed a little bit of love to build with the new X11R7.1 headers and autotools. I made a small package that sould build out of the box with latest xorg-dev (1:7.1.0-1) from Debian unstable. It is available here: http://www.linuxtogo.org/~florian/files/xf86-video-impact-4000.tar.bz2

To make this long story short: It worked right out of the box. Desktop

Many thanks to Stanislaw Skowronek who did a really great job porting Linux to this device. Gnome works pretty well and faster than expected… even without for the really nice 3D features of the machine it is quite impressive how Open Source makes a useful (but loud) workstation from this heavy old piece of hardware.


1. Davyd - October 1, 2006

Oh cool. I have an Indy that is running Debian, but I always wanted to get it running on the Indigo2 (with the R10k CPU). With Impact drivers and IP28 drivers it might be possible.

2. Janne - October 1, 2006

Very impressive. How fast does it run? And party off-topic: what would be the “best” SGI-hardware to run Linux on?

3. fl0rian - October 1, 2006

Support for the R10K based Indigo2 machines would rock, tere are still many of them around…

4. fl0rian - October 1, 2006

Even if the X driver is not accelerated it is faster than my (2x600MHz) SGI 320. I would like to compare it with a faster one, but i only have my dual 250MHz one here to try.

The most stable machine should be the SGI Indy, but it is not that easy to extend and the speed is quite limited. linux-mips.org has quite some information about the current support status…

5. agd5f - October 2, 2006

The most recent impact driver (for Octane and Impact) is available in Xorg git:

6. jose - October 16, 2006

Nice, i also started to employ linux after more than a year on my octane. I am using gentoo. Rightnow i am emerging xorg with the help of distcc and an Athlon64 Dualcore. Compiletimes are no problem now ;)

I might try gnome after a long absence and normaly using kde on all my other boxes.

Many thanks to the developers and shame on you SGI for not helping with documentation.

7. achra - October 25, 2006

Hey, thanks for the vote of hope. I just picked up an old 195mhz 10k Octane with 512mb ram.. It came with 6.4 irix installed, and I have been at a complete loss as to what (if anything) to do with it.. My urge from the start was to get linux onto the thing, but for some reason, all of the SGI people I know were religious about not doing it! “It’s a heresy, linux barely works on it, etc, etc”.. This was a huge surprise to me, since all the SUN sysadmins I know promptly encouraged me to throw solaris out and go with linux on my Ultra 2..
I’d prefer to run Debian, cuz I’m a debian guy.. But the support (and documentation) is much better from gentoo, so I’ll give that a shot first.

Thanks again.

8. achra - October 26, 2006

Can anyone help me out with my tftp configuration? I’m getting a strange error after the Octane pulls down the .img
Send me an email: adam@jacobstribe.org

9. Carlo J Pisani - June 30, 2013

hi, what is the current status of the kernel for octane2 ? Any progress ? let me know, i have a brand new gentoo stage4 looking for a new kernel.

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