A Guide to Sun Hardware for NextStep, Part 2

Started by crimsonRE, March 29, 2006, 02:54:56 PM

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OK, here are the next two topics: framebuffers and monitors. If there are any additions or corrections you come across, PM me!

Graphics (framebuffer) boards
Multiple framebuffers/monitors are supported (I've never tried it
so don't know how the NS 3.3 GUI handles it). The NeXT Hardware
Compatibility Guide only mentions resolutions of 1152x900, and
that's as high as my monitor goes, so I don't know if any of the
many other resolutions that these framebuffers support work.
Since I wanted maximum flexibility when I installed NS 3.3 on one
of my SS20's, I believe I installed all the available graphics
drivers. Running /NextAdmin/Configure.app and choosing the monitor
icon (for 'Display Devices'), I get the following list: 'Sun xxx
Graphics Subsytem (v1.0)' where xxx=FSV,GX,S24,SX

So I believe the following is true:

Works with the LEGO 8-bit color Sbus graphics boards: GX, GX+,TGX,TGX+.
 Many (if not most) SS 4,5,10,20 boxes will come with one of these
 as the graphics board. Quite adequate performance, extremely
 popular back in the day, and very cheap on eBay (~$5US on eBay).
 These have a 32-bit wide data path so no advantage putting one
 into an SS20 (whose SBus implementation is 64-bit wide) over any
 of the other machines; of course, with 8bpp only 1/3 as much data
 needs to be pushed out as compared to the CG14 & S24.

SX (CG14) onboard the SS20 and SS10SX (this last is pretty rare),
 is the fastest graphics for these Suns for which NextStep has a
 driver - cool in that it uses main RAM for graphics, to which it
 has direct access (it's part of the memory controller so
 300-350MB/s burst, 120MB/s sustained);it's also 24-bit color,
 which is very nice. Note that they require a specific VSIMM which
 uses one of the RAM slots
 (not much of a limitation since these machines have 8 slots,
 which leaves you with 7x64MB=448MB possible):
 For SS20, Sun part number 501-2481 is the 4MB (1152x900 res) and
 501-2482 is the 8MB version (1280x1024 res, under Solaris, at least).
 For SS10SX, I see other VSIMM part numbers (though the above ones
 may work): 501-2306 is the 4MB and 501-2342 is the 8MB.

S24 (TCX): for the SPARCstation 5 only, it is a separate board (Sun PN
 501-2337) that goes into the AFX slot, nice 24-bit color with good
 performance (better than under Solaris - NextStep's DPS rendering is
 very optimized compared to Sun's X11 server). Has 2bpp for disting-
 uishing between display visual so can display 8-bit & 24-bit visuals
 simultaneously. 180MB/s bandwidth, sustained would be quite a bit less.

FSV (TCX): Fast SBus Video, this is the TCX version onboard the SS4;
 8-bit color only, 1152x900; a 1MB VSIMM (501-2576) can be added to allow
 1280x1024. However, according to a NeXTanswers FAQ (now found
) NS won't boot with the VSIMM installed.

ZX & TurboZX (Leo) graphics boards do NOT work (I tried); too bad
since it was a decent board back in the day, designed for 3-D work.

Note that none of the oldest and most basic SBus framebuffers like
the MG1, MG2, and BW2 monochrome boards and the CG3 color board
are mentioned in the 'SPARC Hardware Compatibility Guide' in
NeXTanswers. There is a USENET post from Allen Braunsdorf saying
that he did an 11-byte patch of the GX driver to make the CG3 board
work, and would be putting the driver 'into the archives'. I haven't
looked for it, but hopefully it's somewhere in PEAK NeXT ftp site
(mirrored at blackcube.org & next.68k.org).
Perhaps the same might be done for the TC, an old, old 24-bit color
framebuffer, who knows...
The GS 24-bit color framebuffer is a triple-wide SBus board so
obviously isn't supported since it can't even fit in any of the
supported SPARCstations (only fits in the SS1,1+, and 2).
I very much doubt that any other of the framebuffers made by 3rd
parties (VITec/Connectware/VisiCom, Evans & Sutherland, Fujitsu,
Parallax, Aries, Integrix, or Southland Media) will work.

WWW Resources: Search on http://docs.sun.com

A couple of important restrictions:
- Sun framebuffers output composite sync, e.g. the horizontal and
vertical sync signals are both on one pin, unlike PeeCee gfx boards
which output separate sync. So you'll need to refer to your monitor's
reference manual (you do have it, right?) to see if it'll accept
this. Many monitors built in the past 5 or 6 years, particularly
higher-end models, will do so.
- Must be able to do at least a resolution of 1152x900, which
requires a horizontal scan freq. of at least 62kHz (dig out that
manual again...) The framebuffers can output 1024x768 but I don't
know how you'd go about setting the resolution of NextStep's display
- Must have a refresh rate of at least 66Hz.
- The framebuffers use a 13W3 connector (higher quality than the
HD15 of the analog PeeCee world because the RGB signals are carried
on coax) so you'll need to find an adapter if your monitor uses
HD15. A number of vendors sell these, including the folks who run
the websites mentioned below. I can't personally recommend any
specific adapters since I use an actual Sun monitor (an ancient
one - 1989! - built by Hitachi).

WWW Resources:
The following 2 sites have databases of the main specs. for many
CRTs, as well as selling adapters (though they're typically thinking
of how to use a Sun, SGI, etc. monitor on a PC):
If your monitor came with your computer manufacturer's name on it,
you may need track down who actually made your CRT and look for it
under that name if you can't find it at first in one of the db's. That
info will often be on a nameplate on the rear of the monitor.