So I nabbed a 164LX Alpha board...

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So I nabbed a 164LX Alpha board...

Unread postby commodorejohn » Wed Feb 06, 2013 2:19 pm

I've been wanting to get an Alpha system for a while now, and I finally nabbed a 21164 + 164LX CPU/motherboard/RAM combo off eBay. Given that it's an ATX board with onboard IDE, that's most of the essentials right there and getting a case/PSU/drives is dead simple, but since I plan to make this a Win2k system, obviously I want video, and also networking. I'm assuming that they'll have to be Alpha-specific cards - or can the x86 emulation also work for PCI card BIOSes? (I doubt it, but I know very little about this.)

Also, is support for ISA cards anywhere near as broad as it is in x86 Win2k? I'd kinda like to put one of my AWE32 cards in there, though that's not essential.
Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73
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Re: So I nabbed a 164LX Alpha board...

Unread postby SAQ » Wed Feb 06, 2013 8:58 pm

Alphas will run any initialization routines that are in PC-sourced PCI cards, so they'll do anything a video card needs to be brought up and set up PCI bridges properly. Alpha's BIOS emulation does not extend to BIOS calls, so your cards will still need AXP drivers.

For versatility+ availability go with a Permedia2 or Trio64V+ (runs in all Alpha software, OpenVMS, Windows, Tru64(OSF/1, Digital UNIX)). For SCSI go with QLogic ISP1040 over 3C875 (better support under OVMS/Tru64).

I don't have much Alpha NT experience (yes, I brought it up once on a 2100, but it seemed very "so what" and I never followed up), but on other OSes processors under 21264/EV6 don't play well with Radeon 7000s (though this is driver-based, and it might work under Windows if they have Radeon drivers). My advice - check the HCL, but if you find a card that's a match (be careful with cards that have customized PCI IDs!) it'll run just fine if it came out of a PC.
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Re: So I nabbed a 164LX Alpha board...

Unread postby mia » Wed Feb 06, 2013 9:27 pm

very good choice, you can't go wrong with the 164lx.
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Re: So I nabbed a 164LX Alpha board...

Unread postby GL1zdA » Thu Feb 07, 2013 12:50 am

AWE32 should work, I have an AWE64 Gold in mine with SB drivers which came with NT 4.0 (I'm using NT 4.0, never tried 2000). I tried a PCI sound card based on ES1370 (similar to Sound Blaster 128), but it works OK only till the next reboot after driver installation (but this is a common problem, I think it's described in the AlphaBIOS release notes).

As for video. I don't know whether you can use NT 4.0 drivers with 2000, but I can tell you what works on NT 4.0. Permedia 2 is cheap and versatile (it will run the AXP version of Quake II - slow, a bit above 10 FPS at 640x480). Every Permedia 2 card I tried worked (ELSA GLoria Synergy, Diamond FireGL 1000 Pro) and you can mix it with any driver (ELSA/Diamond/Digital PowerStorm 4D10T). Old ELSA GLoria (3dlabs Glint based) cards also work - tried both GLoria XL and GLoria L. I have tried the PowerStorm 4D60T - a bit faster than the Permedia 2 in Quake II and supports high resolutions. I'm currently using the 4D51T, not as fast as the 4D60T but still nice. I have drivers for the PowerStorm 300/350, but I never tried them since I haven't acquired the cards. One hint: if you have, like me, several cards in your Alpha, they might only work well together when in specific PCI slots. I had to shuffle my cards several times to get the 4D60T working.

The 164LX is a great board, but since it's ATX be careful and remember to pull the plug and press the PowerOn button before you touch it.
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Re: So I nabbed a 164LX Alpha board...

Unread postby commodorejohn » Thu Feb 07, 2013 9:05 am

SAQ wrote:Alphas will run any initialization routines that are in PC-sourced PCI cards, so they'll do anything a video card needs to be brought up and set up PCI bridges properly. Alpha's BIOS emulation does not extend to BIOS calls, so your cards will still need AXP drivers.

My advice - check the HCL, but if you find a card that's a match (be careful with cards that have customized PCI IDs!) it'll run just fine if it came out of a PC.

Interesting. I'm still curious as to whether Win2k/Alpha comes with the kind of driver selection Win2k/x86 does, but that at least means that I can try out some of my own cards before buying new ones.

GL1zdA wrote:The 164LX is a great board, but since it's ATX be careful and remember to pull the plug and press the PowerOn button before you touch it.

Hmm. Unplugging is standard practice, of course, but I've never heard of pressing the power-on button before. Does that discharge capacitors, or what?
Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73
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Re: So I nabbed a 164LX Alpha board...

Unread postby GL1zdA » Thu Feb 07, 2013 1:06 pm

commodorejohn wrote:
GL1zdA wrote:The 164LX is a great board, but since it's ATX be careful and remember to pull the plug and press the PowerOn button before you touch it.

Hmm. Unplugging is standard practice, of course, but I've never heard of pressing the power-on button before. Does that discharge capacitors, or what?

Even if I unplug a board, if I press the power-on button the fans will spin sometimes for a moment, so I assume it discharges the capacitors.
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Re: So I nabbed a 164LX Alpha board...

Unread postby commodorejohn » Thu Feb 07, 2013 2:43 pm

Oh, also: do Alphas have the same expectation of 512-byte sectors on CD-ROM drives that my VAX does? Or did that get dropped when they added IDE support?
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Re: So I nabbed a 164LX Alpha board...

Unread postby commodorejohn » Fri Feb 15, 2013 1:11 pm

Okay, so it passes its memory test and boots into AlphaBIOS setup without issue, and it gets along fine with the video card I've got in there at the moment. I'm having trouble, though, because it does not seem to want to recognize the hard disk. It's the only IDE device attached, at the moment, and it's set to master so it shouldn't be the problem I've seen with some controllers not liking cable-select, but the BIOS reports no hard disks found. Is there a trick to this that I'm not aware of?
Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73
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Re: So I nabbed a 164LX Alpha board...

Unread postby GL1zdA » Fri Feb 15, 2013 1:41 pm

commodorejohn wrote:Okay, so it passes its memory test and boots into AlphaBIOS setup without issue, and it gets along fine with the video card I've got in there at the moment. I'm having trouble, though, because it does not seem to want to recognize the hard disk. It's the only IDE device attached, at the moment, and it's set to master so it shouldn't be the problem I've seen with some controllers not liking cable-select, but the BIOS reports no hard disks found. Is there a trick to this that I'm not aware of?

Have you tried attaching another IDE device? Even if it works, the IDE controller is very slow (it's the Saturn I/O chip - from 1992, it was meant to be used in 486 PCs). I never managed to install NT on a drive attached to the 164LXs onboard IDE - it always crashed during setup (while copying files), I really recommend a cheap SCSI card.
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Re: So I nabbed a 164LX Alpha board...

Unread postby commodorejohn » Fri Feb 15, 2013 1:50 pm

That bad, huh? Hmm. I have a couple PCI SCSI controllers, I'm not sure if they're in the HCL though.
Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73
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Re: So I nabbed a 164LX Alpha board...

Unread postby GL1zdA » Sat Feb 16, 2013 12:37 am

commodorejohn wrote:That bad, huh? Hmm. I have a couple PCI SCSI controllers, I'm not sure if they're in the HCL though.

Mine is a simple Symbios Logic 53C875. I'm pretty sure the extremely popular Adaptec 2940 will also work. There are also NT 3.51/4.0 Alpha drivers for the Promise ULTRA33 IDE controller. If any of your PCI SCSI controllers works, please report it here.
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Re: So I nabbed a 164LX Alpha board...

Unread postby SAQ » Sat Feb 16, 2013 8:47 am

GL1zdA wrote:
commodorejohn wrote:That bad, huh? Hmm. I have a couple PCI SCSI controllers, I'm not sure if they're in the HCL though.

Mine is a simple Symbios Logic 53C875. I'm pretty sure the extremely popular Adaptec 2940 will also work. There are also NT 3.51/4.0 Alpha drivers for the Promise ULTRA33 IDE controller. If any of your PCI SCSI controllers works, please report it here.


Get a QLogic ISP1040 if possible. The drivers in some DEC OSes are PCI ID locked to only work on DEC brand 53C875s, whereas any ISP1040 will work. Not a big deal for Windows, but a little planning ahead will make things easier when you get bored of AXPWin.
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Re: So I nabbed a 164LX Alpha board...

Unread postby commodorejohn » Sat Feb 16, 2013 10:28 am

Hmm. The controllers I have on hand are an Adaptec 29160N (doesn't seem to be in the HCL,) and an Adaptec 2930CU (is in there, but this specific card is from a PPC Mac - any idea if it would still work without the x86 BIOS emulation?) I may just have to nab one off eBay.
Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73
Synthesizers: Roland JX-10/SH-09/HS-80/MT-32/D-50, Yamaha DX7-II/V50/TX7/TG33/FB-01, Korg MS-20 Mini/ARP Odyssey/DW-8000/M1, Ensoniq SQ-80, E-mu Emax HD/Proteus-2, Casio CZ-5000, Moog Satellite, Sequential Circuits Prophet-600

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Re: So I nabbed a 164LX Alpha board...

Unread postby GL1zdA » Sat Feb 16, 2013 11:36 am

commodorejohn wrote:Hmm. The controllers I have on hand are an Adaptec 29160N (doesn't seem to be in the HCL,) and an Adaptec 2930CU (is in there, but this specific card is from a PPC Mac - any idea if it would still work without the x86 BIOS emulation?) I may just have to nab one off eBay.

I have tried the 19160, which is similar to your 29160N and AlphaBIOS did not detect it. You can try the 2930CU - Adaptec drivers seem to work with many of their adapters since they often share chipsets.
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Re: So I nabbed a 164LX Alpha board...

Unread postby joekster » Tue Feb 19, 2013 5:48 am

Alphabios will not work with adaptec u2w or higher. I *think* it will work with a 2940uw, and I know it will work with a 2940w. I have a 3940w (dual-channel 2940) available - pm me if interested.


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