Problem with RMC on an XP900 immediately returning to COM port

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aperezbios
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Problem with RMC on an XP900 immediately returning to COM port

Unread postby aperezbios » Sat Sep 24, 2016 2:55 pm

I picked up an AlphaStation XP900 which I can't get to boot. It turns on, I get zero output on the serial console. I can get to RMC via the serial port, so it's not *totally* dead, but I'm completely unable to interact with the host via RMC due to the fact that it immediately exits back to the serial port (within milliseconds) after I engage it:

Is this a known problem, or am I doing something wrong with my serial terminal configuration?

Code: Select all

RMC>
Returning to COM port

RMC>
Returning to COM port

RMC>csd
Returning to COM port

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TruHobbyist
Posts: 26
Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2016 2:16 pm

Re: Problem with RMC on an XP900 immediately returning to COM port

Unread postby TruHobbyist » Sun Sep 25, 2016 4:17 am

Hello aperezbios!!!

I would suggest the following steps:

1. Check the cabling (null modem) and port (COM1)

2. Try alternate COM port (COM2). There is a SRM variable that actually allows this.

3. Just in case, after control is transferred to COM port, type the RMC escape sequence. There are 3 RMC operating modes, chances are your RMC is in the default "Snoop mode", thus tapping into the data flow for RMC escape sequences. This would give you a RMC prompt.

4. Check RMC is enabled on the motherboard. Open the "AlphaStation XP900 Console reference" attached below. Power down your system, unplug power cord and wait approx. 2 minutes. Then open the system as described in A.3 and locate the RMC jumper as depicted in Figure A-4 and see if it is enabled (pins 2 and 3 jumpered).

5. FSL (Fail-Safe Loader)
5.1 Download Firmware *.iso images from ftp://ftp.hp.com/pub/alphaserver/firmware/iso_images/

You're interested in the last two versions:

*V7.3 (latest) includes support for DS10 but I haven't found references to similar machines (DS10, DS10L, DS15 and XP900 are all the same architecture with more or less differences).
*V7.2 includes explicit support for XP900. Try this first if you don't want to do much experimenting.

5.2 Burn the *.iso to CD or read through the docs on how to create a floppy, :shock: , if you prefer that
5.3 Using the "Console reference" locate the 3 Switchpacks depicted in Figure A-4. Good, now read carefully:

Flip switch 8 (the last one) on the third switchpack (SW 3) to ON.

5.4 Reassemble your system, reconnect the power cable.
5.5 - Pray -
5.6 Power it up and if everything goes well, it will request a CD or floppy, :shock: , with the firmware images to reload it automatically with default settings.

If your system is not physically damaged, after reloading the firmware you should have normal access through COM1 and RMC (using RMC escape sequence).

Don't forget to repeat the above steps to flip the FSL switch (switch 8 ) on the third switchpack (SW 3) back to OFF. Otherwise it will prompt you to reload the firmware everytime you power up.

Hope this helps.


Kind regards,
Tru


Edited 25.09.2016 13:20: Added some info.
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urbancamo
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Re: Problem with RMC on an XP900 immediately returning to COM port

Unread postby urbancamo » Sun Sep 25, 2016 6:02 am

Wow, that's a comprehensive answer! Best of luck...
Image, VAXstation 4000/90 x2, VAXstation 4000/VLC x2, AlphaServer 1000A, DEC AXP 3000/600 (desktop), DEC AXP 3000/600 x2 (rackmount), DEC AXP 3000/800 (rackmount), AlphaServer 300 4/266, Sun Ultra 5, LA75, PP404, Juki 6100, Brother HR10

aperezbios
Posts: 64
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Location: San Francisco Bay Area Peninsula
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Re: Problem with RMC on an XP900 immediately returning to COM port

Unread postby aperezbios » Mon Sep 26, 2016 8:24 pm

TruHobbyist wrote:Hello aperezbios!!!

I would suggest the following steps:

1. Check the cabling (null modem) and port (COM1)

Yep, did that, and I use this null modem cable regularly to connect to other things serially, without issue.

TruHobbyist wrote:2. Try alternate COM port (COM2). There is a SRM variable that actually allows this.


This was the second thing I did. No response there.

TruHobbyist wrote:3. Just in case, after control is transferred to COM port, type the RMC escape sequence. There are 3 RMC operating modes, chances are your RMC is in the default "Snoop mode", thus tapping into the data flow for RMC escape sequences. This would give you a RMC prompt.


It does, at 9600 baud, but as I mentioned in my post, it immediately exits out of snoop mode, before I can type anything.

TruHobbyist wrote:4. Check RMC is enabled on the motherboard. Open the "AlphaStation XP900 Console reference" attached below. Power down your system, unplug power cord and wait approx. 2 minutes. Then open the system as described in A.3 and locate the RMC jumper as depicted in Figure A-4 and see if it is enabled (pins 2 and 3 jumpered).


I did this as well, previously, and I know the RMC is enabled, because I see it respond to the default escape sequence.

TruHobbyist wrote:5. FSL (Fail-Safe Loader)
5.1 Download Firmware *.iso images from ftp://ftp.hp.com/pub/alphaserver/firmware/iso_images/

You're interested in the last two versions:

*V7.3 (latest) includes support for DS10 but I haven't found references to similar machines (DS10, DS10L, DS15 and XP900 are all the same architecture with more or less differences).
*V7.2 includes explicit support for XP900. Try this first if you don't want to do much experimenting.

5.2 Burn the *.iso to CD or read through the docs on how to create a floppy, :shock: , if you prefer that
5.3 Using the "Console reference" locate the 3 Switchpacks depicted in Figure A-4. Good, now read carefully:

Flip switch 8 (the last one) on the third switchpack (SW 3) to ON.

5.4 Reassemble your system, reconnect the power cable.
5.5 - Pray -
5.6 Power it up and if everything goes well, it will request a CD or floppy, :shock: , with the firmware images to reload it automatically with default settings.

If your system is not physically damaged, after reloading the firmware you should have normal access through COM1 and RMC (using RMC escape sequence).

Don't forget to repeat the above steps to flip the FSL switch (switch 8 ) on the third switchpack (SW 3) back to OFF. Otherwise it will prompt you to reload the firmware everytime you power up.

Hope this helps.


Kind regards,
Tru


Edited 25.09.2016 13:20: Added some info.


Regardless of which position switch 8 of SW3 is in, or which ISO version I use (7.2/7.3) the second I turn the machine on, I see the system and CD-ROM access lights pulse indefinitely, and get no output on the serial console. Should I be seeing something?

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TruHobbyist
Posts: 26
Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2016 2:16 pm

Re: Problem with RMC on an XP900 immediately returning to COM port

Unread postby TruHobbyist » Tue Sep 27, 2016 3:57 am

Hi aperezbios!

First of all, switch the XP900 back to non-FSL mode (switch 8 on switchpack 3 to OFF) before proceeding.

Let's try something else:

1. Check SRM console variable. Some background: Alphastations (including workstations marketed models like XP900) were different in that they were shipped with a graphics card by default. This resulted in the SRM console variable to be set to "graphics" by default (there are only two modes: "graphics" and "serial").

In your original post you point to the serial console without mentioning if there is *now* a graphics card installed or not. There's a possibility of having grabbed an XP900 that had been working *with* a graphics card but got the card taken out when given to you and thus the SRM console variable is still set to "graphics".

Therefore, assuming this is the case and that your COM1 port is not damaged:

1.1 If there is no graphics card installed *and* you have a spare one (maybe you have more alphas and one has a graphics card), insert it into your XP900 and see if output appears on the screen.

1.2 If there is no graphics card installed *and* you have not a spare card, the console is displaying fine, but through a graphics card that does not exist. Attach a working keyboard to the XP900, power up, wait a reasonable time (30 seconds seem fine to me for the '>>>' prompt to show up), and type carefully and blindly:

set console serial[Enter]
init[Enter]

If this was the problem, you should see now the SRM prompt '>>>' on your terminal through COM1. You can also try to power cycle at this point if nothing shows up.

aperezbios wrote:Regardless of which position switch 8 of SW3 is in, or which ISO version I use (7.2/7.3) the second I turn the machine on, I see the system and CD-ROM access lights pulse indefinitely, and get no output on the serial console. Should I be seeing something?

My last post was not very explicit since I never owned a DS10 nor XP900 myself. Let's try a more detailed procedure:

2. FSL

2.1 Download the file ds10srm.rom from ftp://ftp.hp.com/pub/alphaserver/firmwa ... ease/DS10/

2.2 Format a 1.44MB floppy with a FAT filesystem

2.3 Copy ds10srm.rom to the floppy

2.4 Rename ds10srm.rom on the floppy to fwupdate.exe (yes: *.rom to *.exe)

2.5 Switch XP900 to FSL mode (switch 8 on switchpack 3 to ON)

2.6 Insert the floppy

2.7 Power up and wait a moment while it loads the firmware

It is necessary to stress the fact that the SRM console variable, by default, is set to "graphics" on a XP900. By reloading the firmware, default values get set and therefore the SRM console variable is set to "graphics" right now. If you have reached this far and still see nothing through the COM1 port, try *now* point 1.2 above.

Don't forget to switch back to non-FSL mode if the system works now.

Good luck!

Kind regards,
Tru


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