Octane Network Troubles

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jpstewart
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Octane Network Troubles

Unread postby jpstewart » Fri Dec 31, 2010 8:25 am

Just before Christmas I picked up an Octane off of eBay for $20 + shipping. It's not too bad: single 300MHz R12000 CPU, 512MB RAM, and SE graphics but what was really nice was that it had the latest 747W power supply, 1.4 XBow, and 030-1467 motherboard. Unfortunately it was absolutely filthy and it's network port seems non-functional.

The dead network out of the box made me wonder if some connection was dirty or something had come unseated. So I dismantled everything, cleaned the case and the insides (based on procedures described in these forums), and re-assembled everything. Still no network. So I don't think it's anything simple like the system module not being seated properly.

Of course before I even considered any of that, I made sure I had a known good network cable (tried several), known good port on the switch (again, tried several), and that the networking was properly configured under IRIX. ifconfig shows a proper (static) IP address for my home network and I can ping myself under IRIX. But there's no traffic to/from the rest of my network and no status lights on my switch (where I would expect two LEDs to indicate a 100Mbps, full-duplex connection). I wondered if the Octane was simply failing to auto-negotiate with my switch, so I tried forcing modes according to the instructions in the ethernet(7) man page. Again, ifconfig showed what looked right, but no switch lights and no connection to the outside world.

So I think I've ruled out all of the following:
  • unseated/dirty connectors
  • bad cables
  • bad switch
  • failed auto-negotiation
  • software mis-configuration

Can anybody else think of anything I should try? Or is it finally time to accept that the motherboard is faulty?
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Re: Octane Network Troubles

Unread postby foetz » Sat Jan 01, 2011 6:20 am

what did you check on the os side?

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Re: Octane Network Troubles

Unread postby jpstewart » Sat Jan 01, 2011 7:51 am

foetz wrote:what did you check on the os side?


The output of ifconfig showed the IP address that I'd set (and appropriate netmask) and also showed a valid MAC address (matching the one printed on the sticker on the back of the Octane). At the shell prompt I could ping the IP address that I'd set, too. So that confirms that IRIX is configured correctly, right? But I couldn't ping anything else on the network.

Is there something else I should have checked in IRIX? I had no trouble with either the built-in ethernet on my Indigo2 nor upgrading it to an E100 card. So I think I know what I'm doing here. But most of my networking experience (about 10 years worth) is with Linux & Windows systems so I could well be overlooking something that's obvious to somebody with more IRIX configuration experience.
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Re: Octane Network Troubles

Unread postby zski128 » Sat Jan 01, 2011 9:44 am

When you say "dead" you mean you get no link light on your switch or other device? If you can ping the IP address of the box from itself then networking sounds like it could be correct. I assume you are trying to ping devices on the same subnet so the default GW should not matter at this point.
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Re: Octane Network Troubles

Unread postby jpstewart » Sat Jan 01, 2011 11:31 am

zski128 wrote:When you say "dead" you mean you get no link light on your switch or other device?

Correct. No lights whatsoever on the switch.

zski128 wrote:If you can ping the IP address of the box from itself then networking sounds like it could be correct. I assume you are trying to ping devices on the same subnet so the default GW should not matter at this point.

Yes, I'm trying to ping (by IP address, not name yet) other devices on the same subnet. The Octane has address 192.168.10.7, netmask 255.255.255.0 and it cannot ping any of the other 192.168.10.xxx hosts on my home network: can't ping the Linux box I'm using to post this; can't ping the fileserver; can't ping the gateway router.

The following was hand-copied from the Octane so there might be typos (but I can't cut-and-paste to the forum without network access!):

Code: Select all

# ifconfig ef0
ef0: flags=5c43<UP,BROADCAST,RUNNING,FILTMULTI,MULTICAST,CKSUM,DRVRLOCK>
          inet 192.168.10.7 netmask 0xffffff00 broadcast 192.168.10.255

# ping 192.168.10.7
PING octane (192.168.10.7): 56 data bytes
64 bytes from 192.168.10.7: icmp_seq=0 ttl=255 time=0.185 ms
64 bytes from 192.168.10.7: icmp_seq=1 ttl=255 time=0.566 ms
64 bytes from 192.168.10.7: icmp_seq=2 ttl=255 time=0.456 ms

----octane PING Statistics----
3 packets transmitted, 3 packets received, 0.0% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max = 0.185/0.402/0.566 ms

# ping 192.168.10.6


Note that the last ping produced no output at all. 192.168.10.6 is the internal address of the machine I'm using to post this message.

It's looking more and more like a bad motherboard. I've had the Octane lock up completely on me a couple of times (including once while trying to gather info for this post). The first time that happened I thought it was a fluke. Now, I'm not so sure. I also noticed "WARNING: ef0: link fail - check ethernet cable" is printed during the boot process, despite having a known good cable in place. That, too, suggests a hardware failure rather than misconfiguration, I would think.
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Re: Octane Network Troubles

Unread postby SAQ » Sun Jan 02, 2011 3:08 pm

While the hard locks look like it might be something more involved, it might be a good idea to check the solder joints on the 8-pos modular jack. Connectors can often get smashed up against stuff, which puts strain on the joint and can lead to broken solder connections.
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Re: Octane Network Troubles

Unread postby japes » Sun Jan 02, 2011 11:14 pm

I wonder if something like the transformer could be bad on the network interface. But whatever caused that could have caused you other issues since you're seeing hard locks.

I had an older rev. motherboard that seemed to work, but the machine would crash, and graphics wouldn't come up sometimes, then eventually it just wouldn't start up, so you could be seeing a bad board too.

If you have the resources, I'd throw a blank drive in and try installing a fresh copy of IRIX. Probably won't help with the network problem, but might help with the crashing. Alternatively, like mine it might not manage to finish installing or booting to the installer and you can narrow down you hardware faults. I will say it seems the CPU from my bad machine seemed to survive (available on ebay).

Nice deal had it worked a little better. Too bad the value of the Octane's has slid so far. I'm trying to lessen my collection and have one I need to sell, was hoping for a little more than $20.
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Re: Octane Network Troubles

Unread postby jpstewart » Mon Jan 03, 2011 8:05 am

SAQ wrote:it might be a good idea to check the solder joints on the 8-pos modular jack

Great tip, thanks SAQ! I don't see anything obviously broken, though. The modular jack is pretty solidly attached to the motherboard, AFAICT.

japes wrote:I had an older rev. motherboard that seemed to work, but the machine would crash, and graphics wouldn't come up sometimes, then eventually it just wouldn't start up

That description sounds all too familiar and it doesn't bode well for my board!

japes wrote:If you have the resources, I'd throw a blank drive in and try installing a fresh copy of IRIX.

I don't have IRIX media handy, so I can't. The hard drive was sourced separately from the rest of the machine but had a fresh install of 6.5.23 on it. It came from a seller who seemed to know his SGI gear. (It was identical to this eBay auction.) So I've got no reason to suspect that it's a bad installation.

I've started looking for a replacement motherboard. There are some on eBay and Ian has a couple at very nice prices on eBid (but shipping across the pond is a killer), so at least I've got options. It's probably easiest at this point to just try replacing the system module and see what happens.

japes wrote:Nice deal had it worked a little better. Too bad the value of the Octane's has slid so far. I'm trying to lessen my collection and have one I need to sell, was hoping for a little more than $20.

I still think it was a pretty nice deal. $20 + shipping for an Octane chassis, 747W Cherokee power supply, frontplane with XBow 1.4, SE graphics board, and 512 MB RAM is still very good from a buyer's perspective! So even if my motherboard is dead, I'm convinced I got a very nice deal indeed. I suspect I only got such a good deal because that auction ended about 10 days before Christmas when everyone was pre-occupied with holiday stuff. I wouldn't take it as a sign that all Octane values have slid that low. In fact, I expect I'll have to pay more just for a replacement motherboard than the $20 I spent on this whole system!
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Re: Octane Network Troubles

Unread postby jpstewart » Thu Feb 03, 2011 12:54 pm

Well, since the consensus here was that the problem was hardware-related, I went ahead and bought a new motherboard. (I found an eBay auction that also included a dual 250 Mhz CPU module---and I really wanted my Octane to be a dually---and some RAM with a motherboard.) The new (to me) motherboard causes an endless stream of errors to be printed:

Code: Select all

alert: ef0: tx SSRAM hardware parity error

That looks to be a different hardware problem with networking. (Especially in light of this thread.)

But I can't help wondering if the problem is me. I don't think I've done anything to kill two motherboards. I don't see any bent/damaged connectors on either motherboard or the frontplane or anything like that.

So which do you think is more likely: that I've gotten two bad boards from two different eBay sellers or that I've killed two boards? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

My third attempt at getting this working will likely involve buying a motherboard from Ian Mapleson. If one of his boards fails, then I guess I'll know that I'm the problem. But that's going to have to wait a while. I've got some other expenses coming up this month and next. Shipping across the Atlantic is a lot more expensive than shipping around Canada and the U.S. Add that to the fact that Ian's got so much great stuff, and I'll likely end up ordering several items from him at once and really, really blowing my budget. :D So that must wait. :(
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Re: Octane Network Troubles

Unread postby SAQ » Thu Feb 03, 2011 4:03 pm

Find someone with an Octane and try things out - you might have a bad frontplane. As odd as it sounds the obio of the Octane still has to go off-board through the XBow and back (out the top and in the bottom connector), and if two supposedly working boards have problems then I'd start to look at the frontplane.

Did you disassemble it and see if there is a ventilation problem on the XBow? It's behind the part that looks like it should be a speaker, and you do need to pretty much completely disassemble the machine. It's about the only chip on SGIs that is cooled by one of those irritatinly easy to kill single-chip fan/heatsink deals so popular in the PC sphere.
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Re: Octane Network Troubles

Unread postby jpstewart » Sat Feb 05, 2011 7:58 am

SAQ wrote:Did you disassemble it and see if there is a ventilation problem on the XBow? It's behind the part that looks like it should be a speaker, and you do need to pretty much completely disassemble the machine. It's about the only chip on SGIs that is cooled by one of those irritatinly easy to kill single-chip fan/heatsink deals so popular in the PC sphere.

I had not disassembled it that far previously. I had the frontplane assembly out when I cleaned the case, but I didn't remove the circuit board from the metal carrier so I had not seen the heatsink/fan combination you mentioned. Based on your suggestion I removed the frontplane assembly again, and took off the circuit board to clean and inspect the fan. There doesn't seem to be any problem with it. It wasn't too dusty and certainly spun freely.

But that exercise has led to two new questions:

1) The system board and the XIO assembly are both extremely difficult to seat properly. I've found the only way to get them in is to remove the front skin of the Octane and lay it face down so that I can insert those assemblies vertically. Trying to insert them with the Octane in its natural position causes them to bind/catch on something about 1/8 inch before they're fully inserted. Is this normal? Or is it indicative of some minor mis-alignment (which in turn could have damaged some of the connectors)?

2) The four large "pins" on the frontplane circuit board where it attaches to the power supply are badly dis-coloured at their base. I'm not sure if they are charred or corroded or normal for these machines. The bottom portion of each pin is dark brown and black while the rest of the shafts and their tips are gleaming silver. Even the back sides of the pins (on the other side of the circuit board) are very dark brown.

The case also shows some damage as if somebody was trying to pry off the skins with a screwdriver or knife. That alone suggests that the system was mis-treated before I got it, so who knows what else might be wrong with it.

For now, I guess I'll have to live without networking on my Octane. I may try another motherboard and/or frontplane in a couple of months. Or I might add an MENET XIO board (or something in a PCI cardcage if I find one cheap) and not worry about the onboard network port.

Thanks to everyone who has offered advice so far!
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