Maintaining Hardware / fesability of keeping hardware running

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Krokodil
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Re: Maintaining Hardware / fesability of keeping hardware running

Unread postby Krokodil » Sat Jan 20, 2018 11:59 pm

Dodoid wrote:Not every SGI will survive for forever, but if it's honestly something we care about (and I have every indication that we do), we certainly have the skills, knowledge, and technology to keep a lot of units of a lot of models of SGIs running for a lot of years into the future.


Nothing is forever. Especially old computers and SGI systems in particular. It's the sad reality of the world we live in. There will never be a way to produce new power supplies, boards, or updates to IRIX. Once all the parts out there are dead, that's it.

Eventually all things go.

Just the same way that a place I used to go often as a kid, closed down because the owner got old and sick. When I was a child (an actual child), I could never have imagined it would ever close down, let alone that it would go to complete shambles and years later witness its complete destruction by developers, with little to show to that it was ever there.
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Re: Maintaining Hardware / fesability of keeping hardware running

Unread postby Irinikus » Sun Jan 21, 2018 12:09 am

Krokodil wrote:
Dodoid wrote:Not every SGI will survive for forever, but if it's honestly something we care about (and I have every indication that we do), we certainly have the skills, knowledge, and technology to keep a lot of units of a lot of models of SGIs running for a lot of years into the future.


Nothing is forever. Especially old computers and SGI systems in particular. It's the sad reality of the world we live in. There will never be a way to produce new power supplies, boards, or updates to IRIX.

Eventually all things go.

Just the same way that a place I used to go often as a kid, closed down. When I was a child (an actual child), I could never have imagined it would ever close down, let alone that it would go to complete shambles and years later be destroyed by developers, with little to show to that it was ever there.


It's very sad but true.

Recapping power supplies before they actually blow will probably go a long way to helping these machines to run long into the future. As power supplies seem to be the components that mainly tend to fail.
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Re: Maintaining Hardware / fesability of keeping hardware running

Unread postby Daniel80486 » Sun Jan 21, 2018 2:41 pm

opcode wrote:I just popped my 4th Indigo power supply. I have been fortunate that Indigo and old Indigo hard drives (the big ones from back in the day) have been the only hardware I have had trouble with. Is the Indigo power supply difficult to recap/refurb?


If you haven't seen it, I repaired one a few months ago:

http://forums.nekochan.net/viewtopic.php?t=16731963
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Re: Maintaining Hardware / fesability of keeping hardware running

Unread postby 55cancri » Wed Jan 31, 2018 11:18 am

Can it be useful to scan entire SGI boards with Xrays?

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Re: Maintaining Hardware / fesability of keeping hardware running

Unread postby Dodoid » Wed Jan 31, 2018 11:52 am

I think so, if it would show the traces well. Not sure how hi-res Xray gear you are talking about. I don't know how clearly traces show up on xray (as in, how does their ability to block the radiation compare to that of the fiberglass PCB), or how you would separate the board layers so that you could see where traces connected and where they just crossed on different layers, but if you could solve those problems it would be useful I think. I recently completely mapped out the traces of a simple SGI board using a combination of datasheets, a bright light, and a multimeter in continuity test mode, but I only worked on a small, relatively simple PCB and it took days. I can't imagine doing that for, say, one of my Onyx or Origin2000 boards.
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Re: Maintaining Hardware / fesability of keeping hardware running

Unread postby robespierre » Wed Jan 31, 2018 5:00 pm

You need fairly high energy X-rays to see copper traces clearly (30kV or above; 80kV even better). Copper atoms cross section is a lot more than epoxy or glass. The advantage is that you can image very small traces or bond wires: down to a hundredth of a mm should be possible with the right equipment.
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Re: Maintaining Hardware / fesability of keeping hardware running

Unread postby marshallh » Wed Jan 31, 2018 9:25 pm

Basically, Xray doesn't work for high count multilayer boards, espeically ones with flood files or split planes (so, all of them). SGI is notorious for being incredibly lazy with their PCB layout, their approach is just to breakout everything to vias and let the autorouter rip. Which is actually a very good method in their defense, considering cost was not a factor. Typical SGI boards range from 8 to 24 layers. Even the Tezro serial port breakout board has a controlled impedance test strip/TDR coupon. They just didn't care and had other things to worry about.

Unforunately this makes reversing super difficult as the best approach now becomes "remove all the parts and hand sand the entire pcb a layer at a time". Some folks in China can do this a little more cost effectively. You get a netlist at the end, but parts are still a problem.

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Re: Maintaining Hardware / fesability of keeping hardware running

Unread postby Geoman » Thu Apr 19, 2018 11:58 am

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retrocomputing

Retrocomputing often starts when a computer user realizes that formerly expensive fantasy systems like IBM mainframes, Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) superminis, or Silicon Graphics (SGI), even NeXT Computer System workstations have become affordable on the used computer market, usually in a relatively short time after the computers' era of use.


I cannot find the source, but there was the story about an Indigo that has been immured in a building. The IT guys of that company could't find the computer, which served as a a mail server for over a decade.
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Re: Maintaining Hardware / fesability of keeping hardware running

Unread postby Dodoid » Thu Apr 19, 2018 1:00 pm

I've heard the same with regards to an Onyx rack that nobody wanted to move, though I do like the idea of a RUNNING system being left in a wall somewhere.
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Re: Maintaining Hardware / fesability of keeping hardware running

Unread postby hamei » Fri Apr 20, 2018 6:18 am

marshallh wrote:Unforunately this makes reversing super difficult as the best approach now becomes "remove all the parts and hand sand the entire pcb a layer at a time". Some folks in China can do this a little more cost effectively. You get a netlist at the end, but parts are still a problem.

If you have one to sacrifice, that's easy and cheap. Surface grinder. Drop it in, take off a thou, take a photo. Repeat, repeat. Surface grinders are automatic, start at one edge and work all the way across all by themselves. Then photo, infeed another thou, push go button again. You could even jack it up to .002" if you didn't want to be so picky. If you had an nc one you could even program the thing complete.

That's no help with the components but the board itself is nothing.

@Geoman - that story was around for OS/2 before Indigos even existed. I don't think it's true, either ;)
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Re: Maintaining Hardware / fesability of keeping hardware running

Unread postby MrBill » Sat Apr 21, 2018 7:32 pm

I actually picked up a wafer inspection microscope at intersil the other day... Anyone got some horribly broken boards for the cost of shipping?

microscope.jpg
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Re: Maintaining Hardware / fesability of keeping hardware running

Unread postby MrBill » Sat Apr 21, 2018 7:42 pm

I just logged back in for the first time in a while and am surprised to see this thread still going. I was quite upset when i had started this thread, as i had just bought some expensive sgi equipment that was not working properly.I have since gotten things into a partially working condition and have calmed down. I learned about the visual 6502 project, where they reverse engineered the 6502 cpu from the commodore 64 and made a live model you can look at in real time or single step through in your web browser. I am curious if my microscope has enough zoom to see any of the chips off an sgi board. Im certainly not going to be able to reverse engineer anything useful, but if someone has a couple of horribly mangled boards with interesting sgi chips on them, i might want then to try and hack apart and practice on. I have been able to get some clear images of damaged eeproms and intel 486's, however i am assuming the chips off a sgi board would be much smaller and too small for me to zoom in on.
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Re: Maintaining Hardware / fesability of keeping hardware running

Unread postby Jack Luminous » Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:22 am

I'm not worried about maintaining old hardware for years to come. I have some experience in old synths/guitar amps etc. I have a big collection. There's at least three machines broken at anytime, while about a hundred are working fine. Sometimes it takes months to find the right part for the repair (or a recreation of it) but it always comes through. Of course, it's getting more and more expensive and complicated as time goes by but it's always doable. Arguably, SGI computers are much more complicated than old analog synths but still, there is a huge number of available spare parts and also a huge number of entire machines.
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