HOWTO: Upgrade a Cobalt RAQ3 to the RAQ550 OS

Introduction

This is a summary of the steps I've taken to upgrade a (quite battered) Cobalt RAQ3 server to the latest OS release, more for my own future reference than as a compreehensive setup guide.

DISCLAIMER: Following this procedure will invalidate your warranty. This is not a supported upgrade path, and if you decide to do this, you're on your own. There are reports of RAQ3s turned into "boat anchors" by this procedure, and the fact I got it working (so far) is not by any means a credible reference.

Files Needed:

  • cobalt.rom-2.9.34.img - the 2.9.34 ROM, needed for upgrading the RAQ3, available at Cobalt FAQs (get the .md5 as well and check the md5sum)
  • The flashrom utility, available at ftp-eng.cobalt.com/pub/users/thockin/old-2.4
  • The RAQ550 OS Restore CD, available as a downloadable ISO image from Sun Support

Other Ingredients

You will need a standalone PC that can boot from CD and has a supported NIC (the CD does not make any changes to your hard disk, and the whole process will run from CD). I used an old Toshiba laptop with a Xircom Realport, but other typical NICs are supported (sadly, the AMD Lance hardware emulated by VMware is not supported, so you have to use a "real" PC).

You'll also need an RJ-45 UTP cross-cable to connect your RAQ3 to your "server", and, of course, a blank CD-R on which to burn the ISO image.

Preparing the CD

Get the ISO, burn it with your favorite tool (Nero, cdrecord, Toast, etc.), and make sure your PC can boot from it. Connect the cross-over cable to another box and verify that the link lights are on and you can see traffic. After booting, the OS Restore CD transforms your "server" into a BOOTP/DHCP server to configure your RAQ3 and allow it to boot and install the OS from CD.

Preparing the RAQ3

Download the ROM file and the flashrom.sh script to your RAQ3, taking care to place flashtool someplace in your PATH (/bin is OK). Then do:

# ./flashrom.sh cobalt.rom-2.9.34.img
Backing up old ROM to 'rom-orig-2.3.0'... flashtool:
searching for PCI 10b9:7101 : found it at /proc/bus/pci/00/03.0
flashtool: systype = COBT_3K
flashtool: bank 0: Intel E28F008S5 1MB
flashtool: reading page 0
flashtool: reading page 1
flashtool: reading page 2
flashtool: reading page 3
flashtool: reading page 4
flashtool: reading page 5
flashtool: reading page 6
flashtool: reading page 7
flashtool: reading page 8
flashtool: reading page 9
flashtool: reading page 10
flashtool: reading page 11
flashtool: reading page 12
flashtool: reading page 13
flashtool: reading page 14
flashtool: reading page 15
flashtool: flushing buffers
done
Writing new ROM... flashtool:
searching for PCI 10b9:7101 : found it at /proc/bus/pci/00/03.0
flashtool: systype = COBT_3K
flashtool: bank 0: Intel E28F008S5 1MB
flashtool: writing page 0
flashtool: buffer page 0 does not exist - creating it
flashtool: writing page 1
flashtool: buffer page 1 does not exist - creating it
flashtool: writing page 2
flashtool: buffer page 2 does not exist - creating it
flashtool: writing page 3
flashtool: buffer page 3 does not exist - creating it
flashtool: writing page 4
flashtool: buffer page 4 does not exist - creating it
flashtool: writing page 5
flashtool: buffer page 5 does not exist - creating it
flashtool: writing page 6
flashtool: buffer page 6 does not exist - creating it
flashtool: writing page 7
flashtool: buffer page 7 does not exist - creating it
flashtool: writing page 8
flashtool: buffer page 8 does not exist - creating it
flashtool: writing page 9
flashtool: buffer page 9 does not exist - creating it
flashtool: writing page 10
flashtool: buffer page 10 does not exist - creating it
flashtool: writing page 11
flashtool: buffer page 11 does not exist - creating it
flashtool: writing page 12
flashtool: buffer page 12 does not exist - creating it
flashtool: writing page 13
flashtool: buffer page 13 does not exist - creating it
flashtool: writing page 14
flashtool: buffer page 14 does not exist - creating it
flashtool: writing page 15
flashtool: buffer page 15 does not exist - creating it
flashtool: flushing buffers
flashtool:   flushing block 0 to ROM... verifying...  done
flashtool:   flushing block 1 to ROM... verifying...  done
flashtool:   flushing block 2 to ROM... verifying...  done
flashtool:   flushing block 3 to ROM... verifying...  done
flashtool:   flushing block 4 to ROM... verifying...  done
flashtool:   flushing block 5 to ROM... verifying...  done
flashtool:   flushing block 6 to ROM... verifying...  done
flashtool:   flushing block 7 to ROM... verifying...  done
flashtool:   flushing block 8 to ROM... verifying...  done
flashtool:   flushing block 9 to ROM... verifying...  done
flashtool:   flushing block 10 to ROM... verifying...  done
flashtool:   flushing block 11 to ROM... verifying...  done
flashtool:   flushing block 12 to ROM... verifying...  done
flashtool:   flushing block 13 to ROM... verifying...  done
flashtool:   flushing block 14 to ROM... verifying...  done
flashtool:   flushing block 15 to ROM... verifying...  done
done
Verifying... flashtool:
searching for PCI 10b9:7101 : found it at /proc/bus/pci/00/03.0
flashtool: systype = COBT_3K
flashtool: bank 0: Intel E28F008S5 1MB
flashtool: reading page 0
flashtool: reading page 1
flashtool: reading page 2
flashtool: reading page 3
flashtool: reading page 4
flashtool: reading page 5
flashtool: reading page 6
flashtool: reading page 7
flashtool: reading page 8
flashtool: reading page 9
flashtool: reading page 10
flashtool: reading page 11
flashtool: reading page 12
flashtool: reading page 13
flashtool: reading page 14
flashtool: reading page 15
flashtool: flushing buffers
ROM update complete.  You should now reboot the system
#

If anything goes wrong at this point, you have a boat anchor.

Setting up

Now connect your "server" to the RAQ3, reboot it (power cycle if you must) and hold down the 'S' button (the OS Restore CD will prompt you for this, and explain how to force the RAQ3 to boot from the "network" you just set up).

The RAQ550 CD seems to be able to tolerate different RAID/disk configs, but I have no hard info on that.

You'll notice the spiffy new LCD animations, of course, and be forced to wait until the full 594 (or so) separate RPMs are copied across and installed. Once finished, the RAQ3 will prompt you to shut it down. It will reboot during restore and load a few OS Updates after the first reboot.

After doing a few of these (one RAQ4 and three RAQ3s), it became evident that some RAQ3 require you to enter the boot menu (hold down "S" after a power cycle) and force the NVRAM options to boot from disk:

+----------------+
|Select option:  |
|Configure boot  |
+----------------+

+----------------+
|Select default: |
|From disk       |
+----------------+

+----------------+
|Select default: |
|done            |
+----------------+

You're done.

Other Stuff

I found it was necessary to manually configure the RAQ550's IP address and telnet in to set up DNS and a hostname before Apache would start. After doing that and logging in to the Web interface, the usual set-up procedure ensued.

These instructions worked for me. There is no guarantee (express or implied) that they'll work for you, nor will I necessarily be able to help you if anything goes wrong. Also, bear in mind that the RAQ550 is a very different beast from the earlier models, so some things will be different (Qube3 owners will feel slightly more at home).

It is also possible to boot the RAQ550 OS inside VMware, provided you use a different kernel. I'll be setting up a minimal RedHat 8.0 VM and trying to bolt the RAQ550 RPMs on top. Saves a lot of trouble when you want to repackage software for it.