OpenBSD Journal

OpenBSD/mvme88k snapshot available again

Contributed by jose on from the a-mighty-platform-returns dept.

Martin Reindl writes: "Some might remember, a long time ago, in the times of OpenBSD 2.4, a functional port of OpenBSD/mvme88k ( ) was available on the ftps. Due to compiler issues there were no further releases, but Miod Vallat now added support for the Motorola 88k to gcc 2.95.3 and brought the port in shape again. This means a snapshot of the mvme88k port ( ) is available again on the ftps. For the lucky owners of such rare hardware this is a great chance to get the dust off again and try out what will maybe become the 11th supported platform for 3.4! Thanks Miod."

Very cool, always nice to see OpenBSD growing into more platforms. Anyone have any successes with this platform to report to us?

(Comments are closed)

  1. By Anonymous Coward () on

    Very nice, but WHO is using this platform?
    How much do they cost? Any links?

    1. By Motley Fool () on*&ht=1&sosortproperty=1&from=R10&BasicSearch= <br> <br> this search on eBay yields some info

    2. By Motley Fool () on*&ht=1&sosortproperty=1&from=R10&BasicSearch=

      this search on eBay yields some info

    3. By Motley Fool () on*&ht=1&sosortproperty=1&from=R10&BasicSearch= this search on eBay yields some info

    4. By Luke Th. Bullock () lucc a on mailto:lucc a

      I use the m88k, and have two at home, one Dolphin System 100 and one Dolphin System 300. FWIW, these
      computers are designet for stability and numbercrunching, the System 300 alone has 1xM88100
      CPU, 4xM88200MMU and a CP (M68020) for each I/O board.

      More info:


      1. By Anonymous Coward () on

        > these computers are designet for stability
        > and numbercrunching

        Perdon me, but numbercrunching @ 25Mhz, I don't buy it. Today's desktop is clocked @ 3Ghz, now that's what I call a numbercruncher.

        1. By Martin Reindl () on

          Maybe it only does numbercrunching at 25Mhz, but it does it with style and efficiency, and not braindead register and interrupt design.

        2. By Anonymous Coward () on

          yeah so? You don't say a 680x0 25 mHz is less good in numbercrunching then a 300 mHz Alpha is less good then a 600 mHz PPC which is less good then a 1 gHz x86.

          Hz doesn't say hell of a lot, and just comparing 25 mHz ...

    5. By Anonymous Coward () on

      I also own several MVME88k boards, and had them run under some kind of OpenBSD for some time while switching to/from SysV/88k now and then.

      They're just nice SBCs, very interesting systems with one of the sleekest RISC CPUs (88100/110).

      More lame info, though somewhat incomplete: .

      As said before, these systems are available from time to time on Ebay, esp. MVME197LE, and sometimes even for free at your local dumpster.

  2. By Anonymous Coward () on

    What are the advantages of such platform over a 3Ghz x86 compatible or sparc II/III?

    What I'd like to know, if that do ppl really use it, if yes, what for? it's 25Mhz, is there any possible commercial use or it's just for fun?

    1. By Anonymous Coward () on

      > What are the advantages of such platform over a 3Ghz x86 compatible or sparc II/III?

      What are the advantages of a Model-T over a 2003 Ferrari or Rolls Royce?

      > it's 25Mhz, is there any possible commercial use or it's just for fun?

      You could say the same thing about VAX, m68K, et al.

      1. By Anonymous Coward () on

        >> it's 25Mhz, is there any possible commercial use or it's just for fun?

        >You could say the same thing about VAX, m68K, et al.

        And it would still be relevant: is there any practical, _real_ (non-just-for-fun) use for this system?

        1. By Anonymous Coward () on

          real usage:
          mail server
          nfs boot server
          log server
          etc etc etc.

          I don't have those excotic platforms :( but I do use a 25 Mhz machine as bridge

          1. By Anonymous Coward () on

            I don't think I can downgrade my company's bridge/firewall to a 25Mhz server just for fun. May be in trouble for that.

            I'm not absolutely sure it'll handle the load...

            1. By Hairy Troll () on

              Same reason I do not try to upgrade (thinner core==thinner ice)

            2. By Anonymous Coward () on

              The number of mHz does not say hell of a lot. It doesn't even say hell of a lot when _ONLY+ talking about x86. When you say you have 1 gHz computer it would be awesome when it was a Mac. It would be kinda cool when it was an Athlon. It would be a bit les cool when it was a P3 and it would be a lot less cool when it was a a Duron.

              So wtf does 25 mHz say. Hmm, let's see. Amiga, x86, Mac... etc. etc. and you compare those all regarding the _mHz_? LMFAO only hardware noobs do that.

              OTOH i don't think such a bridge would receive much load.

            3. By Anonymous Coward () on

              The load is no problem at all.
              Just remember to put in enuf RAM for all the state tables.

              And besides that, if I find an ancient 386 in the basement I will try to setup that as bridging firewall. That way I can use my 25 Mhz pc as DNS server of spamassassin box.

        2. By Jadipai () on

          This is for people with too much free time.

          1. By Anonymous Coward () on

            It's like NetBSD/pdp11... I don't know.

          2. By Anonymous Coward () on

            x86 is for people who do not like *stable* nor *good* hardware.

            *yells*, your turn...

        3. By grey () on

          Well, while I know that Miod has a penchant for Big Iron and other vintage hardware - if nothing else, supporting additional architectures can help to unveil bugs that affect all architectures. So there's one potential real use for supporting a less popular platform.

          That said, I think most users would probably get more day to day benefits from the upcoming AMD64 (x86-64) support - which will likely entail migration to a newer version of gcc & adding propolice along with that as well. Some architectures are kept around mostly I think for developer bemusement, and there's really nothing at all wrong with that.

          1. By Anonymous Coward () on

            Any release date on x86-64?

            1. By grey () on

              I've not heard a date... though sentiments seem to point to after 3.4 at the earliest. There has been work at c2k3 and some since, but I think a native port is still a ways away. I've heard (but cannot verify) that it runs i386 just fine, and at least one would expect that to be the case.

              Reason would dictate that after the fall release of the consumer versions, more developers will be able to get their hands on gear and native porting efforts might get some more widespread support. Whether that pans out is largely up to the developers; though I'd wager that donations of appropriate hardware would help things along. :)

              1. By Brad () brad at dot com on mailto:brad at dot com

                No, OpenBSD/i386 will not run on AMD64 systems at the moment.

                1. By Anonymous Coward () on


                2. By henning () on

                  eh, well, OpenBSD/i386 didn't work on the amd64 demo systems we got, but that wasn't due to amd64 but due to some unsupported hardware in there.

            2. By henning () on

              amd64 will probably be a supported platform as of OpenBSD 3.5.
              We need a newer gcc for that first. We cannot drop 2.95.3 entirely due to the older platforms that are really badly supported in gcc3, so there will be both versions in the tree as it looks like.
              getting gcc3 into shape (propolice beeing the main point) is one of the major tasks for 3.4-current.

        4. By Jeffrey () on

          yes indeed.
          one can use low spec machines such as this as xterminals, NIS servers, NTP servers, backup servers (provided sufficient disk space), teminals (top, log tail, + user shell)

      2. By Chris () on

        What are the advantages of a Model-T over a 2003 Ferrari or Rolls Royce?

        An embedded processor like the later Motorola '000 chips is nothing like a Model T Ford. If we have to use the abysmal car analogies, then the Motorola 88k is more like a Ford Ka or Honda Civic. Perfect for what they are designed for (low power consumption, high reliabilty, modest price).

        Yes, a Ferrari is like a 3Ghz Pentium PC - innefficient design, high power consumption, unreliable with a low mean time between failure. Might have nice case though if you into penis extensions.


        1. By Anonymous Coward () on

          how you come to the conclusion 88k chips are embedded processors?

          modest price/low power consumption in our days - maybe, i.e. compared to state of the art CPUs with a clock frequency almost 10x as high.

          in their days (around 1990) i don't think they really had a modest price or a low power consumption in any case.

          really weird comparison you made.

          1. By Anonymous Coward () on

            Just remember that clock crystal has capability of generating such a high frequency long time ago, simply hardware makers had to make efficient IO core instead of rising 10 times half of cpu core's frequency and adding inexpensive cache for other half

          2. By Chris () on

            how you come to the conclusion 88k chips are embedded processors?

            Because I was generalising about the Motorola m[68]8k processors. They may have been desktop and server processors once upon a time, but Motorola have shifted far more for use in the embedded market. It's just a shame that the m88k was pulled in favour of the m68k for embedded stuff.

            in their days (around 1990)

            I'm pretty sure they were still shipping them in the mid-nineties for use on all-in-one boards.


    2. By tim () on

      Considering the number of serial ports on the machine, I'm sure it would make an excellent out-of-band network management device.

      Nevertheless, additional ports are always healthy for an OS.

  3. By Anonymous Coward () on

    Nice little boxes, I wish I had one (dozen).

  4. By Miod Vallat () on

    Wow. I would not have expected so many posts... here's a loose attempt to answer everyone's questions.

    Why does this port exist? This port exists because it can. People in the past (Nivas Madhur, Dale Rahn and Steve Murphree, Jr.) just _cared_ enough about this hardware to work on an OpenBSD port to this architecture. Of course it serves no mirific feature. It's just _hack value_.

    What did this port bring to OpenBSD? Well, I can not answer for the other persons involved, but this brought me a hell lot of knowledge about gcc internals, which will be (and has been) handy to help diagnose compiler problems or devise workarounds or fixes. And an ever-improving knowledge of the kernel code.

    Why are people staring at the mention of 25MHz? I honestly don't know. My main mvme88k development machine runs at 33MHz... (-:

    What can be done with such a slow machine? Lots of things. Lots. Network status test. Local name server. Small file server. Mail server. Whatever. Although the speed of the average hardware has grown uncanny over the last few years, old machines can still catch up with reasonable tasks as long as they run a lightweight operating system, such as OpenBSD.

    What where these machines used for? Anything. Although their VME background makes them preferred for real-time systems and robotics, they ran SysV/m88k by default, and are general-purpose Unix systems. While I got all my mvme88k boards from Germany or Netherlands, I am aware of people using such boards in Russia and USA, for instance.

    How stable is that snapshot? Pretty bad, I'll confess. This first snapshot was a proof of concept, mainly to prove that all this gcc work was paying off. It has two evil killer bugs I won't mention here (because the I know the few mvme88k users around here and we have been in touch about this) which prevents this snapshot form being used for any serious work. As I write this, I just commited a workaround for one of them, and I hope to fix the remaining one soon. But this does not matter anyway - see "hack value" above...

    1. By Luke () lucc a on

      Nice input. Got me thinking about the history of my
      two Dolphins. The System100 was actually running Oracle for m88k at a townhall here in Norway. Even with it's 16MB of Ram it managed to serve the entire
      comunity. It was given to me after I replaced it with a Compaq server, that in fact caused woe and
      despair due to the fact that it was SLOWER in handling requests than the m88k! We had Oracle come in and tune the database, and also some technicians
      from Compaq to check the new server. At the time, one of my trainees took over the project and seemed
      to solve the problem (faulty harware, wrong clock settings from the factory, other stuff I no longer recall). This is the only Compaq server I ever worked on, so I do not claim much knowledge about them, but I DO know, they missed the m88k after I took it with me. Another thing worth mentioning is that both my models have a default of no less than 3 inet interfaces, mainly because the data was meant to travel on a protected and secure channel
      (welfare offices, social security, medical senters, government plans..). About OpenBSD, my interest in running OpenBSD on these machines is the opportunity of running a modern OS with all the benefits that includes on an anicent dinosaur..
      Pretty neat if you ask me :-)
      Just my 2c.. /Luke

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