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Installing Linux (Debian) on a Sun Fire v100

Just recently I became the proud owner of a Sun Fire v100 which now will replace my good ol‘ Sun Netra as my personal playground.
Since I have almost no experience with Sun’s own OS, Solaris, and heavily dislike Free BSD (mainly because it does some things different from Linux), I opted for Linux as my OS of choice, again.
The old Netra was powered by some Ubuntu version. However, as far as I can see, there’s no SPARC version of Ubuntu anymore. The next best thing is, of course Debian,
After finally getting the damn thing to boot off of the CD-Rom I inserted, installing Debian was a total no-brainer. Hit „Enter“ a couple of times and you’re done. Not.
During the installation process, the Debian installer mentioned that it couldn’t connect to the internet and, worse, not even get an IP address from the DHCP server. My first guess was: probably loaded the wrong drivers, will fix itself. No, it didn’t.
The Installation was now complete – still no network, still no connection to the internet.
„dmesg“ showed, that, at first, the network interfaces were recognized correctly (name and hardware address), later during the boot process, Debian seemed to somehow forget the devices and „ifconfig -a“ showed the two internal network devices with hardware addresses of 00:00:00:…

The solution: I was right. Debian really loads the „wrong“ drivers. Well, they are the correct drivers, actually, but they don’t work – and, as I learned from a colleague, never really worked.
The real solution was to get Debian to use the correct correct drivers, called tulip:

1. modprobe tulip
2. In /etc/modules add „Alias eth0 tulip“ and „Alias eth1 tulip“ (without the „)
3. Reboot (it still won’t work!)
4. add „blacklist dmfe“ (that’s the wrong driver) to /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist
5. Add „Alias dmfe tulip“ to /etc/modprobe.d/aliases

Now you’re almost done. „ifdown eth0 && ifup eth0“ should give you a network connection.

In some cases, however, -and sure enough mine was one of these- you also have to rebuild the initramfs. So if your Sun Fire v100, after a reboot, again has no network available, you should probably do an „update-initramfs -u -v“ and check that it does NOT include dmfe BUT tulip instead.

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