NetBSD/sparc64 Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

X Setup

Other sources of information

More general sources of information

General Questions

How do I netboot NetBSD/sparc64?

See the Diskless NetBSD HOW-TO.

Can I boot from a CDROM?

Yes. There are ISO images available at:

After burning an ISO to a CD, you can boot it with

boot cdrom

How do I drop into DDB?

Since this is a SPARC we attempt to honor L1-A or STOP-A from the keyboard and BREAK from a serial console.

How do I switch virtual consoles

On drivers where virtual consoles are supported, you switch between them by pressing Ctrl-Alt-F1 .. Ctral-Alt-Fn.

How do I turn off the internal speaker in my U5/U10

U5 and U10 machines have an internal speaker connected to the on-board audio. If you connect something to the headphone or line-out connector, you probably want to turn this speaker off.

The mixerctl(1) utility is used to control this. To shut off the speaker permanently, add this to /etc/mixerctl.conf:


and add


to /etc/rc.conf.

Why am I getting a Fast Data Access MMU Miss?

"Fast Data Access MMU Miss" is being printed by the PROM. It happens in early bootstrapping before the virtual memory system has been brought up when the kernel or bootloader access unmapped memory.

This usually happens due to a mismatch between the kernel and ofwboot. It's usually best to have both the latest kernel and latest ofwboot.

The main differences between versions involve how ofwboot allocates memory for text and data segments. Originally, it allocated whatever memory was available and the segments could end up with any alignment. The kernel needs both text and data segments both physically and virtually aligned to a 4MB boundary, and the data segment must be extended to a 4MB boundary so they can be mapped in with 4MB pages. The kernel has code to relocate itself, if necessary, but some PROMs are buggy and relocation does not work, especially on newer machines.

Versions 1.2 and 1.3 makes sure that any segment's physical alignment is the lesser of its virtual alignment or 4MB. This means the kernel does not need to relocate the text segment, but sometimes there is something in the way of extending the data segment to 4MB

Version 1.4 is buggy and always extends all segments to exactly 4MB. This is a problem if segments happen to be greater than 4MB, in which case they are truncated.

Version 1.5 extends the data+BSS segment to the next 4MB boundary. This, in conjunction with a recent kernel means that the kernel never needs to be relocated. It is required for new machines where kernel relocation or data segment extension simply fails. However, since it does extend the data segment, older kernels will not detect this and think that something else is in the way, forcing them to relocate the data segment.

In short, although different combinations may work, it is best to have ofwboot match the kernel.

Can I use "standard" PCI cards?

Some standard PCI cards "just work" in NetBSD/sparc64, such as network cards, IDE cards, etc. However, for these cards to be recognised by the PROM, you need to update the SUNW,builtin-drivers FCode package to force the device into native PCI mode.

Lloyd Parkes has provided the nvram commands to have a "standard" IDE controller recognised correctly by the PROM.

dev /packages/SUNW,builtin-drivers
: class018000
f 9 my-space + " config-b!" $call-parent class010100

See Lloyd's original message and follow-up message.

Why can mmap(2) on /dev/mem only access RAM and not devices?

The sparc64 architecture requires special handling for PCI memory. The /dev/mem device driver can not easily get the MMU and external cache handling coherent without collaborating with all PCI device drivers. So in a better-safe-than-sorry policy /dev/mem restricts access to known-safe areas - which basically means main memory. See this message for details.

If you want to access PCI memory space you need to go through some sort of PCI device driver that maps it correctly.

What file system types can NetBSD/sparc64 boot from?

When booting from hard disk, the disk needs to be partitioned using a "sunlabel" compatible disklabel. Sparc64 machines can not boot from GPT partitioned disks. The root file system can be in a RAID-1 (raidframe) set and all FFS formats as well as LFS are supported.

Of course GPT partitioned disks can be used for additional partitions.

X Setup

How do I create an xorg.conf file?

Usually you will not need one. The X server is able to figure out the hardware automatically at startup. If you want to customize things, just create an /etc/X11/xorg.conf file. You only need to populate it with the sections that you wish to change from the defaults.

How do I change the keyboard layout under X

In /etc/X11/xorg.conf add a section for the keyboard. An example for a german type 6 keyboard is:
Section "InputDevice"
        Identifier  "Keyboard0"
        Driver      "kbd"
        Option      "Protocol" "wskbd"
        Option      "Device" "/dev/wskbd"
        Option      "XkbModel" "pc102"
        Option      "XkbLayout" "de"
        Option      "XkbVariant" "nodeadkeys"
(Just ignore the blatant lie about the keyboard model.)

I have a Creator graphics adapter, but X is very slow

There are various types of creator graphics cards, some (called AFB) need special firmware downloaded to the framebuffer before X can use acceleration.

To check if you have such a card, look in /var/log/Xorg.0.log and search for output like this:

(II) /dev/fb0: Detected Elite3D M3/M6, checking firmware...
(II) /dev/fb0: ... AFB firmware not loaded
(WW) /dev/fb0: Forcing no acceleration on Elite3D M3/M6

If you see this, install the sysutils/afbinit package, which can download the missing firmware to the board, and get afb.ucode (the firmware image) from SUN. Thanks to Alan Coopersmith for making it available.

With NetBSD 7.0, the X server does not start up.

As part of the NetBSD 7.0 development process, checks for accessing memory were tightened, closing some security holes that could allow priviledge escalation. Unfortunately, this stops the X server from being able to map all of the necessary parts of the framebuffer or registers and X reports error 22 (EINVAL).

To fix this a kernel that has securelevel set to -1 must be used. In order to do that options INSECURE should be set in the kernel configuration file (by default it is commented out in GENERIC) and a new kernel should be recompiled. Please see How to build a kernel for further information.

Other sources of information

Sun System Handbook

Sun System Handbook - Sun's online system docs

Memory Modules

Memory Modules - memory module compatibility (requires a SunSolve login with a valid Sun Service Plan; alternative, free but unofficial link)


SunHELP - much sun related information

Sun NVRAM/Hostid FAQ

Sun NVRAM/Hostid FAQ ( mirror) - if your machine PROM's battery has gone dead

Sun Serial Port & Cable Pinouts

Sun Serial Port & Cable Pinouts - lists serial port pinouts for almost all models

Sun Product Documentation

Sun Product Documentation - various online documents by Sun Microsystems.

More general sources of information

NetBSD Install Notes

NetBSD 10.0 install notes - supported hardware and how to install.

Mailing List

port-sparc64 mailing list - if you have any additional questions please subscribe.

Hardware Documentation

Hardware Documentation - Sun Microsystems - some links to information about Sun Microsystems computers.

Diskless NetBSD HOW-TO

Diskless NetBSD HOW-TO

NetBSD Serial Port Primer

NetBSD Serial Port Primer

General NetBSD Documentation

General NetBSD Documentation - for questions not specific to NetBSD/sparc64.

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