Tyan serial console - how?

Maurice Hilarius maurice at harddata.com
Thu Nov 7 19:32:48 EST 2002

With regards to your message, where you stated:
>Message: 4
>From: "David Mathog" <mathog at mendel.bio.caltech.edu>
>To: Ken Chase <math at velocet.ca>, beowulf at beowulf.org
>Subject: Re: Tyan serial console - how?
>Date: Thu, 07 Nov 2002 12:22:08 -0800
>This BIOS serial console mode really is a dreadful hack.  Start up
>memtest86, for instance, and nothing comes out the serial line,
>it only shows up on the video.

There is a version of Memtest that is DESIGNED for serial..
It was written to go directly to the video hardware in it's normal mode.
Don't blame the BIOS for that!
Take a look at:

>During a normal boot (if there
>is such a thing on the 2466 mobo) you may or may not
>see the bits of text you're looking for as the screen rewrites.
>Phoenix/Award should come up with a real serial line BIOS (or
>even a USB interface, since serial is now "legacy") which
>can be used instead of the standard VGA BIOS, rather than layered
>over it.  Naively you'd think that the serial mode BIOS
>would be both smaller and simpler than the current versions.
>Sure, it isn't a huge market.  But maybe the next time one
>of the readers of this list configures a 10K node system
>for some government lab a way can be found to pay for the
>development of a real serial mode Bios?

There is the LinuxBIOS project, at LANL.
I am sure they would not object to somebody contributing/helping.
Of course we have to talk to Award and Phoenix ( really the same company, 
BTW) to give us code to start with..
And that is the REAL problem.
It's all deep dark secrets.
Why else do you think most BIOS suck to some degree?
All these guys are ever doing is scrambling to make and fix BIOS for the 
latest and greatest boards and chipsets. With VIA, Intel, and so on making 
so darned many chipsets nowadays I am amazed they can keep up at all.
For example the APIC code for the AMD 766/768 chips was so bad that Tyan 
finally gave up on the Phoenix part of that and wrote their own to get it 
done properly.
I know, as we built a number of machines this spring that needed a PCI 
riser with an active PCI bridge, and a DLink DFE578 with it's own PCI bridge.
The Phoenix based version of the BIOS could not handle giving that mess 
IRQs to save it's life.
Tyan did their own code to fix it.

BTW, good luck in trying to get Intel to fix a BIOS problem.
Unless you are Dell, IBM, or HP it probably won't happen.
We ran into this on BX boards a few years ago, and realized that the last 
board you want to use on a cluster is an Intel. If you flashed those up to 
newer versions they did not let you flash back down again successfully. 
Ended up finding an old one and using an EPROM burner to recover a cluster 
after a customer upgraded his BIOS on the nodes.
Intels response was essentially a blank stare when we asked them for 

With our best regards,

Maurice W. Hilarius       Telephone: 01-780-456-9771
Hard Data Ltd.               FAX:       01-780-456-9772
11060 - 166 Avenue        mailto:maurice at harddata.com
Edmonton, AB, Canada      http://www.harddata.com/
    T5X 1Y3

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