Project Windows NT on PowerPC

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Beluga
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Project Windows NT on PowerPC

Post by Beluga »

So I had plenty of fun playing with NT4 on my AlphaStation, but after a while it feels kind of mainstream: A lot of software (compared to PPC and MIPS) to choose from and support by Microsoft until SP6a.

I always wanted to give NT on PPC a shot. Unfortunately, where I live, suitable PowerPC PReP machines that support NT are pretty hard to come by these days. They probably show up on eBay twice a year and then sell for for a three-digit price that I am not willing to pay.

Luckily, I was able to purchase a lot of 5 PowerPC mainboards that date from 1995-1997. At least as far as I know - I don't have them yet. Four of them are made by IBM and one of them is made by Motorola. I have only seen pictures of them and the few part numbers that show do not return anything meaningful from Google. Anyhow, my hope is that at least one of them is a PReP NT-capable board and that I am able to make it work somehow.

I decided to make this thread so I can share a bit of this experiment with you here. Probably most people will not care about stuff like this, but I'll give it a try anyway :>

BioMarkII
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Re: Project Windows NT on PowerPC

Post by BioMarkII »

What source code is your project based on? NT 3.5?

You can try finding PowerPC-based Apple Macs for that. Finding a separate PowerPC motherboard is a tough task anywhere as there were barely anyone who bought such CPU's.

There's not much point in this project anyway, but still, it's interesting! I'd like to see how your idea goes.
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AlphaBeta
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Re: Project Windows NT on PowerPC

Post by AlphaBeta »

I don't think there is any source code involved, which also rules out the possibility to use PowerPC-based Macs.
AlphaBeta, stop brainwashing me immediately!

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Beluga
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Re: Project Windows NT on PowerPC

Post by Beluga »

There is no source code involved, I simply want to install NT (4.0 to begin with) on a PPC machine.

If it works well, I may want to try to build some software for it. Luckily, at least the Microsoft compiler is available. But first things first :D

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Re: Project Windows NT on PowerPC

Post by johndoe123 »

PC: Surface Laptop 2
CPU: I5 8250U
RAM: 8GB DDR3
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620
Storage: Skhynix BC501 NVMe 256GB

Beluga
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Re: Project Windows NT on PowerPC

Post by Beluga »

Okay, so here we go: I'll start with the board that looks the most interesting to me. It was made by Motorola and has written the year 1996 on it.

(Oh and before I really start: Please help me identify this board! The few numbers on it do not return anything useful on Google. If anyone has any insights here, I would really appreciate it!)

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The only label that I could find on top of the board:
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A look at the back:
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And we have a label on the back:
Image

So I decided to remove the heatsink to see what kind of processor we have on here:
Image

A PowerPC 604e with 166MHz, it seems. Overall this board looks great and kind of easy to handle: It even has normal AT power connectors that are labeled P8 and P9, something which none of the other boards do.

Finally, let's have a look at the IO that we get:
Image

Sadly, but of course as expected, there is no onboard VGA. Why is that an issue? Well, i did not get the PCI/ISA riser-card with this board. I have asked the seller about it, but he says it does not exist anymore. And as interesting as this board looks to me, this is probably where the journey ends for now. I guess it is next to impossible to find that riser card on the used market and without it there is no way to install a VGA card. Still, I might try to power it up and see if it outputs anything on the serial port.

Beluga
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Re: Project Windows NT on PowerPC

Post by Beluga »

I just stumbled upon a few bits of new information. The board seems to be from a PowerStack (II, possibly).

finkmacunix
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Re: Project Windows NT on PowerPC

Post by finkmacunix »

It's definitely a PowerStack II or RiscPC board.
Is that riser slot proprietary? Could you possibly use a riser board from a different machine? Perhaps a StarMax?
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Beluga
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Re: Project Windows NT on PowerPC

Post by Beluga »

I just googled the StarMax and the slot of its riser card looks different to me. And StarMax is probably not easy to find either.

Still, I was able to buy a Motorola riser card on eBay. It looks like it would fit mechanically, but will it work? We'll have to see, but I do not have high hopes at the moment. Especially because this riser card has through-hole components on it, which the board does not.

bert64
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Re: Project Windows NT on PowerPC

Post by bert64 »

I have a very similar board, also missing the riser...

Even if you get a working riser, you will also need to find a compatible video card - these machines tend to be quite picky.

Without video you're not going to have much luck installing a graphical OS like NT or OS/2, but you should be able to install anything that supports a serial console (AIX, Solaris, Linux, BSD etc).

Beluga
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Re: Project Windows NT on PowerPC

Post by Beluga »

Yes heard about that getting a supported VGS card can be a hassle. I have a few PCI cards here of which I have some hope that they might work. But first I will need a working riser card, I guess...

In other news: I was able to identify the other PowerPC boards as well: They are from IBM 7043-140s and one 7043-150. All of them won't work with NT, as far as I understood. So I am putting all of my hope into this Motorola board for now.

Beluga
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Re: Project Windows NT on PowerPC

Post by Beluga »

A quick update: I got the riser and I found a graphics card that works! The board seems to be from a Bull Estrella 300, which was a rebranded PowerStack II (according to this guy: https://web-docs.gsi.de/~kraemer/COLLEC ... mpsii.html )

But it seems to be a bit more than a rebrand, as the firmware that boots up looks quite different to the Motorola versions that I have seen on the internet so far:
Image
Image

Edit: The downside is: This is obviously an Open Firmware machine and as far as I understand, there never has been full support for Windows NT on them.

finkmacunix
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Re: Project Windows NT on PowerPC

Post by finkmacunix »

Take a look at this thread. Seems you need a sort of boot disk.

I believe Motorola sold PowerPC motherboards, they probably sold to OEMs as well.
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Beluga
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Re: Project Windows NT on PowerPC

Post by Beluga »

Yes, I already posted in that thread. When I want to use it with OpenFirmware (as it is), I would not need a boot disk, as far as I understand it. I can just use VENEER.EXE, which kind of works. The problem is, that VENEER either was not really made for PowerStack II machines or that we do not know how exactly it expects all environment variables to be. There seems to be absolutely no documentation for VENEER on the internet, just a few forum posts by other people experimenting with it. Anyhow, that is as far as I can get with it:
Image

The other, probably easier solution would be to install the Motorola Firmware (fw.img) instead of OpenFirmware. But it is not absolutely clear if this machine is supported. And if it is, I probably still would need to program the PROM chip outside of the system.

finkmacunix
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Re: Project Windows NT on PowerPC

Post by finkmacunix »

If the NVRAM that's being mentioned is one of the "Dallas" modules, that might be the issue. Dead NVRAM causes a ton of things to mess up on various other computers. Might be worth trying to get some repair parts from glitchworks. Email them and see if they have something for your module.
"I not have a time to spend for make fake, and more important thing, this pics are not my."

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Beluga
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Re: Project Windows NT on PowerPC

Post by Beluga »

It is an ST Timekeeper with a replaceable "SNAPHAT" battery module on top. I have already ordered a replacement.

Beluga
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Re: Project Windows NT on PowerPC

Post by Beluga »

Aaand I just did it :D

Image

Basically I just had to install the Motorola Firmware for PowerPC on the PROM, which was a bit of a hassle in the beginning. Not because it is super hard to do, but because there is not that much documentation on it. For those who care for more details: I wrote a bit more about it in the thread on Vogons. I also posted the old and new firmware images there.

3155ffGd
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Re: Project Windows NT on PowerPC

Post by 3155ffGd »

Unless I'm missing something that's the most powerful PowerPC-based rig that you can get that runs NT4. Have fun with the (lack of) applications.

Beluga
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Re: Project Windows NT on PowerPC

Post by Beluga »

Haha, well yes, there is not too much that you can do with that platform...

I think PowerStackII-wise I still could get the 200MHz board instead of the 166MHz one that I have.

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