Tag Archives: powerstation


A long time ago (2007 or 2008) I was developing firmware for Cell processor based systems. Most of the Slimline Open Firmware (SLOF) has been released and is also available in Fedora as firmware for QEMU: SLOF.

One of the systems we have been developing firmware for was a PCI Express card called PXCAB. The processor on this PCI Express card was not the original Cell processor but the newer PowerXCell 8i which has a much better double precision floating point performance. A few weeks ago I was able to get one of those PCI Express cards in a 1U chassis:


This chassis was designed to hold two PXCABs: one running in root complex mode and the other in endpoint mode. That way one card was the host system and the other the PCI express connected device. This single card is now running in root complex mode.

I can boot a kernel either via TFTP or from the flash. As writing the flash takes some time I am booting it right now via TFTP. Compiling the latest kernel from git for PPC64 is thanks to the available cross compiler (gcc-powerpc64-linux-gnu.x86_64) no problem: make CROSS_COMPILE=powerpc64-linux-gnu- ARCH=powerpc.

The more difficult part was to compile user space tools but fortunately I was able to compile it natively on a PPC64 system. With this minimal busybox based system I can boot the system and chroot into a Fedora 24 NFS mount.

I was trying to populate a directory with a minimal PPC64 based Fedora 24 system with following command:

dnf --setopt arch=ppc64 --installroot $PWD/ppc64 install dnf --releasever 24

Unfortunately that does not work as there currently seems to be no way to tell dnf to install the packages for another architecture. I was able to download a few RPMs and directly install them with rpm using the option --ignorearch. In the end I also installed the data for the chroot on my PPC64 system as that was faster and easier.

Now I can boot the PXCAB via TFTP into the busybox based ramdisk and from there I can chroot in to the NFS mounted Fedora 24 system.

The system has one CPU with two threads and 4GB of RAM. In addition to the actual RAM there is also 256MB of memory which can be accessed as a block device using the axonram driver. My busybox based ramdisk is copied to that ramdisk and thus freeing some more actual RAM:

# df -h
Filesystem         Size    Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/axonram0    247.9M   15.6M    219.5M   7% /

System information from the firmware:

 Processor  = PowerXCell DD1.0 @ 2800 MHz
 I/O Bridge = Cell BE companion chip DD3.0
 Timebase   = 14318 kHz (external)
 Config     = SMP disabled
 SMP Size   = 1 (2 threads)
 Boot-Date  = 2016-07-21 19:37
 Memory     = 4096MB (CPU0: 4096MB)

Bimini Upgrade

I finally upgraded my PowerStation from Fedora 18 to Fedora 21. The upgrade went pretty smooth and was not much more than:

$ yum --releasever=19 --exclude=yaboot --exclude=kernel distro-sync
$ yum --releasever=20 --exclude=yaboot --exclude=kernel distro-sync
$ yum --releasever=21 --exclude=yaboot --exclude=kernel distro-sync

As I was doing the upgrade without console access I did not want to change the bootloader from yaboot to grub2 and I also excluded the kernel. Once I have console access I will also upgrade those packages.

The only difficulty was upgrading from Fedora 20 to Fedora 21 because 32bit packages were dropped from ppc and I was not sure if the system would still boot after removing all 32bit packages (yum remove *ppc). But it just worked and now I have an up to date 64bit ppc Fedora 21 system.

PowerStation updated to Fedora 18

A few days ago I started to upgrade my PowerStation from Fedora 15 (running my own rebuild) to Fedora 18 Beta.



The update from the running Fedora 15 to Fedora 16 was the really hard part. It seems that the userspace moved from 32bit to 64bit and that was something that yum, understandably, could not handle. So after the first run of all packages updated to Fedora 16 (which required a lot of rpm -e --justdb --nodeps --noscripts) and a reboot the system was broken. systemd tried to start udev but that failed with:

[ 38.164191] systemd[1]: udev.service holdoff time over, scheduling restart.
[ 38.208255] systemd[1]: Job pending for unit, delaying automatic restart.

and systemd kept printing those lines forever. Luckily I still had the original Yellow Dog Linux installation on a second drive and could boot that. Unfortunately I could not chroot into the Fedora 16 installation because the Yellow Dog Linux kernel was too old, but I was able to mount it and disabled every occurrence of udev in systemd. Rebooting with systemd.unit=emergency.target on the kernel command-line I was able to get the network running and reinstalled with yum the udev and systemd ppc64 packages. After that (and some more fiddling around) it rebooted into Fedora 16.

I then just followed the recommendations on the Fedora wiki to upgrade using yum from F16->F17 and F17->F18. The only difference was that I installed the gpg key, which is used to sign the packages, from https://fedoraproject.org/keys using the keys for the secondary architectures.

Now I have a PowerStation with the latest 64bit Fedora 18 Beta packages up and running.