Linux on SPARC

Bryan Sant bryan.sant at
Mon Oct 2 14:16:42 MDT 2006

On 10/2/06, Stephen Ward <sjward at> wrote:
> I'm looking at taking on a project that involves Linux on a SPARC machine.
> My only experience with Linux is on the x86 platform, and I have absolutely
> no SPARC experience.  Being the adventurer that I am, I intend to pursue
> this despite my lack of experience.
> In order to tackle this project, I'm going to have to obtain my own SPARC
> machine.  I've been looking on ebay for used machines I could pick up on the
> cheap.  It isn't hard to find stuff for ~$500 or less, which is about what
> I'm looking to spend.  However, I don't know what sort of hardware
> considerations I should make in finally choosing one.  For instance, I
> imagine the SPARC processor has undergone some revisions over the years (a
> la Pentium, P2, P3, etc.); are there certain old processor revisions I want
> to avoid?  If I want to add a hard drive, is it pretty likely that I can pop
> in a good ol' IDE drive, or would I more likely need to look at SCSI?  Or
> does Sun generally use some other funky standard (note my mention of lack of
> experience above)?  Are there other things I need to consider that I
> probably haven't?
> I'm fairly intent on using Gentoo as my flavor of choice unless someone can
> give me a pretty compelling reason not to.
> Thanks,
> Stephen

SPARC has had the same 64-bit instruction set since 1995.  They have
added features similar to MMX.  Older chips won't have newer features,
but the basic 64-bit ops have been around forever.  The SPARC
processor is licensed under the GPL.  You can download the processor
spec and contribute to its design if you were capable of doing so.

Only the most recent x86-64 boxes from Sun use SATA drives.  Anything
that you're looking at will be using SCSI.


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