Author Topic: Xserve G4 - Using built-in DB9 serial port under OS 9  (Read 1401 times)

Offline MacOS Plus

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Xserve G4 - Using built-in DB9 serial port under OS 9
« on: July 06, 2017, 02:20:03 PM »
I thought this topic deserved its own thread separate from the one about booting the Xserve into OS 9:

  I had been wondering for the longest time about whether or not the built-in DB9 serial terminal/server management port on the Xserve could be accessed directly by the operating system as a normal Mac serial port.  Due to other priorities I'd never got around to testing that possibility, that is, until today.  I suppose since Nanopico and I are likely the only members here who have even been booting Xserve G4s into OS 9, this sort of testing was probably never attempted before.

  I started with the premise that the Xserve serial port is not a 'standard' Mac serial port in the traditional sense since it never showed up as an available port in the AppleTalk device list.  This suggested to me that it might be wired via the debug port in the same manner as a Stealth Serial Port.  Since the Stealth device is just a serial transceiver, the Stealth driver extension file is what actually does the work of enabling the serial port configuration of the debug port.  With this in mind, the first thing to try was installing the Stealth extension file and seeing if the Xserve serial port appeared in the AppleTalk control panel.  Amazing discovery - HOLY SH*T it did!

  Next was to prove that it actually worked properly.  I decided the first thing I would try was a MIDI interface since that was my primary goal for use of the Xserve serial port.  The challenge was coming up with a cable to get from the DB9-M on the machine to the DIN-8 port on a MIDI interface.  I scrounged around in everything I had both Mac and PC.  The end result was a DB9-F/DB25-M cable, a DB25-F/DB25-F gender changer, and then a DB25-M/DIN-8-M Mac modem cable.  This yielded no device detection by OMS, but, remembering that Mac DIN-8 cables have crossover wiring, I figured I'd better try crossover wiring.  This was accomplished by adding yet more to the cable chain - a Mac DIN-8-F/DIN-8-F switchbox as a second gender changer, followed by a standard Mac DIN-8-M/DIN-8-M serial crossover cable.

  I'd started out with an Opcode Studio3 MIDI interface as the target.  It blinked a lot during OMS detection but never showed up in the studio setup window.  This activity did give me hope however.  I decided to go with something a bit simpler - an ancient JL Cooper SyncMaster.  SUCCESS!  It was detected as a generic MIDI device.  Next I installed Band-in-a-Box so I could generate some simple instrument MIDI data output and hooked up a drum machine to the MIDI out.  IT WORKED!  The drum instrument panel controlled the external drum machine as it should have, as did playback of demo songs.  Using a MIDI keyboard on the input and routing through back out to the drum machine also worked, proving all the communication in and out works.

  So, super cool - I essentially just gained myself a 'Stealth Serial Port' on both my Xserves for a grand total cost of ZERO DOLLARS!  This was tested using the 1.0.3 version of the Stealth OS 9 extension.  Presumably the Griffin gPort driver also works the same.  Does anyone know what the situation was with support for OS X 10.5 on either of those products?  I'd like to test that with the Xserve under 10.5 also if the drivers were available.

Offline MacTron

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Re: Xserve G4 - Using built-in DB9 serial port under OS 9
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2017, 04:31:46 PM »
I thought about this port in several occasions... but I couldn't imagine that this was so easy and simple!
Really cool and great find! ;D
I wish to join the "G4 server team" but I couldn't find one in EU... because the xserve is to heavy to buy it in US   :-\
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Offline MacOS Plus

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Re: Xserve G4 - Using built-in DB9 serial port under OS 9
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2017, 08:19:31 PM »
Truly forehead-smacking stuff, huh? ;)  Part luck and part that I'm willing to try just about anything in my computer pursuits.  For now I can actually say the Xserve is capable of something under OS 9 that it's not under OS X.  The research will continue.

  Cost aside, the biggest problem with getting an Xserve is having it safely shipped.  The only reason I have two Xserves is that the first one I ordered got damaged in transit and I immediately ordered a replacement before any resolution was arranged about the first.  In the end I felt having the carrier take it back only to scrap it was a waste.  I straightened out all the damage to the frame and repaired the broken CD drive and it's been with me ever since.  Having two identical machines has actually proven quite useful during testing.

  So far, the serial port situation in OS X isn't as straightforward as in 9.  The OS has its own driver already which seems to be interfering.  Hopefully someone more versed in the kext's can offer some advice.  I'd like to try disabling the native driver(s) to see if the Stealth driver can take over.

Offline nanopico

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Re: Xserve G4 - Using built-in DB9 serial port under OS 9
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2017, 06:08:46 AM »
I don't know if I mentioned StarLifter openly or not, but the serial port may be StarLifter.  That or the ATA controller.
You can try adding starlifter-bridge to the compatible property of the serial port in OpenFirmware and then remove the stealth port extension.  Or even to the kiwi-root.
I am not responsible for any damage this may cause though.
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Offline IIO

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Re: Xserve G4 - Using built-in DB9 serial port under OS 9
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2017, 11:43:55 AM »
I thought about this port in several occasions... but I couldn't imagine that this was so easy and simple!
Really cool and great find! ;D
I wish to join the "G4 server team" but I couldn't find one in EU... because the xserve is to heavy to buy it in US   :-\

i believe that many people stil keep their G4 servers because you can still easily find driver for it - unlike for the intel xserves, which are close to useless because one harddisk costs more than the actual server.
"It is true that the "pre-emptive multitasking" advantage present in OS X can be illustrated by downloading CD-ROM ISOs and rendering chaos theory formulas while simultaneously instant messaging and posting on FaceBook what you ate... but in reality, what did you create?"
- DieHard, random forum troll at macos9lives.com

Offline nanopico

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Re: Xserve G4 - Using built-in DB9 serial port under OS 9
« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2017, 06:29:24 AM »
I thought about this port in several occasions... but I couldn't imagine that this was so easy and simple!
Really cool and great find! ;D
I wish to join the "G4 server team" but I couldn't find one in EU... because the xserve is to heavy to buy it in US   :-\

i believe that many people stil keep their G4 servers because you can still easily find driver for it - unlike for the intel xserves, which are close to useless because one harddisk costs more than the actual server.

I kind of find it the other way around.  The Intel xserve can use sata or sas drives which are pretty cheap and readily available.  IDE drives, new ones, are getting harder to get and not as affordable.  I have both a G4 and an Intel xserve lying around.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it, or break it so you can fix it!

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Re: Xserve G4 - Using built-in DB9 serial port under OS 9
« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2017, 02:30:37 AM »
I kind of find it the other way around.  The Intel xserve can use sata or sas drives which are pretty cheap and readily available.  IDE drives, new ones, are getting harder to get and not as affordable.  I have both a G4 and an Intel xserve lying around.

an IDE drive with 160gb costs about USD 10. the original 80gb SATA drvie for the xserve 1,1 goes for some USD 80 and you wont find a terabyte drive for the xserve for less than USD 120.

though i have heard that some third party HDs will also work in the xserver... but here in europe you have to pay about USD 55 for a blank tray alone - and most servers come without trays because among enterprise users it is common to just throw the disks including the tray away ;)

for IDE xserve that problem is solved by the mass of trays coming from xraid systems.
"It is true that the "pre-emptive multitasking" advantage present in OS X can be illustrated by downloading CD-ROM ISOs and rendering chaos theory formulas while simultaneously instant messaging and posting on FaceBook what you ate... but in reality, what did you create?"
- DieHard, random forum troll at macos9lives.com

Offline nanopico

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Re: Xserve G4 - Using built-in DB9 serial port under OS 9
« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2017, 06:08:30 AM »
I kind of find it the other way around.  The Intel xserve can use sata or sas drives which are pretty cheap and readily available.  IDE drives, new ones, are getting harder to get and not as affordable.  I have both a G4 and an Intel xserve lying around.

an IDE drive with 160gb costs about USD 10. the original 80gb SATA drvie for the xserve 1,1 goes for some USD 80 and you wont find a terabyte drive for the xserve for less than USD 120.

though i have heard that some third party HDs will also work in the xserver... but here in europe you have to pay about USD 55 for a blank tray alone - and most servers come without trays because among enterprise users it is common to just throw the disks including the tray away ;)

for IDE xserve that problem is solved by the mass of trays coming from xraid systems.

Where can I buy a new IDE drive for $10?
If it ain't broke, don't fix it, or break it so you can fix it!

Offline IIO

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Re: Xserve G4 - Using built-in DB9 serial port under OS 9
« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2017, 02:36:35 PM »

not new. for IDE that is 5 years too late :)

http://www.ebay.de/itm/Maxtor-3-5-Zoll-IDE-PC-Festplatte-160GB-200GB-250GB-300GB-320GB-400GB-500GB/132100730927?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&var=431450895834&_trksid=p2055119.m1438.l2649

http://www.ebay.de/itm/IDE-Festplatte-Seagate-Barracuda-7200-10-320-Gbytes-/142433954850?hash=item2129b9ac22:g:eQcAAOSwOMdZWgpg

SATAs for the intel xserve can still be bought new, but

http://www.ebay.de/itm/Original-Apple-MB837G-A-Drive-Module-160GB-SATA-for-Xserve-EARLY-2009-NEU-/201484372884?epid=110110611&hash=item2ee9678b94:g:AbsAAOSwxN5WbU4f

lol, note its size. 10 times more than normal disks... only because it includes the tray and connector.

i regulary see xserve g4s from california with 3 HDs, sometimes even bigger ones (300+) going for some 70 dollars. the intel servers mostly come with 1 or 0 trays ;(
"It is true that the "pre-emptive multitasking" advantage present in OS X can be illustrated by downloading CD-ROM ISOs and rendering chaos theory formulas while simultaneously instant messaging and posting on FaceBook what you ate... but in reality, what did you create?"
- DieHard, random forum troll at macos9lives.com

Offline IIO

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Re: Xserve G4 - Using built-in DB9 serial port under OS 9
« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2017, 02:45:33 PM »
here, 400 gb IDE including tray, USD 25, that is perfect:

http://www.ebay.de/itm/Apple-Xserve-RAID-G4-Server-400GB-IDE-7200RPM-3-5in-603-6163-620-3084-HDD-/371985531759?epid=114443198&hash=item569c10c36f:g:~VcAAOSwjvJZRfkf

i recently saw an xraid for 445 euros equipped with 14x320 disks. sell the trays for 12 euro and the case for 20 and you have 14 IDE HDs for 18,30 each.



"It is true that the "pre-emptive multitasking" advantage present in OS X can be illustrated by downloading CD-ROM ISOs and rendering chaos theory formulas while simultaneously instant messaging and posting on FaceBook what you ate... but in reality, what did you create?"
- DieHard, random forum troll at macos9lives.com

Offline nanopico

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Re: Xserve G4 - Using built-in DB9 serial port under OS 9
« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2017, 02:58:57 PM »
here, 400 gb IDE including tray, USD 25, that is perfect:

http://www.ebay.de/itm/Apple-Xserve-RAID-G4-Server-400GB-IDE-7200RPM-3-5in-603-6163-620-3084-HDD-/371985531759?epid=114443198&hash=item569c10c36f:g:~VcAAOSwjvJZRfkf

i recently saw an xraid for 445 euros equipped with 14x320 disks. sell the trays for 12 euro and the case for 20 and you have 14 IDE HDs for 18,30 each.

Ignore my comment.  I wasn't think with the tray's.

I can gut my Xserve for drives if I wanted.  It would be fun to drop into the Xserve g4.  It's loaded with 14 750GB drives. 
If it ain't broke, don't fix it, or break it so you can fix it!

Offline IIO

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Re: Xserve G4 - Using built-in DB9 serial port under OS 9
« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2017, 03:31:21 PM »
there is people who put custom SATA 600 stuff into that case, that probably requires some welding besides soldering ^^ if they would have made SATA Xraids with firewire besides network that would be my first choice for a "enclosure".
"It is true that the "pre-emptive multitasking" advantage present in OS X can be illustrated by downloading CD-ROM ISOs and rendering chaos theory formulas while simultaneously instant messaging and posting on FaceBook what you ate... but in reality, what did you create?"
- DieHard, random forum troll at macos9lives.com