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AIX Is Hell

This week at work, I’ve been beating my head against the wall trying to get AIX installed on a couple of machines. I had to get AIX 4.3.3 installed on a RS/6000 B50 server and AIX 5.3 installed on an eSeries p520. Both were no end of trouble for me.

First off, I’m no slouch when it comes to installing Unix machines. I’ve built tons of Solaris machines, a couple of HP-UX boxes, and numerous Linux and BSD machines. I don’t shy from the command line, rather I embrace it. I figured these would be a piece of cake. Boy howdy, was I in for a surprise.

Getting 4.3.3 on the B50 seemed pretty straight forward. Hook up laptop to serial console (9600 8,N,1). Start machine, insert CD 1, wait for E1F1 on the status indicator and press ‘5’ to force it to boot in the default boot sequence (floppy, CD, tape, hard drive). This all seemed to go fine. Machine boots from CD, install starts, install runs, machine reboots. However, for each of five tries I never got prompted for a root password or IP configuration. No root password set, can’t login. Finally on my sixth try this morning, I finally got presented with SMIT before the reboot. I have no idea what made it work this morning, perhaps it was the fact that I had IBM tech support on the line for the issue I was having with the p520. Go figure.

Having been frustrated by my lack of success in getting 4.3.3 on the B50, I decided to take a break yesterday and try to get 5.3 on the p520. Big mistake there. Again, I hook up to the console port (9600, 8,N,1) insert CD 1 and boot the machine. What do I get? Gobbelty gook! OK, looks like a baud rate mismatch. Try all rates from 2400-38400. Nothing. No dice. After getting setup with IBM support, I get a tier two engineer on the line (who has to take this issue to a tier 3 engineer) who finally tells me that the correct setting is 19200, 8N1. Seems that IBM’s hardware engineers got tired of slow text and changed the default console speed to 19200. I swear I tried that yesterday, but again, I think the threat of having tech support on the line whipped the machines into line and convinced them to work for me.

After some thought, I finally figured that part of the problem that I was having with the B50 was that I was running my laptop on battery and it wanted to suspend after 5 minutes of inactivity. This may have wreaked a little havoc with the serial connection.

Morals of the story: when making console connections to install AIX on IBM PPC systems, either use a dumb terminal, set your laptop to not suspend or bring your damn AC adapter into the lab. Also, console connections to the newer p-series eServers should be made at 19200.