This Mini-Howto was written in order to help people who want to run Linux on their SunPCi Coprocessor Card. Please note that there are many ways to accomplish this, depending on your needs and intent. I will descibe how I got it to work, and hint at other options where possible. In the future I might include the successes of others.
The SunPCi card was obviously meant to be used with either DOS (Caldera OpenDOS is shipped with it) or an OS from the Microsoft Windows family. Since I realized that I would only be using these kind of OS-es once in a while, I started thinking about putting the SunPCi card to use in a more familiar fashion. Since it has an Intel ship on it, Linux will run on it. There will be no support for this however. There are no drivers for Linux like there are for DOS and Windows. Be aware that certain things will not work!
Hard drive: the Sun disks are presented to the PC card through the PCI bus and the BIOS. Since Linux does not use the BIOS to access disks, I was unable to make Linux use the C.diskimage file or the like. The SunPCi card does have its own IDE controller, but on my model there is no connector on the board. Short of wanting to solder one on, Linux will have to boot diskless. This is what puts most people off. This is also the main reason I wrote this Howto. It's not so bad, really.
Floppy drive: access to the floppy drive is emulated by the SunPCi software running on Solaris. Linux recognizes the internal Floppy Disk Controller (FDC) on the SunPCi card, but no floppy drive. It should be possible to connect a floppy drive (if you have one in your Sun for example) to this FDC. I did not try this, and will not make use of the floppy drive in this Howto.
CDROM drive: access to the cdrom drive is emulated. In fact, Solaris gives access to the cdrom by creating a block-type special file in /vol/dev/dsk/c0t1d0 and giving Windows access to it. This will not work with Linux. Unless you solder in that IDE plug and connect a cdrom drive to it, you will not have access to one. Luckely we don't need it.
Graphics: the SunPCi window you see when starting up the PC card displays the graphics generated by the PC. The screen is comparable with the normal VGA mode of a real monitor. In order to display better quality graphics, drivers are needed. Sun does not include drivers for Linux, so VGA is all you're going to get inside the Solaris sunpci window.
The onboard graphics chip can be used by Linux however (see below).
Before I scare everyone away from reading further, let me quickly state what does work.
Ethernet: the SunPCi card has an onboard SiS 900 PCI Fast Ethernet (10/100 Mbit/s) adapter. This is fully support by the Linux kernel and will be our one and only communication device with (file)systems.
Sound: the onboad SiS 7018 Audio chip is also supported by the Linux kernel, in case you want to use it.
COM1: or ttyS0 if you wish. You'll have to connect the optional add-on backplate which gives you access to the serial port through a standard 9 pins male DSUB connector.
Parallel port: just in case you want to attach a printer or so. The optional add-on backplate comes with a with a parallel connector. This port supports standards upto ECP/EPP.
USB: the Universal Serial Bus is now fully functional with a recent kernel. Attach things like camera's, harddrive's, keyboards, mice all you like.
Graphics: By starting the PC card with sunpci -vga and connecting an external monitor to the video plug of the card, Linux can take advantage of the onboard graphics chip. Using XFree86 you can get high resolution graphics on the external monitor (see chapter 5).
This Howto is based on my experience setting up Debian Linux with a 2.4.x kernel on my SunPCi-IIpro card (with Intel Celeron 733MHz processor). Things may be different (especially setting up the root directory), for other Linux distributions, however the concepts should still remain the same.
Update: This Howto deals with version 2.3.x of the SUNWspci2 Solaris
package only. This is the software needed to drive the SunPCi-II and
SunPCi-IIpro cards. Sun now ships the SunPCi-III (based on a Mobile 1.4-GHz
AMD Athlon XP 1600+ processor) with SUNWspci3 software. As of version 3.2
Redhat Linux is
as a supported OS. The SUNWspci3 software comes with
various Redhat install floppies. Since I do not own a SunPCi-III card, I am
not sure how this works, but it is supported so you can always file a
SunSolve bug if it doesn't.
You can download the latest version of the SUNWspci3 software here.