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On-Line! Detective Customer Profile: CHE Consulting, Inc.

January 10th, 2012 Comments off






Company Name: CHE Consulting, Inc.
Based in: Fenton, MO

CHE Consulting has been providing enterprise systems hardware maintenance & support services for Oracle, Sun, IBM, EMC, HP and more since 1997. They are the only third party maintenance provider or independant service organization that has an agreement with Oracle to provide replacement microcode updates, firmware, firmware updates and engineering changes on select STK storage products.

CHE has used the On-Line! Detective since 2008 to “assist customers via our 24 hour help desk to triage service incidents.”

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December 28th, 2011 Comments off

In this video presentation, Bryan Cantrill, former engineer at Sun Microsystems, gives a retrospective history of the Solaris OS including OpenSolaris, his thoughts on its unsatisfactory management by Oracle, and his current involvement in the derivative fork, illumos. Having left Oracle in 2010 after its acquisition of Sun, Cantrill is currently the Vice President of Engineering at Joyent.

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Ask Al – How do I troubleshoot a Sun Fire V1280 CPU/Memory Board?

October 18th, 2011 Comments off

I’m trying to upgrade my Sun Fire V1280 by adding a 1500MHz UltraSPARC IV+ CPU/Memory Board. But the system always hangs when it engages the Power-On Self-Test (POST) sequence during the booting process. My original configuration included a single 1350 MHz UltraSPARC IV CPU/Memory Board. I’ve tried a couple other 1500MHz UltraSPARC IV+ CPU/Memory Boards that we have around the lab and they also failed during POST. How do I troubleshoot this problem?

Whenever adding a new component – especially an upgraded item – ensure you have followed all the required configuration rules and guidelines for the system. You can find these installation rules and guidelines in the On-Line! Detective. For the scenario you’re experiencing, click on the “Servers” tab within the top menu and then click on “Sun Fire V1280″ in the left-hand menu.

Scroll down to the very bottom of the system’s landing page. Under the “Additional Information” heading there are several links that can be used obtain the component’s configuration rules and guidelines. You should always verify that you meet all of these configuration rules and guideline BEFORE conducting any type upgrade.

Under the “Minimum Operating System Notes” heading within “Additional Information,” you will see that 1500MHz UltraSPARC IV+ CPU/Memory Boards were not supported until Sun released Solaris 9 9/05. Ensure you are running Solaris 9 9/05 at a minimum. If you’re not, halt the CPU/Memory Board upgrade.

This is just one factor involved when ensuring your system is capable of handling newer 1500MHz UltraSPARC IV+ CPU/Memory Boards. From the situation you described, however, it’s a good bet the problem is probably a system firmware compatibility issue because the system is failing during POST and before Solaris has even been loaded.

To determine which firmware versions are compatible with different hardware configurations, click on “CPU” within the left-hand menu. This takes you to a page describing all the different CPU/Memory Board options. Scroll to the bottom of the page to see the CPU/Memory Board configuration rules and guidelines under the “Notes” heading. Make sure that you adhere to all of these rules.

For example, these rules and guidelines state that 1500MHz UltraSPARC IV+ CPU/Memory Boards must have a minimum system controller firmware of 5.19. And another note indicates system controller firmware 5.19.1 may cause a Panic (BugID 6319704), use firmware revision >= 5.19.2. These two guidelines must be followed to ensure full compatibility within the system.

Notes are also not limited to being generic. If you know a part’s 7-digit part number, scroll up and click on the part number to receive notes specific to that component.

Determining Configuration Compatibility

Most problems that occur after a component upgrade are a result of software, firmware or hardware incompatibility. It is imperative that you follow ALL configuration rules and guidelines when upgrading a system. A summary of the steps required to locate the configuration rules and guidelines for any major component are outlined below.

1. Go to your system’s landing page by either clicking the “workstation” or “server” tab. Choose the system that you’re working on afterward.

2. Scroll down to the very bottom of the page and read all the configuration rules and guidelines under the heading “Additional Information.” Make sure you meet or exceed all of the rules and guidelines specified in this section. If needed, click on some of the links for more information.

3. Under the “Primary Components” heading within left-hand menu, click on the component you are upgrading.

4. Scroll down to the bottom of this page and read all the configuration rules and guidelines in the “Notes” table. Make sure you also meet or exceed all of these configuration rules and guidelines.

5. Scroll up until you see the specific part number you are working with. Click on the part number. This takes you to a page with detail information about that part’s configuration rules and guidelines.

6. Scroll down to the bottom of this page and read the configuration rules and guidelines under the “Notes” heading. Make sure you also meet or exceed all of these configuration rules and guidelines.

If you follow these six steps every time, you can be reasonably assured you won’t confront an operating system, firmware, or hardware compatibility issue.

Always follow the FRU removal and replacement procedures in the On-Line! Detective for Sun. You will find hardware configuration rules and guidelines as well as installation tips and slot information.

Other Possible Problems

If you have followed all of the steps above and are still having hardware issues, remove the component from the system and check for bent pins or damaged connectors. Reseat the component and inspect the connection. If possible, try a different slot and try to isolate the component by going down to a minimum configuration. If you still are having problems, you can make a reasonable assumption that you are working with a faulty component.

Do you have a question you’d like to have answered? Email Allen at

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Ask Al – How can I reset the NVRAM parameters to their default settings?

October 6th, 2011 Comments off

I have a Sun Blade with a USB keyboard and mouse. The administrator modified some of the NVRAM variables in Solaris using the eeprom command. After a reboot we no longer see video and the keyboard no longer works. I believe it has to do with the NVRAM variables. In the past I was able to reset the NVRAM variables by holding down the {stop}-{n} keys and powering on the system. However, this does not work now. How can I reset the NVRAM parameters to their default settings?

Newer Sun systems tend to have USB keyboards and mice. These USB devices are not initialized until the end of the POST process. If the keyboard is not initialized, the {stop}-{n} keys are ineffective. Use the following procedure to reset the NVRAM variables to their default settings for all systems that use a USB keyboard, RSC, LOM, or ALOM.

Stop-N Sequence
The Stop-N sequence (Bypass) is used to bypass problems that may be encountered on a system with wrongly configured NVRAM variables. This NVRAM reset procedure may be used on any systems that do not have a Mini-Din style keyboard attached.

The system must be at a powered off state before it can be implemented. The step by step procedure below goes through the process of implementing Stop-N sequence.


1. Power on the system.
2. While POST is running, both the System Status Fault and OK-to-Remove LEDs (if applicable) will simultaneously blink together.
3. When ONLY the System Status Fault LED begins to RAPIDLY blink, press the Power Button twice, with a one second delay between each press.

Note: Depending of the system, the system configuration and POST level, it could take up to 30 minutes until the System Fault LED rapidly blinks.

4. Once engaged into this mode, a printout notifies that NVRAM values have been set to their default values (see example below).

Setting NVRAM parameters to default values. Probing I/O buses
Sun Fire V890, No Keyboard
Copyright 1998-2004 Sun Microsystems, Inc. All rights reserved.
OpenBoot x.x, xxxx MB memory installed, Serial #xxxxxxxx.
Ethernet address x:x:x:x:x:x, Host ID: xxxxxxxx.
System is operating in Safe Mode and initialized with factory
default configuration. No actual NVRAM configuration variables
have been changed; values may be displayed with ‘printenv’ and set
with ‘setenv’. System will resume normal initialization and
configuration after the next hardware or software reset.

5. When the system reaches the OpenBoot PROM “ok” prompt, every NVRAM variable is set back to its misconstrued state.
6. To display all NVRAM variable values, use the printenv Command at the “ok” prompt.
7. NVRAM variables can be changed by implementing the setenv Command at the “ok” prompt per specific variables. To permanently set all variables back to their default values, implement the set-defaults Command at the “ok” prompt.

Alternative Method 1

Because it could take up to 30 minutes for the System Status Fault LED to rapidly blink, an alternative method for resetting the NVRAM variables to their default values is described below:

Note: This method will not decrease the time required to reset the variables. It eradicates the need to watch the LEDs and press the power button.

• If the Keyswitch is in the “Diagnostics” position, all NVRAM variables are temporally set to their defaults values (except diag-level which is set to max). After running the extended POST the system goes to the OpenBoot PROM “ok” prompt. Variables may be displayed using the printenv Command and defined using the setenv Command. To permanently reset all variables to the default settings, issue the set-defaults Command.

Note: This method only works if the system firmware is 4.15.x or newer.

Alternative Method 2

• Remote System Control: At the Remote System Control “rsc>” prompt, issue the bootmode nvram_reset Command. This has a similar function as the Stop-N keystroke sequence.

Do you have a question you’d like to have answered? Email Allen at

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