Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The HTC Evo and a VT125

This follows on from my previous blog post about booting ancient OSes on emulators for ancient computers on your Android phone.

Since I still have an extensive collection of vintage DEC hardware, I decided to extend what I had been working on by connecting some vintage hardware up to the emulated system.

The first thing I had at hand was a DEC VT125 terminal - a close relative of the VT100, which includes some added graphics support. A quick power-up verified that it work. Now, to get it to talk to my phone's emulated VAX.

Now, I didn't have any good way of connecting a serial port directly to my phone, but SIMH does support a telnet connection to the emulator's console by doing a command like this (2301 is the TCP port to accept connections on):

sim> set console telnet=2301

Now, to create a telnet session from my VT125, I grabbed a Xyplex MAXserver 1640 from my bastement. These are similar to a vintage DECserver, but support telnet (and many other things) in addition to the usual DEC-specific LAT protocol. Basically, I can hook a terminal up to this, and use it to telnet to a host. It also works the other way around, so that I can hook a system's serial port up to it (such as a console port), use telnet to connect to the MAXserver, and connect to the serial console on the physical machine. This later setup is something we do with systems at work, and is very commonly done, as opposed to connecting serial terminals up to network-attached hosts, like I am trying to do.

For the purposes of this post, I won't go into detail on how to set up a MAXserver, but I basically placed a boot image on a tftp server, told the MAXserver to boot from that image, gave it an IP address, and told it to reset itself to default settings.

To connect the MAXserver to the VT125, I used a RJ45 serial cable (a "roll over" cable) and DB25 to RJ45 adapter, which has the same pinout as a Cisco RJ45 to DB25 DTE serial cable. Ethernet then connects the MAXserver to my home network.

Next, I set my phone to connect over WiFi to my home network, and noted its IP address. After turning on my VT125, booting the MAXserver, and starting up the emulated VAX on my phone. From there, I told the MAXserver to connect to my emulated VAX console:

Xyplex> connect

Now, just boot the emulated VAX, and enjoy!

I have more pictures up on my flickr account.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Compiling SIMH emulators for Android

In order to make this process easier on my phone, I used a rooted firmware. It will take some more effort to get this to work as a packaged application.
Setting up the development environment.
To get started, you'll need a working native C compiler for Android. After a lot of trial and error, I ended up discovering what I had to do. I used an amd64 architecture version of Debian GNU/Linux, Ubuntu works the same way. Using a Linux host to compile the code if not essential will make your life a lot easier. Follow the official instructions to download the source to Android using git, and then build it.

Along with doing that, I tested this on the Android emulator, which is a part of what you just downloaded and built, under out/host/linux-x86/bin. Put that directory in your path, and run the "android" command, create a virtual platform, and boot it. From the command line, if you built a virtual device named "Android21", for example, you'll want to run "emulator -avd Android21 -shell" so that you can get a shell on the virtual device. To copy files over to the image, the easiest method that I've found is to shut down the emulator, mount the virtual sdcard image (for these examples, I'm using "Android21" as the virtual device name):

$ sudo mount -o loop ~/.android/avd/Android21.avd/sdcard.img /mnt
$ sudo cp whatever /mnt
$ sudo umount /mnt

In addition, you will want the "agcc" script to make it easier to compile things. Download it from here. I modified my copy to use gcc-4.4.0 instead of gcc-4.2.1. You will need to add the location of arm-eabi-gcc to your path, and change all references of "4.2.1" in the agcc script to "4.4.0" and add that to your path. arm-eabi-gcc can be found under the prebuilt/linux-x86/toolchain/arm-eabi-4.4.0/bin path of where you built the android sources.

Fixing the Android SDK and SIMH makefile

The current version of the Android libc (bionic) headers has a problem compiling when bionic/libc/kernel/arch-arm/asm/byteorder.h is included. In order to make the file compile, comment out these lines, lines 22-27 in my copy:

/*#ifndef __thumb__
* if (!__builtin_constant_p(x)) {
* asm ("eor\t%0, %1, %1, ror #16" : "=r" (t) : "r" (x));
* } else
*#endif */

Once you do that, you will need to need to download the SIMH sources. Unpack them, and modify the the makefile in the top directory, to make the following changes:

On line 12, remove -lrt from OS_CCDEFS, so that it reads:

Change all references of "gcc" to "agcc".

Only some of the simulators actually compile, and I haven't tried to compile network support for any of it. In order to get network support, you would need to compile libpcap as well. For now, that is left as an exercise for the reader. :)

After those changes, I just did make vax vax780 to build the MicroVAX 3900 and VAX-11/780 simulators, which can be copied over to your phone or emulator. You will probably get a bunch of warnings about the use of variable-size enums versus 32-bit enums. They seem to be harmless, and I'm pretty sure that you can ignore those warnings.

If you're too lazy to compile it

If you don't feel like spending the time to set up a development environment, and compile SIMH by yourself, I have a pre-compiled version for Android available. I used SIMH v3.8-1, which is the newest release as of this posting. You can get a pre-compiled copy of the Android emulator to test on from the pre-compiled Android SDK. After you download and unpack that, you will need to put the tools directory inside the sdk into your path.

Preparing your phone and copying things over

You will need a rooted phone to make this work easily. Rooting your phone is left as an exercise for the reader. Once you have root permissions, you will need to USB debugging on your phone. On my Evo, it's under Settings -> Applications -> Development -> USB debugging.

You will need an application that will work as a terminal emulator on your phone. You can use "adb shell" from the Android SDK, which will give you a shell from your phone on your computer. To run completely hosted from the phone, use something like ConnectBot.

From this point you can copy files necessary for the emulator to your phone. I copied the necessary files all to my phone's SD card:

$ adb shell mkdir /sdcard/simh
$ adb push BIN/vax /sdcard/simh
$ adb push VAX/ka655x.bin /sdcard/simh

Now, use adb shell to do a few things on the phone itself. Pay attention to what your phone is saying, as the first time you try to "su" on your phone, it may pop up a dialog asking if this is ok. Whether or not you see that will depend on exactly how you rooted your phone. If "adb shell" gives you a "#" prompt straight away, you don't need to use su, as you're already root.

$ adb shell
$ su -
# mkdir /data/simh
# cat /sdcard/simh/vax
# chmod 755 /sdcard/simh/vax

It is necessary to put any executables on the internal storage (eg in /data/simh like I did), because you cannot directly execute binaries from the sdcard, at least in Android 2.1.

Running a SIMH emulator

Once you've done that, as root on the phone, do something like:

# cd /sdcard/simh
# /data/simh/vax

And then just use SIMH as you normally would.

Connectbot allows for multiple simultaneous sessions, so you could do "set console telnet=2300" inside the emulator, and then open another telnet session in connectbot to to connect to a separate console. Connectbot simulates "screen" as a terminal emulator, which seems to do an adequate VT100 emulation for most things. The most I've tested it so far it running /usr/games/worms from 4.3BSD, after "setenv TERM vt100". If you have your device on a WiFi network, you could even use another machine to telnet into SIMH and be the console, or another emulated serial terminal on the system.

That's it! If you don't know what to do from here, take a look around the SIMH site, you can run things like ancient versions of UNIX, OpenVMS through HP's hobbyist program, NetBSD, or play with the other emulators and other OSes. Where you go from here is up to you.

EDIT Aug 8, 2010:

I forgot to add the pictures that I have taken of this. Check them out on flickr. I also now added the picture to the top.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Back again

After a bit of a hiatus from posts, I'm back again.

I've finished a big hurdle in the start of downsizing and creating focus in my computer and interesting technology collection, and after finally buying a house, I have completely finished moving out of a ~2500 sq ft warehouse that I was using to store my collection. At its peak, it was stacked high with equipment, and paths to navigate through the space were sometimes non-existent.

I have since resolved to limit the size of my collection, and thus the number of projects that I want to do. As a direct result of my massive work in downsizing (with critical help from friends for some larger items and a push to finish up towards the end of July - but otherwise mostly done by myself over the January through July of 2010), I now have time to work on projects instead of just spending all of my time moving things back and forth.

I replaced my old iPhone 1.0 with an HTC Evo, running Android, back in June when they came out, and have been exceedingly happy with it. As a direct result of how easy it is to hack and develop on, I have started some projects involving running computer simulators on it. Currently, I have the set of VAX emulators (VAXstation 3900 and VAX-11/780) from Bob Supnik's Simh emulator collection running both 4.3BSD and OpenVMS, with a minimal amount of work.

I have posted pictures of 4.3BSD running both on the Android emulator, and my phone on my Flickr account.

My next post will describe what I had to do to get Simh to compile and run on my phone, and after playing with that, my next target is the Hercules IBM Mainframe emulator.