Visitor # 4099 since 14.SEP.2003

PC <-> SGI Information

Thought for today:
Did you know that PeeCees run on smoke?
You can tell because if the smoke escapes the PeeCee stops working.

<Here's an alternate link with some updated information; check it out and let me know what you think of it.>

I work with SGI workstations mainly, but for certain tasks, I use a PC. I believe in using the right tool for the job. My lowly 386DX33 ( don't laugh, its fully depreciated :-) is just the ticket for viewing and printing MS Word documents and Excel spreadsheets.

Note: I'm not a Macintosh user, so you won't find much about Mac's here, so you might look here instead.

I've had a PC on the SGI network since 1990 and have assembled some bits of information and software to make the PC a more useful tool. The key to making this happen is to make it easy to exchange and share data between the PC and the workstation. This can range from the old standby floppy disks and tapes up to high-speed networking and NFS.

* You'll need the Web Installation tools (tardist) to install this software.

Sneaker Net:

Assuming you have a SCSI floptical drive in your workstation, you can exchange data with PCs and Macs via low and high density floppy disks (and with 21MB floptical disks if your PC is similarly equipped). The SGI workstation will automatically recognize the floppy format and mount it with the proper file system at /floppy (by default).

The MS-DOS file system on IRIX will "do the right things" to files put on the floppy.

These include:

So, to avoid surprises, achieve faster transfer speed to/from floppy, and stuff more data on a floppy, I'd recommend that you use some form of archive and/or compression tool when reading/writing the floppy disk on both the PC and IRIX side. Writing many individual files to a floppy from IRIX and be somewhat slow due the the MS-DOS file system translations. A single file archive can be written to and read from the floppy much faster. Also, you can "hide" long file names, mixed-case file names, and IRIX permissions inside the archive.

I use the "3M Floptical Diskettes". They come 5 to a box and unfortunately run about $75 (US).

On the IRIX side, you'll want to check out my compression tools* that brings all these features to the Indigo Magic Desktop.

On the PC side, I'm sure you have pkzip/pkunzip, if not check out the PKWARE web site.

* You'll need the Web Installation tools (tardist) to install this software.

[updated]Tape Tools:

You'll need a SCSI host adapter and a compatible SCSI tape drive in your PC. The SCSI host adapter must be ASPI-compliant and you'll need a tape form factor that matches the one in your workstation.

Here's some tape drives, host adapters and ASPI drivers I have used successfully (I've never found a tape/controller combination that didn't work):

Then, you'll need to grab a copy of DOS-TAR which gives your PC the ability to read and write tar tapes that are fully compatible with your SGI workstation. Here's some more information pertaining to DOS-TAR:

Finally, you'll need to use compatible tar options on the IRIX side. Here are matching IRIX shell scripts to read and write DOS-TAR compatible tapes:

#!/bin/csh -f
echo "\nTar reading from tape device..."
tar xvpb 20 $*
#!/bin/csh -f
echo "\nTar writing to tape device..."
tar cvb 20 $*

If you are using QIC tapes, you'll need to deal with the default byte-swapping behavior of the IRIX SCSI tape driver. One way is to set the environment variable, TAPE, to point to the non-swapped tape device. For example if your tape is on SCSI ID #6, then the default tape device is:

and the non-swapped device is:

So, to change the default, use:

Alternately, you can use the non-swapped tape device link (if it exists; e.g QIC drives):

in the get and put shell scripts; for example in put:

Note: On DAT and 8mm tapes, this is not an issue.

DOS-TAR not only makes your data interchange process easier, but it also makes a cool backup program. The best part of the deal is it's *FREE*. I needed this tool myself, so I found the source, built it and figured out the tricks to make it work.



Windows TAR with remote UNIX access:

Instead of physically connecting a tape drive to your PeeCee, why not let the network do the connecting. Here is the Windows version of GNU tar with makes use of the WinSock networking interface to blast archive bits over the wire. In the distribution are full documentation files, but the quick start guide is:

on the PeeCee.
rsh PeeCee "tar cvf - C:/" | dd -bs=10240 of=/dev/tape
on the Irix system.

This'll back up the C: file system on machine PC.


Remote PC Access:

Many PC networking software packages are now including more of the TCP/IP networking tools common on Unix workstations for decades. Among these tools, telnet can be used for workstation <-> PC access for command-line operations. All SGI workstations include a telnet daemon (telnetd) that can accept telnet connections. Many PC networking packages also include such a feature, usually implemented as a Terminate and Stay Resident (TSR) or Dynamic Link Library (DLL). If your PC is so equipped, you'll need a few simple components to make a telnet link:

And to prove it works, here's a screen shot from my Indy workstation connected to my lowly 386 running Sun's PC-NFS Pro. It looks and feels just like MS-DOS.


PC to PC network cable:

Making a 10baseT cable for use between 2 machines

If you need to connect 2 systems via 10baseT Ethernet (RJ45 connectors) you can make a cable that can be used between the two machines without the need for a network hub. Just follow the pinouts below to reverse the normal cable assignments. Wires not listed here (4 of them) are not used. You can also purchase pre-assembled PC<->PC network cables for approx. $8 at computer and electronics stores.

Note: You may need a crimping tool to make the cable, and this is sometimes tricky.

pin 1 <----> pin 6

pin 2 <----> pin 3

pin 3 <----> pin 2

pin 6 <----> pin 1




This is the front view of an RJ-45 connector so that you can identify the wire numbers.


Look and Feel:

If you, like I, frequently switch between systems, making the different machines look and feel alike can be helpful. There are several things you can do to make your SGI workstation behave similar to a PeeCee.


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[Last updated: 25.December.2014]