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Alpha 2100A OpenVMS 7.3-1 Firware Upgrade Problem

Randall D. Bilbrey
Occasional Visitor

Alpha 2100A OpenVMS 7.3-1 Firware Upgrade Problem

Hi. I'm writing with a question about upgrading the Firmware on my OpenVMS AlphaServer 2100A 4/275 with 1GB of memory running OpenVMS 7.l3-1, admittedly an old unit but it's rock solid and I have a spare for parts.

While installing OpenVMS 7.3 on the unit it recommended that I upgrade to Firmware 5.3 from the current version of 5.2. The only firmware that I have been able to find that is available is:

I can not get it to install.
If I try Floppy Disk FAT-formatted Create a non-bootable firmware update floppy disk to update firmware from ARC or AlpaBIOS console.
Floppy Disk OpenVMS System Create a bootable firmware update floppy disk.
The unit will will hang and just sit there with errors unit it is powered down.

Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Karl Rohwedder
Honored Contributor

Re: Alpha 2100A OpenVMS 7.3-1 Firware Upgrade Problem

I normally use the 'system disk' path to upgrade the firmware and never encountered any problems.

regards Kalle
Honored Contributor

Re: Alpha 2100A OpenVMS 7.3-1 Firware Upgrade Problem

I've never used the FAT firmware upgrade method, as I've generally found it is easier to use the OpenVMS bootstrap method.

Do you have the ECU around, and the pieces for the other I/O in the bus.

You indicated "with errors". Out of curiosity, what might those other errors be?

When you downloaded the firmware files, did you get a Windows or other box in the sequence?

Assuming the file fwupdate is around in your local directory, here's the basic (and slightly different than what's documented) sequence I usually use for a floppy boot:

$ set file /attr=(rfm:fix, lrl:512, mrs:512, rat:none) fwupdate.exe
$ init /index=begin dva0: fwupdate
$ mount dva0: fwupdate
$ copy /contiguous fwupdate.exe dva0:[000000]
$ run sys$system:writeboot
$ dismount dva0:

Shut down, and then BOOT DVA0

My personal preferred approach is the MOP path. I load the firmware onto the local MOP server, and off I go. (The sequence is listed in the upgrade manual.)

But we really need some idea of what the errors here might be. I'm wondering if there are some I/O controllers that also need firmware. (There's details on the options floppy disk in a URL below.)

Here's the archive area:

Here's the options floppy disk details:

I'd be tempted to burn my own upgrade CD, starting with the current distro, and adding the AlphaServer 2100A bits back on.

Stephen Hoffman

Randall D. Bilbrey
Occasional Visitor

Re: Alpha 2100A OpenVMS 7.3-1 Firware Upgrade Problem

I meant to type "without errors", sorry about that. My problem is that it just hangs and does not give any errors and I can not get the unit to respond to any escape sequences so I must re-boot. I am using a windows box to format the fat floppy and to download the file from the ftp site. I then rename the file to fwupdate.exe and copy it to the floppy via Microsoft Windows XP and Explorer. I will try the above method mentioned tonight. Thank you for the suggestions and I will reply back with a result.
Honored Contributor

Re: Alpha 2100A OpenVMS 7.3-1 Firware Upgrade Problem

Karl's is also a good approach, load the bits onto a disk with a little room and no copy of OpenVMS on it, WRITEBOOT that, and boot it. User files on the disk are fine.

Randall D. Bilbrey
Occasional Visitor

Re: Alpha 2100A OpenVMS 7.3-1 Firware Upgrade Problem

OK. I have been trying to setup this system for the good part of three months now. OpenVMS newbie is an understatement. I have read the FAQ and I've plowed through a lot of info. on the net. I'm having a very hard time accessing floppies and CD's via VMS. No problem under the SRM console. I have written the fwupdate.exe to an ISO9660 CD with the volume label of fwupdate. My SCSI CD is DKA500 and I think the volume label is ISO9660 in device _VMS1$DKA500:

How would I Mount the CD? How would I read the files that are on the CD? How would I copy the files to my system disk which is DKA100?

Thanks again for the help. Greatly appreciated. VMS makes Linux seem like child's play now. :-) I have attached a text file with my system current environment and config for reference.
Honored Contributor

Re: Alpha 2100A OpenVMS 7.3-1 Firware Upgrade Problem

The usual boot volume structures for OpenVMS are ODS-2 or ODS-5. While it is technically feasible to create a dual-format disk (either ODS-2 or ODS-5, combined with ISO-9660), that is not a path I would choose to use here.

With OpenVMS, get the LD Freeware kit (http://www.digiater.nl/dfu.html) and connect up a logical disk. Details on creating bootable OpenVMS media are here: http://h71000.www7.hp.com/wizard/wiz_9820.html

The basic sequence and the WRITEBOOT processing should look familiar, though you're replacing the firmware boot block image (APB.EXE, with OpenVMS) with the fwupdate.exe image.

If you are burning disks on another box (as I expect), I would encourage you to generate the disk master on OpenVMS, then dismount and disconnect the LD device, and copy over the backing storage file. Burn that using raw, binary, block-level, ISO-burn (not to be confused or such.

On Windows: http://www.cdburnerxp.se/ works.
On Mac OS X: the provided Disk Image
On OpenVMS: cdrecord (freeware, and part of V7.3-1 and later), or COPY/RECORDABLE_MEDIA on V8.3 and later.

If you have a non-system-disk disk on this box (and the AlphaServer 2100A typically has an integrated StorageWorks shelf for disks), you can perform the entire operation off a disk brick. Disk bricks for this box and this shelf are generally available for not much more than the cost of shipping.

With a brick, the upgrade sequence will not harm user files on the disk -- it can't be a system disk, but a data disk is fine, and would not be damaged by the WRITEBOOT and such.

If you have a scratch disk brick, you can download the zip of the current distro, unpack it and use LD to connect and then MOUNT it, transfer the contents over to the scratch brick with a BACKUP/IMAGE, then load the bits onto the standard firmware distro.

You're rolling your own ancient firmware distribution. Everything here traditionally involved moving toward more current bits, and usually booting the provided CD firmware distro -- the firmware CD kits were and are generally shipped with each OpenVMS Alpha release.

It's unfortunate that DIGITAL and Compaq and HP didn't keep copies of the older distros around and posted, but this V5.3 stuff is from about 1998 or so. And based on what I see in the archives, there wasn't a disk image even available and posted back then.

And the other approach is to scrounge up a firmware disk of the right vintage; a V5.3 firmware disk.

I'd offer to generate a distro for you, but the files involved have non-transferable copyrights. HoffmanLabs or other folks can likely create a DCL command procedure that will generate one of these disks for you, if you're interested.

Stephen Hoffman
atul sardana
Frequent Advisor

Re: Alpha 2100A OpenVMS 7.3-1 Firware Upgrade Problem

dear randall,
i am sorry for delayed but i hope my answer can help you. first you download latest firmware for your alpha 2100a from itrc or confirm the latest version for alpha server which you can download easily is compatible or not? i have 6.8 version for alpha servers if you required then give me your email id. i can send it to you through email and after received you can install it very easily.
1, first you write it to a CD and boot system through it.
P00>>boot dqa0
then u will get upd>> prompt
2,upd>>list (you can see here firmware details of your current system)
3,upd>>update (after run this automatically update new firmware to your system and you can check it by upd>>list)

Note:ensure no power failure during this activity.
Atul Sardana
I love VMS
Occasional Visitor

Re: Alpha 2100A OpenVMS 7.3-1 Firware Upgrade Problem

Hi, I am going through a similar exercise as Randall but with an ALPHA 4000 server which i bought recently, non running, as an aid to getting 'back up to speed' with VMS and FORTRAN.

I am trying to load OpenVMS 7.3 from CD but the boot fails with 'Firmware rev. 5.0 is below the absolute minimum of 5.2, Please update your firmware to the recommended rev. 5.3'

I downloaded the most recent firmware for the Alpha 4000 onto 3 floppies (via my PC) and successfully updated the Alphabios to V5.7 but when attempting to update the SRMflash to V6.0-4, it just 'hangs'

I discovered that I need an intermediate step to SRM V5.3

- can anyone tell me where to find the SRM firmware V5.3 for the Alpha 4100/4000 ? - or any relevant advice would be appreciated.

(i assume it's not the same as the 2100 model)

I suspect that my machine had been running NT but am very much an old 'newbie' to the system management activity.

Thanks, dave smith, Bristol , UK
Bill Hall
Honored Contributor

Re: Alpha 2100A OpenVMS 7.3-1 Firware Upgrade Problem


HP no longer has links on the AlphaServer firmware page to the "interim" version directories. You can find the 5.3 firmware for the 4100/4000 at the following url:


Bill Hall
Occasional Visitor

Re: Alpha 2100A OpenVMS 7.3-1 Firware Upgrade Problem

Thankyou Bill, I copied the firmware to floppy via my PC then used the LFU to perform the intermediate SRM V5.3 upgrade before upgrading to the latest version. Anyway the boot process is progressing and I'm now having to look at disk configuration/mounting - it's all a learning activity! Dave
Regular Advisor

Re: Alpha 2100A OpenVMS 7.3-1 Firware Upgrade Problem

I think you should be able to burn a bootable CD with the correct firmware for your Alpha. Or you can create a bootable SCSI disk (like on a StorageWorks SBB disc that you can boot from. This might work a little better than floppies.

If you get the VMS media and documentation distribution service (MDDS), you should have the firmware on a bootable CD already.

If you're interested, I can create a bootable firmware StorageWorks SBB disc for a small charge to cover my costs and efforts.