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I was given some nice old Sun UNIX workstations, Sun Blade 1000 and Sun Blade 2000. These are UltraSparc machines running Solaris 8 (which, with regard to all questions below, is useless because the former owner could not provide me with any passwords).

I'd like to get them running again, and because I don't like computers on "static display", would prefer having some typical software on them. So,

  1. what OS and application software would you suggest? I'm not too interested in 100% "historical" accuracy, but would like something that lends itself to demonstrating a "typical UNIX workstation". Bonus points if the OS you suggest can still be used to compile some useful modern software from source (like Chromium) without having to create an entire build environment from scratch.
  2. How do I even boot these machines from a CD? Searching around some forums gives me the impression that I need a special Sun keyboard in order to press "Stop-A" during boot... can this be done on a regular PC-style keyboard?
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To boot SPARC machine from cdrom, you can do

  1. Boot from OpenBoot using boot cdrom instead of boot.

  2. Reboot from Solaris and call to boot cdrom i.e:

    # reboot -- cdrom
    

    There is no need to reinstall the Solaris 8 OS to recover the "root" password. It's a simple process:

    1. Boot from CDROM in "single mode"

      boot cdrom -s'

    2. Mount "root partition" -for example-

      mount -F ufs /dev/dks/c0d0t0s0 /a/mnt`

    3. Edit "/a/mnt/etc/shadow" file and reset password field

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Thanks for these hints, but one question remains: How do I get to the OpenBoot prompt with a PC style keyboard, i.e. with one that does not have a "Stop" key? –  jstarek Aug 3 '11 at 17:24
    
You can try Ctrl+Break but this might only work through a serial connection. Alternatively, powering off/on the server just after it started booting should lead to the OpenBoot prompt. –  jlliagre Aug 21 '11 at 8:29
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