Someone told me to look at the banner. How do I check the banner on my Sun box? What information can I get from the banner command?

A: SUMMARY:

1) From wherever you are, bring the machine to the OK prompt.

2) At the OK prompt, type banner.

3) Reading and understanding banner information.

DETAILED:

1) From wherever you are, bring the machine to the OK prompt.

First you need to bring the machine to to the OK prompt. This is also known as the OpenBoot PROM or OBP level. There are a couple of ways of doing this, depending on where you currently are and how you are connected to the machine. The first-first thing to know is that if you are telnetted (or SSHed) into the machine, you will have to connect to the machine directly with either a keyboard/mouse or by a null modem cable. This is because the telnet and/or SSH daemons are software programs that only run while the Solaris OS is running. In order to be at the OBP level, you cannot be in the OS – these two conditions mutually exclusive.

a) If the machine is off and you are controlling the machine via a direct attached Sun keyboard, hit STOP+A when you first see the “Initializing Memory. . .” message on your screen. This will bring you to the OK prompt.

b) If the machine is off and you are controlling the machine via a null modem cable attached to the machine’s serial port, you need to hit the “send break” key sequence when you see the “Initializing Memory. . .” message upon bootup. If the terminal program you are using is TeraTerm, that key sequence is ALT+B. If the terminal program you are using is HyperTerminal, the key sequence is CTRL+Break. If you are using another terminal program, you will need to do the research and find out what the specific key sequence for your terminal program is.

c) If you are in the OS, it will not matter if you are controlling the machine via null modem cable or direct-attached keyboard. Type the following:

# init 0

This will initiate the OS shutdown sequence and within a minute or so, will “wind down” the machine until it comes to the OK prompt.

2) At the OK prompt, type banner.

In any case, once you have done one of the above, and you find yourself at the OK prompt, type “banner”, as shown in the following example:

    ok banner

This command will display the banner, which will look similar to the example shown below:

	OpenBoot 3.27, 640 MB memory installed, Serial #9428887.
	Ethernet address 8:0:20:8f:df:97, Host ID: 808fdf97.
	Sun Ultra 30 UPA/PCI (UltraSPARC-II 296MHz), No Keyboard

3) Reading and understanding banner information

Ok, so you have the banner on your screen. Now what? What information does the banner command show you? It’s actually chock full of information — let’s dissect it:

	OpenBoot 3.27, 640 MB memory installed, Serial #9428887.
	Ethernet address 8:0:20:8f:df:97, Host ID: 808fdf97.
	Sun Ultra 30 UPA/PCI (UltraSPARC-II 296MHz), No Keyboard

The first part of the first line tells you the firmware version that is currently running on this machine. The OpenBoot firmware is kind of like the BIOS of a regular PC, only a lot more powerful. Whereas a PC’s BIOS only lets you choose options from a menu, the Sun OBP has a whole command line interface – sort of like a miniature OS of sorts. You can learn more about the OBP and available commands with this OBP reference sheet.

The next part of the first line tells you that this particular machine has 640MB of RAM installed. This is useful if, for example, you know that you have 16 DIMMs in your machine and you have a total of 2GB of RAM installed. You can then do the math (16 DIMMs @ 128MB each = 2048MB = 2GB RAM) and figure out the size of each DIMM.

The last section of the first line gives you the serial# — which, oddly enough, is NOT the serial# of the machine. It is the software serial# embedded in the motherboard. In other words, it’s completely useless. At least for machines with OBP 3.x – I hear a rumor that later machines have the real serial# in this spot, but I haven’t seen it myself. To clarify: when I say “the serial# of the machine” what I am referring to is the serial# that is printed on a machine, usually on a sticker near the rear. This is the serial number that a support provider will use when they put a machine under maintenance or when they are servicing it under warranty.

On the second line you will see what is called the “Ethernet address” which in PC land is known as a MAC Address — the unique hardware address of the onboard ethernet controller.

The other piece of information on the second line is what is called the “Host ID” this is another unique ID which is based on the Ethernet address. It usually looks very similar to the Ethernet address, sometimes with just a couple of missing digits. This Host ID is important because some software licenses are tied to the Host ID of a machine, allowing them to only run on that specific machine. In a later tutorial, I will show you how you can change the Host ID of a machine that has an 3.x OBP. Later machines cannot have their Host ID changed. (at present knowledge)

The last line gives you the model of the machine. Note in the example above right next to “Ultra 30” it says “UPA/PCI” — this refers to the buses the machine uses. The UPA bus is where the CPU plugs into the motherboard. The PCI refers to the PCI bus for add-on cards such as ethernet or SCSI cards. In parentheses, you’ll see the CPU architecture (UltraSPARC II) listed right next to the CPU’s clock speed. If there were multiple CPUs in the machine, this would be noted here as well. Finally, the last thing this line tells you if there is a keyboard plugged in or not.

Hopefully, this was a helpful tutorial for you. If you need a machine to practice on, check out AnySystem.com for some really affordable desktops to practice your new skills on.

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