Netvista 2800 / IBM Netstation 8364-EXX

Netstation 8364-EXX

The Netstation 8364-EXX is basically a little stripped PC compatible. It lacks a possibility to connect an internal harddrive but otherwise its a standard PC. Features include:

The Machine has got 2 BIOS versions installed. One is called Workstation on demand and seems to be some kind of AWARD Bios. Its capable of doing Novell RPL and PXE booting and behaves as a normal PC Bios.

The other BIOS is designed for the IBM Netstation Manager. It is capable of booting Linux ELF images from TFTP or NFS.

From each of the Bioses you can enable the other.


The Netstation supports to boot from internal CF card which is seen from the BIOS side as a IDE Disk. Please be shure to not use stuff like EXT2/EXT3 on a CF card as using this read/write will exhaust the Flashes read/write cycles fast. From the different BIOS versions the Netstation is also capable to boot from the network with different possibilities.

Workstation on demand BIOS CF Card boot

The Workstation on demand BIOS treats the internal CF Card slot as IDE 0 disk (/dev/hda) which means you can use lilo, grub or like i did syslinux to boot. See the links section for a small Router/XTerm distribution and build system.

Workstation on demand BIOS network boot

As this behaves as a normal PC Bios which is capable of PXE i suggest using this one.

Add this kind of configuration to your DHCP server:

group { next-server tftp-server; filename "pxelinux.0"; host netvista-2800-1 { hardware ethernet de:ad:be:ef:01:02; } }

You need to offer some files from your TFTP directory in order to boot with PXE. See the pxelinux link at the Links section. Here is a list of files i have in my tftp directory:

lrwxrwxrwx 1 flo rfcorg 24 Feb 13 02:09 pxelinux.cfg -> netstation/pxelinux.cfg/ netstation/: total 12380 drwxrwsr-x 4 flo rfcorg 4096 Feb 13 16:10 . drwxrwsrwt 4 flo rfcorg 4096 Feb 13 02:09 .. lrwxrwxrwx 1 flo rfcorg 27 Feb 13 16:10 linux -> vmlinuz-2.6.10-8364-netboot -rw-r--r-- 1 flo rfcorg 11830 Feb 13 02:06 pxelinux.0 drwxrwsr-x 2 flo rfcorg 4096 Feb 13 14:43 pxelinux.cfg -rw-r--r-- 1 flo rfcorg 10399744 Feb 14 00:52 rootfs -rw-r--r-- 1 flo rfcorg 1066546 Feb 13 17:11 vmlinuz-2.6.10-8364-netboot netstation/pxelinux.cfg: total 16 drwxrwsr-x 2 flo rfcorg 4096 Feb 13 14:43 . drwxrwsr-x 4 flo rfcorg 4096 Feb 13 16:10 .. -rw-r--r-- 1 flo rfcorg 123 Feb 13 14:43 default

The pxelinux.cfg/default file looks like this:

label linux kernel netstation/linux append initrd=netstation/rootfs root=/dev/ram0 ramdisk_size=13000 rw -- timeout 1

The small OS booted here is a MiniX XServer i created. See links section for download and build instructions.

If in any case you stumble over a set password try IBMNCD which is the BIOS default.

On a H4011201 NS Bios i had sever problems switching to the WorkStation on Demand BIOS. The machine seemed to be dead after switching. After debugging a while and upgrading the BIOS i found the NS reporting a set Password Reset jumper.

Network Station Manager BIOS Network Boot

I didnt get any useful results from this BIOS although it might offere interesting options. It does use DHCP to get its IP Address configuration. What i found out to be necessary in the DHCP config is this:

option netvista-boot-type code 211 = text; option netvista-id-token code 128 = string; group { next-server tftp-server; filename "vmlinux"; option netvista-boot-type "tftp"; option netvista-id-token e4:45:74:68:00:00; }

It seems the BIOS needs some magic to actually load anything. The vmlinux file must be an ELF file format (Verify with file). The problem though is that after the file gets downloaded the screen shows an "Loading linux ..." but it seems to have died. This message does not originate in the Linux kernel. Another problem might be that when this message gets shown the Framebuffer is already initialized to a graphics mode which might confuse the Linux startup code.


BIOS upgrade by DHCP/TFTP

After heaving some problems on a 8364-EXX i upgraded the BIOS from H4011201 (01/12/01) to HL072902 (07/29/02) extracted from a Turbolinux Upgrade available from the IBM websites. Firmware upgrade is trivial - I did it via DHCP/TFTP from the NS Bios. Get the bflash.2800 file and put it up for download via tftp. Then configure the DHCP server to hand out the correct tftp parameters.

option netstation-boot-protocol code 211 = text; group { filename "bflash.2800"; next-server tftp-server; option netstation-boot-protocol "tftp"; host netstation-8364-1 { hardware ethernet de:ad:be:ef:00:01; } }

Copy by CF Card

I copied the BIOS from the Working to the non-working Netstation. You can do this by inserting a CF Card on the Board and setting the Jumper Password Override and BootBlk to non-default setting (Default is marked with a *). On PowerUP the Netstation will write its BIOS content onto the CF Card. When finished writing successfully the LED will start blinking green on failure it will flash amber. Now insert the CF Card into a different (Same type) Netstation and only set BootBlk to non default setting and power on. On successful flash of the BIOS the LED will start blinking green again. Set jumpers to default setting and be happy.

BIOS Versions and files

BIOS Version File CF-Card WSOD
HL072902 bflash.2800.HL072902.gz n/a No
H4071601 bflash.2800.H4071601.gz n/a Yes
H4011201 n/a cf-card.H4011201.gz Varies
H4071700 n/a cf-card.H4071700.gz Yes