Rasberry Pi VAXcluster: The Foundations Part 1 – Preparing Raspberry Pi for SimH

What you need to get started:

  • A Raspberry Pi board
  • A suitable SDHC with a Linux operating system (or ‘distro’ as they are known) image installed for Raspberry Pi. You will need a decent slab of free space for most VAX simulations, 1+GB ideally, so maybe 1.5GB free on your card.
  • About 2 hours

Note: If you are short on space on your SD card can use external USB storage to store things like disk, tape and cdrom images too. It means re-mountiung the USB storage when you power on the Raspberry Pi to use SimH, however. Although this can be configured automatically in some Linux distros you will have to investigate that idea separately and I won’t cover it here.

I’m going to assume you already have a usable basic Linux environment bootable on your Raspberry Pi and are comfortable with working at the command terminal. You will also need access to root
user prvileges either by loggiong in as ‘root’ (which is bad practice), using ‘su -‘ to swithc to root, or using sudo (see below).

To compile and run SimH, and make it more usable, you will need to have the following pre-installed:

  • wget – Quickest way to directly download the source from the SimH website .
    (Debian package: wget)
  • Build tools (gcc, gmake etc.) – SimH needs to be compiled from source on Linux. Large Raspberry Pi distros usually have these installed, the minimal ones don’t. It’s always worth checking.
    (Debian package: build-essentials)
  • unzip – to unzip the source, most distros have it installed but some ‘minimal’ ones do not so make sure you have it.
    (Debian package: unzip)
  • libpcap – for networking support. You will need the library itself and the development headers for the networking to be enabled at compile time.
    (Debian packages: libpcap0.8 and libpcap-dev)
  • telnet – to communicate with the simulated VAX
    (Debian package: telnet)
  • GNU screen – allows you to start then detach your SimH simulator console to resume later (more cool ‘screen’ tips in a future post!)
    (Debian package: telnet)
  • sudo (optional) – allows for smoother running of simh as ‘root’ from non-root accounts. You will need to run SimH as root to get network access via libpcap (there is no other way, sorry!). Alternatively you can use;
    su -c "[command] [params]"

    but you will have to type quotes around complex commands and enter your root password every time you run SimH.
    (Debian package: sudo)

  • OpenSSH (server) – allows you to access the command terminal of your Raspberry Pi remotely using , for example, a Terminal app in Linux or Mac OS X, or the PuTTY terminal emulator in Windows. A lot of Debian distros, even the minimal distros already have this installed. You can check it’s running using the command:
    ps ax | grep sshd

    You should get 2 results, one will be the command you just ran and the other should look like:

      789 ?        Ss     0:00 /usr/sbin/sshd

    (Debian package: openssh-server)

With all these installed you will have good platform to compile and run SimH on Raspberry Pi.

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