Discussion:
Multia
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Bill Gunshannon
2021-11-07 15:07:39 UTC
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I used to have one of these. Sadly, I let it go during my last
household move. Any chance anyone still has these sitting around
taking up space (OK, they don't really take up much space) that
would want to get rid of them? I would love to have a couple to
play with again. Pretty sure I even have the stuff for how to
get VMS to run on them stored away in my files somewhere.

bill
Bill Gunshannon
2021-11-07 23:52:55 UTC
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Post by Bill Gunshannon
I used to have one of these. Sadly, I let it go during my last
household move. Any chance anyone still has these sitting around
taking up space (OK, they don't really take up much space) that
would want to get rid of them? I would love to have a couple to
play with again. Pretty sure I even have the stuff for how to
get VMS to run on them stored away in my files somewhere.
What's the fascination with this particular system, I wonder, it's
most certainly one of the least reliable and failure-prone systems
that had a DEC logo on it.
I used mine for years with never a failure.
In total I had two of them (one ending up to be a de facto 'parts'
system), where both had terrible heat-dissipation (even after the
'community-recommended' modifications and operating it vertically)
The heat problem was well known. Other than ensurinf that it was
always stood on end to allow for heat flow a small fan made this
a non-problem.
and overall power supply/-related issues.
Never had any power supply problems.
I remember that even if
I could get one of these systems up and running, it wouldn't run
reliably for a longer period of time.
MIne ran reliably for weeks at a time and only went down when I
chose to power it off.
I think if I wanted actual AXP hardware, I'd go for something like
an AlphaStation of some sort or even a VMS-compatible AXP board
and install it into a modern PC chassis with proper active cooling.
Usually too big and too expensive to get shipped to me and also
too big and noisy to run in the house. Wasn't a problem when I
had labs and datacenters when I was working at the University
but not really practical any more. Multia's will do all that
I need to do now and I really liked the little box. Ran VMS,
Linux and BSD on it and all of them performed very well. I
wanted to try Windows NT but never got around to trying it.

bill
MG
2021-11-08 23:31:46 UTC
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Post by Bill Gunshannon
I used mine for years with never a failure.
For approximately how long per 'boot'?
Post by Bill Gunshannon
The heat problem was well known.  Other than ensurinf that it was
always stood on end to allow for heat flow a small fan made this
a non-problem. > [...]
Never had any power supply problems.
Good for you.
Post by Bill Gunshannon
Usually too big and too expensive to get shipped to me and also
too big and noisy to run in the house.
The Multia/UDB with a proper fan wasn't silent either, in so
far I recall.
Post by Bill Gunshannon
Multia's will do all that I need to do now and I really liked
the little box.  Ran VMS, Linux and BSD on it and all of them
performed very well.  I wanted to try Windows NT but never got
around to trying it.
Why would you run Linux or BSD on it...? You'd get a
far more pleasurable experience from just about any
modern x86/-64, Arm, etc. system, which hopefully goes
without saying.

I'm sure the point is arriving fast where a low-power
Arm single board system will emulate AXP faster than
arguably 'even' the most tricked out, max-spec'ed,
Multia/UDB would ever run.

VMS on the Multia/UDB perhaps has some 'curiosity'
value, being relatively unusual, yet with very few if
any actual practical purposes in terms of end usage
though...

Arguably the most 'reliable' OS choice is Digital/Tru64
UNIX, up to the latest version including patches up to
those released all the way in 2010, which runs fully
featured, in so far I'm aware, unlike the unofficial,
wholly unsupported and hacked-together mess of VMS V7.1
and V7.2 (where you could not install certain patches
and additional software, without the risk of breaking
fundamental hardware support).

I remember, just as a sort of experiment, I drove a
SCSI disk array with an LSM/AdvFS stripe set and a
custom external SCSI connector and self-made, custom,
back-panel. I even combined it with a compatible PCI
audio adapter, for some "multimedia" support and (non-
existent) 'functionality'.

Useful? Definitely not, but it was fun and interesting
on some level... for as long as it would run.

- MG
Bill Gunshannon
2021-11-08 23:50:12 UTC
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Post by MG
Post by Bill Gunshannon
I used mine for years with never a failure.
For approximately how long per 'boot'?
Usually a week or so. It wasn't my primary system but for a
while iot was my only Alpha.
Post by MG
Post by Bill Gunshannon
The heat problem was well known.  Other than ensurinf that it was
always stood on end to allow for heat flow a small fan made this
a non-problem. > [...]
Never had any power supply problems.
Good for you.
Post by Bill Gunshannon
Usually too big and too expensive to get shipped to me and also
too big and noisy to run in the house.
The Multia/UDB with a proper fan wasn't silent either, in so
far I recall.
I used to mount small (~1.5 - 2") boxers and it was quieter than
the average PC of the era.
Post by MG
Post by Bill Gunshannon
Multia's will do all that I need to do now and I really liked the
little box.  Ran VMS, Linux and BSD on it and all of them performed
very well.  I wanted to try Windows NT but never got around to trying it.
Why would you run Linux or BSD on it...?  You'd get a
far more pleasurable experience from just about any
modern x86/-64, Arm, etc. system, which hopefully goes
without saying.
Because I wanted to work with the Alpha architecture. I still run
Sparc every once n a while, too. (and there is no reason to mention
all my PDP-11's again. :-)
Post by MG
I'm sure the point is arriving fast where a low-power
Arm single board system will emulate AXP faster than
arguably 'even' the most tricked out, max-spec'ed,
Multia/UDB would ever run.
Maybe, but I have had very little luck getting VMS on an
Alpha emulator to do much that was useful. Even with
my PDP's and VAX I still prefer real hardware over any
emulated system.
Post by MG
VMS on the Multia/UDB perhaps has some 'curiosity'
value, being relatively unusual, yet with very few if
any actual practical purposes in terms of end usage
though...
I don't do this for a living any more so the question of
practicality doesn't come into it. It's all about what
I find to provide fun.
Post by MG
Arguably the most 'reliable' OS choice is Digital/Tru64
UNIX, up to the latest version including patches up to
those released all the way in 2010, which runs fully
featured, in so far I'm aware, unlike the unofficial,
wholly unsupported and hacked-together mess of VMS V7.1
and V7.2 (where you could not install certain patches
and additional software, without the risk of breaking
fundamental hardware support).
I have been doing Unix since V7. I still have at least six
different flavors available to me any time I want them. I
have never been intersted in Tru64. And as for support,
I'm just a Hobbyist. Support is not an issue.
Post by MG
I remember, just as a sort of experiment, I drove a
SCSI disk array with an LSM/AdvFS stripe set and a
custom external SCSI connector and self-made, custom,
back-panel.  I even combined it with a compatible PCI
audio adapter, for some "multimedia" support and (non-
existent) 'functionality'.
Useful?  Definitely not, but it was fun and interesting
on some level... for as long as it would run.
If everyone thinks like you there should be a lot of them
available. Send to me and keep them out of your landfills.

:-)

bill
Arne Vajhøj
2021-11-09 13:28:23 UTC
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Post by Bill Gunshannon
Maybe, but I have had very little luck getting VMS on an
Alpha emulator to do much that was useful.  Even with
my PDP's and VAX I still prefer real hardware over any
emulated system.
Good point, many AXP emulators are messy and the ones
working best tend to be commercial products relegated
largely to Windows host platforms, on top of that, too.
I was also not terribly impressed with the performance
of some of these emulators.  Maybe things improved since
then (i.e. half a decade or so ago, in my estimation).
ISA emulation using plain interpretation means a lot of
overhead.

And only the expensive commercial products comes with
JIT compilation.

Arne
Phillip Helbig (undress to reply)
2021-11-08 05:29:18 UTC
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I used to have one of these.  Sadly, I let it go during my last
household move.  Any chance anyone still has these sitting around
taking up space (OK, they don't really take up much space) that
would want to get rid of them?  I would love to have a couple to
play with again.  Pretty sure I even have the stuff for how to
get VMS to run on them stored away in my files somewhere.
What's the fascination with this particular system, I wonder, it's
most certainly one of the least reliable and failure-prone systems
that had a DEC logo on it.
At the time, it was the cheapest AXP system.
In total I had two of them (one ending up to be a de facto 'parts'
system), where both had terrible heat-dissipation (even after the
'community-recommended' modifications and operating it vertically)
and overall power supply/-related issues. I remember that even if
I could get one of these systems up and running, it wouldn't run
reliably for a longer period of time.
I think if I wanted actual AXP hardware, I'd go for something like
an AlphaStation of some sort or even a VMS-compatible AXP board
and install it into a modern PC chassis with proper active cooling.
Right. These days, when EV7 hardware can be had for free, why go with a
Multia?
MG
2021-11-08 23:33:27 UTC
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Post by Phillip Helbig (undress to reply)
At the time, it was the cheapest AXP system.
There was no mistake about it, alright, it felt just as
cheap as it was...
Post by Phillip Helbig (undress to reply)
Right. These days, when EV7 hardware can be had for free, why go with a
Multia?
With the x86-64 port of VMS around the corner, the cost
for such hardware is hard to justify... unless you're
some kind of Tru64 UNIX enthusiast, of course.

- MG
chris
2021-11-08 15:24:37 UTC
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I used to have one of these. Sadly, I let it go during my last
household move. Any chance anyone still has these sitting around
taking up space (OK, they don't really take up much space) that
would want to get rid of them? I would love to have a couple to
play with again. Pretty sure I even have the stuff for how to
get VMS to run on them stored away in my files somewhere.
bill
Do you want X86 or Alpha ?. Have had examples of both over years
and the one critical thing to make them reliable is to replace the
fan with a high output type and use some cardboard baffling to make
sure that the CPU and hard drive get plenty of air. Original fan
is rubbish and jams eventually, where it should have had a dual
ball bearing fan. Penny pinching etc...

Chris
Bill Gunshannon
2021-11-08 17:33:16 UTC
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Post by chris
I used to have one of these. Sadly, I let it go during my last
household move. Any chance anyone still has these sitting around
taking up space (OK, they don't really take up much space) that
would want to get rid of them? I would love to have a couple to
play with again. Pretty sure I even have the stuff for how to
get VMS to run on them stored away in my files somewhere.
bill
Do you want X86 or Alpha ?.
I wasn't aware of any Multia other than the Alpha version. What
was the x86 version like? But, I am interested in the Alpha
version which can be made to run VMS.
Post by chris
Have had examples of both over years
and the one critical thing to make them reliable is to replace the
fan with a high output type and use some cardboard baffling to make
sure that the CPU and hard drive get plenty of air. Original fan
is rubbish and jams eventually, where it should have had a dual
ball bearing fan. Penny pinching etc...
Mine didn't come with a fan at all. I did add one and, as I said
earlier, I never had a problem with overheating.

bill
Crabs
2021-11-08 20:17:40 UTC
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Post by chris
I used to have one of these. Sadly, I let it go during my last
household move. Any chance anyone still has these sitting around
taking up space (OK, they don't really take up much space) that
would want to get rid of them? I would love to have a couple to
play with again. Pretty sure I even have the stuff for how to
get VMS to run on them stored away in my files somewhere.
bill
Do you want X86 or Alpha ?.
I wasn't aware of any Multia other than the Alpha version. What
was the x86 version like? But, I am interested in the Alpha
version which can be made to run VMS.
Post by chris
Have had examples of both over years
and the one critical thing to make them reliable is to replace the
fan with a high output type and use some cardboard baffling to make
sure that the CPU and hard drive get plenty of air. Original fan
is rubbish and jams eventually, where it should have had a dual
ball bearing fan. Penny pinching etc...
Mine didn't come with a fan at all. I did add one and, as I said
earlier, I never had a problem with overheating.
bill
At one time I had 4 or 5 of them, still have a few minor bits and pieces that somehow didn't get tossed.
The one thing I still have which is made of pure unobtanium is one of the plastic vertical stands (with tabs intact) that held the Multia vertical.
I could be forced to unload it, as I really have no use for it at all.
My retirement account could use a few extra zeroes. ;-)
I did get mine to run OpenVMS, don't remember which particular flavor but it did work.
There were two versions of the Alpha variant, one with a rather slow 166mhz Alpha which was hard soldered to the MB, and the other had a 233mhz Alpha in a socket.
I still have a CD somewhere with the Alpha version of Windowze NT, I also seem to recall that there were Alpha versions of Monkeysoft Excel and Word, but I could easily be mistaken. It's been soooooo many years since any of that was relevant.

Crabs
MG
2021-11-08 23:34:56 UTC
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Mine didn't come with a fan at all.  I did add one and, as I said
earlier, I never had a problem with overheating.
Are you being sarcastic or serious? I find it hard to tell at this
point.

- MG
Bill Gunshannon
2021-11-08 23:53:23 UTC
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Mine didn't come with a fan at all.  I did add one and, as I said
earlier, I never had a problem with overheating.
Are you being sarcastic or serious?  I find it hard to tell at this
point.
I don't see what looks the least like sarcasm. I was dead serious.
Mine ran reliably as long as I had it. The only problem I ever had
was the stand to hold it vertical got brittle and broke.

bill
David Goodwin
2021-11-10 04:20:10 UTC
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Post by Bill Gunshannon
I used to have one of these. Sadly, I let it go during my last
household move. Any chance anyone still has these sitting around
taking up space (OK, they don't really take up much space) that
would want to get rid of them? I would love to have a couple to
play with again. Pretty sure I even have the stuff for how to
get VMS to run on them stored away in my files somewhere.
What's the fascination with this particular system, I wonder, it's
most certainly one of the least reliable and failure-prone systems
that had a DEC logo on it.
In total I had two of them (one ending up to be a de facto 'parts'
system), where both had terrible heat-dissipation (even after the
'community-recommended' modifications and operating it vertically)
and overall power supply/-related issues. I remember that even if
I could get one of these systems up and running, it wouldn't run
reliably for a longer period of time.
Any chance you remember the symptoms of these problems?

I was having a play with my one (a 233MHz VX42B) a few days ago
but it seemed to be having intermittent problems. A blank screen
plus clicking from the speaker. Sometimes this happened on power-on,
other times it appeared to happen after leaving it at the ARC/AlphaBIOS
firmware for a while. Seems like unhappy hardware but I'm not sure
what or how repairable.

(I'd rather play with a real AlphaStation but they seem no easier to come by
in NZ than the Multias vertical stand)
MG
2021-11-10 09:10:28 UTC
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Post by David Goodwin
Any chance you remember the symptoms of these problems?
I was having a play with my one (a 233MHz VX42B) a few days ago
but it seemed to be having intermittent problems. A blank screen
plus clicking from the speaker. Sometimes this happened on power-on,
other times it appeared to happen after leaving it at the ARC/AlphaBIOS
firmware for a while. Seems like unhappy hardware but I'm not sure
what or how repairable.
That would actually be a very common problem for me, for both of
the systems I owned and one of which had the same (socketed)
processor as yours. Your description is quite literally what I
often experienced, which is quite damning.

The clicking is presumably caused by interference or other issues
in the PSU, either due to overheating or 'worn out' components,
common culprits like e.g. faulty capacitors.

(To be clear, for anyone who might be interested, I experienced these
problems after recommended fan upgrades, NVM/TOY battery upgrades
and so forth.)
Post by David Goodwin
(I'd rather play with a real AlphaStation but they seem no easier to
come by in NZ than the Multias vertical stand)
That's unfortunate, but I hope you become lucky enough in finding one.

- MG

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