Installation Blues

Installing NEXTSTEP on an Intel computer can be a trying experience. Every "industry-standard" PC is different, and NEXTSTEP's installation program isn't yet fully cognizant of the peculiarities. Before starting, therefore, be sure to read NeXT's release notes, to see if there are any special procedures that you need to follow for the computer or any of the add-on cards you might have.

We found NEXTSTEP easy to install on computers with the Adaptec 1542B and 1542C SCSI cards. We had a difficult time installing NEXTSTEP on systems equipped with DPT's 2012 SCSI interface, due to to numerous options in jumper settings, BIOS configurations, and EISA-configuration utility settings. We didn't have any problem with the NEC Express/ II, which had DPT's newer 2022 controller integrated on the motherboard. Because we didn't have a 2022 card available, we were unable to determine whether this was due to integration or to improvements of the 2022 over the 2012.

We were unable to install NEXTSTEP 3.1 on the Advance 2000 (which arrived running a prerelease version of NEXTSTEP) because the system we received did not include an EISA-configuration utility disk. The Compaq 486 wouldn't run at all, but that was probably a problem with our individual unit. The DEC arrived underconfigured and requiring a video driver that is not yet available. We had to benchmark a different NCR than the one supplied by the vendor because the one we received inexplicably would not boot with NEXTSTEP even for the manager of NeXT's Software QA lab, who had personally signed off on the compatibility of that model.

Once you've got NEXTSTEP installed and the machine reboots, you'll want to run the NEXTSTEP Configure application to tell NEXTSTEP which brand of SCSI interface card, video adapter, network interface, serial ports, and sound card you happen to have, and which interrupts are currently being used. Determining where they should be mapped in the computer's memory space rarely requires user intervention. If you create a conflict, for example, by assigning both the floppy disk and SCSI controller to the same interrupt; Configure will alert you to the conflict and give you a chance to correct it.

It's possible by using Configure to misconfigure your system so that it will no longer boot. If you do this, don't panic. Instead, press your computer's reset button, and at the NeXT boot prompt type config=Default. This will cause NEXTSTEP to boot using its built-in SCSI drivers and the standard low-resolution (640-by-480) VGA device driver. You can then log in as root and try again with the Configure application.

Considering all of the difficulties with installing NEXTSTEP, we offer a simple suggestion: If you can possibly get NEXTSTEP preinstalled on your '486 computer, do it!