Any other associated stuff that didn't fit in anywhere else gets dumped here. It may not be relevant, and it may not be of general interest but it is here anyway.
Donald wrote a nice description of what the Tx FIFO does and when an error occurs. Here it is:
Where the hardware supports it, my drivers have dynamic Tx FIFO tuning code. A typical Ethernet chip has a Tx FIFO that holds data from the bus before it is transmitted on the wire. The way this FIFO is controlled is important for performance.
Ideally you would like to start transmitting as soon as the first Tx packet data arrives at the chip. The "Tx FIFO threshold" is a parameter that specifies "start transmitting when N bytes have arrived at the NIC chip". This parameter is initially set for a typical configuration. But if a video card or SCSI controller is doing long PCI bursts, the NIC chip will run out of buffered data before it can get access to the bus again. This causes a FIFO underrun.
The driver responds to the FIFO underrun by changing the Tx FIFO threshold to a higher value. If this happens enough eventually the chip will end up in store-and-forward mode, where it doesn't start transmitting until the whole packet has been transferred.
Some designs, such as the Adaptec Starfire, go one step further and provide an indication that the FIFO almost ran out of data. This allows the driver to tune the setting without risking a Tx error.
It should be rare to see more than one or two Tx FIFO underruns. Either the chip has very coarse Tx threshold settings, or the driver increases the setting in large chunks to keep the PCI bursts on natural boundaries.
Here are two generic kernel commands that can be passed to
the kernel at boot time (
This can be done with LILO, loadlin,
or any other booting utility that accepts optional arguments.
For example, if the command was `blah' and it expected 3 arguments (say 123, 456, and 789) then, with LILO, you would use:
LILO: linux blah=123,456,789
These boot time arguments can be made permanent so that you
don't have to re-enter them every time. Usually this is
as simple as adding
to the top of your
/etc/lilo.conf file. See the LILO
documentation for more details.
For more information on (and a complete list of) boot time arguments, please see the BootPrompt-HOWTO
ether= argument is used in conjunction with
drivers that are directly built into the kernel. The
ether= argument will have absolutely no effect
on a modular driver. In its most generic form, it
looks something like this:
All arguments are optional. The first non-numeric argument is taken as the NAME.
IRQ: Obvious. An IRQ value of `0' (usually the default) means to autoIRQ. It's a historical accident that the IRQ setting is first rather than the base_addr -- this will be fixed whenever something else changes.
BASE_ADDR: Also obvious. A value of `0' (usually the default) means to probe a card-type-specific address list for an ethercard.
PARAM_1: It was orginally used as an override value for the memory start for a shared-memory ethercard, like the WD80*3. Some drivers use the low four bits of this value to set the debug message level. 0 -- default, 1-7 -- level 1..7, (7 is maximum verbosity) 8 -- level 0 (no messages). Also, the LANCE driver uses the low four bits of this value to select the DMA channel. Otherwise it uses auto-DMA.
PARAM_2: The 3c503 driver uses this to select between the internal and external transceivers. 0 -- default/internal, 1 -- AUI external. The Cabletron E21XX card also uses the low 4 bits of PARAM_2 to select the output media. Otherwise it detects automatically.
NAME: Selects the network device the values refer to. The standard kernel uses the names `eth0', `eth1', `eth2' and `eth3' for bus-attached ethercards, and `atp0' for the parallel port `pocket' ethernet adaptor. The arcnet driver uses `arc0' as its name. The default setting is for a single ethercard to be probed for as `eth0'. Multiple cards can only be enabled by explicitly setting up their base address using these LILO parameters. The 1.0 kernel has LANCE-based ethercards as a special case. LILO arguments are ignored, and LANCE cards are always assigned `eth<n>' names starting at `eth0'. Additional non-LANCE ethercards must be explicitly assigned to `eth<n+1>', and the usual `eth0' probe disabled with something like `ether=0,-1,eth0'. ( Yes, this is bug. )
This next lilo command is used just like `ether=' above, ie. it is appended to the name of the boot select specified in lilo.conf
In some machines it may be necessary to prevent device drivers from checking for devices (auto-probing) in a specific region. This may be because of poorly designed hardware that causes the boot to freeze (such as some ethercards), hardware that is mistakenly identified, hardware whose state is changed by an earlier probe, or merely hardware you don't want the kernel to initialize.
reserve boot-time argument addresses this problem by specifying
an I/O port region that shouldn't be probed. That region is reserved
in the kernel's port registration table as if a device has already
been found in that region. Note that this mechanism shouldn't be
necessary on most machines. Only when there is a problem or special
case would it be necessary to use this.
The I/O ports in the specified region are protected against
device probes. This was put in to be used when some driver was
hanging on a NE2000, or misidentifying some other device
as its own. A correct device driver shouldn't probe a reserved
region, unless another boot argument explicitly specifies that
it do so. This implies that
reserve will most often be used
with some other boot argument. Hence if you specify a
region to protect a specific device, you must generally specify
an explicit probe for that device. Most drivers ignore the port
registration table if they are given an explicit address.
For example, the boot line
LILO: linux reserve=0x300,32 ether=0,0x300,eth0
keeps all device drivers except the ethercard drivers from probing 0x300-0x31f.
As usual with boot-time specifiers there is an 11 parameter limit,
thus you can only specify 5 reserved regions per
reserve specifiers will work if you have an unusually
Most of the linux distributions now ship kernels that have
very few drivers built-in. The drivers are instead supplied as
a bunch of independent dynamically loadable modules. These
modular drivers are typically loaded by the administrator
modprobe(8) command, or in some cases they are
automatically loaded by the kernel through `kerneld' (in
2.0) or `kmod' (in 2.1) which then calls
Your particular distribution may offer nice graphical configuration tools for setting up ethernet modules. If possible you should try and use them first. The description that follows here gives information on what underlies any fancy configuration program, and what these programs change.
The information that controls what modules are to be used and
what options are supplied to each module is usually stored in
/etc/modules.conf. The two main options of
interest (for ethernet cards) that will be used in this file
consults this file for module information.
The actual modules themselves are typically stored in a directory
/lib/modules/`uname -r`/net where the
uname -r command gives the kernel version (e.g. 2.0.34).
You can look in there to see which module matches your card.
The first thing you need in your
modules.conf file is
something to tell
modprobe what driver to use for the
eth1 and...) network interface. You
alias command for this. For example, if you
have an ISA SMC EtherEZ card which uses the
driver module, you need to
alias this driver to
by adding the line:
alias eth0 smc-ultra
Important Note: The alias above is only used by the module
utilities to translate a generic device name (e.g.
into a hardware specific driver module name. When the driver
loads, it never even sees this alias; instead it will simply
choose the first free
device name available. Thus, if more than one ethernet module is
being loaded, the
ethN assigned to the driver by the kernel
may or may not be the same as the one given on the alias line,
depending on the order in which the modules have been loaded.
If you need to ensure that a particular card is given a particular
IP address, then read the station address and assign your
IP address based upon that. If you are writing your own shell
scripts for this, you can just parse the ifconfig output; if
using C, then you would
ioctl(ethfd, SIOCGIFHWADDR, &ifreq).
The other thing you may need is an
options line indicating
what options are to be used with a particular module (or module
alias). Continuing with the above example, if you only used the
alias line with no
options line, the kernel would
warn you (see
dmesg) that autoprobing for ISA cards is not
a good idea. To get rid of this warning, you would add another
line telling the module what I/O base the card is configured to,
in this case say the hexidecimal address
0x280 for example.
options smc-ultra io=0x280
Most ISA modules accept parameters like
irq=12 on the
insmod command line. It is REQUIRED
or at least STRONGLY ADVISED that you supply these parameters
to avoid probing for the card. Unlike PCI and EISA devices,
there is no real safe way to do auto-probing for most ISA devices,
and so it should be avoided when using drivers as modules.
A list of all the options that each module accepts can be found in the file:
It is recommended that you read that to find out what options you can use for your particular card. Note that some modules support comma separated value lists for modules that have the capability to handle multiple devices from a single module, such as all the 8390 based drivers, and the PLIP driver. For exmple:
options 3c503 io=0x280,0x300,0x330,0x350 xcvr=0,1,0,1
The above would have the one module controlling four 3c503 cards, with card 2 and 4 using external transcievers. Don't put spaces around the `=' or commas.
Also note that a busy module can't be removed. That means
that you will have to
ifconfig eth0 down (shut down the
ethernet card) before you can remove the module(s).
lsmod will show you what modules are
loaded, whether they are in use, and
rmmod will remove them.
Much of this info came from saved postings from the comp.os.linux groups, which shows that it is a valuable resource of information. Other useful information came from a bunch of small files by Donald himself. Of course, if you are setting up an Ethernet card, then you will want to read the NET-2 Howto so that you can actually configure the software you will use. Also, if you fancy yourself as a bit of a hacker, you can always scrounge some additional info from the driver source files as well. There is usually a paragraph or two in there describing any important points before any actual code starts..
For those looking for information that is not specific in any way
to Linux (i.e. what is 10BaseT, what is AUI, what does a hub do, etc.)
I strongly recommend making use of the newsgroup comp.dcom.lans.ethernet
and/or comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.networking. Newsgroup archives
such as those at
dejanews.com can also be an invaluable source
You can grab the newsgroup FAQ from RTFM (which holds all the newsgroup
FAQs) at the following URL:
You can also have a look at the `Ethernet-HomePage' so to speak, which is at the following URL:
This document is not gospel. However, it is probably the most up to date info that you will be able to find. Nobody is responsible for what happens to your hardware but yourself. If your ethercard or any other hardware goes up in smoke (...nearly impossible!) we take no responsibility. ie. THE AUTHORS ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY DAMAGES INCURRED DUE TO ACTIONS TAKEN BASED ON THE INFORMATION INCLUDED IN THIS DOCUMENT.
This document is Copyright (c) 1993-2000 by Paul Gortmaker. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this manual provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.
Permission is granted to copy and distribute modified versions of this document under the conditions for verbatim copying, provided that this copyright notice is included exactly as in the original, and that the entire resulting derived work is distributed under the terms of a permission notice identical to this one.
Permission is granted to copy and distribute translations of this document into another language, under the above conditions for modified versions.
A hint to people considering doing a translation. First,
translate the SGML source (available via FTP from the HowTo
main site) so that you can then generate other output formats.
Be sure to keep a copy of the original English SGML source that
you translated from! When an updated HowTo is released,
get the new SGML source for that version, and then a simple
diff -u old.sgml new.sgml will show you exactly what has
changed so that you can easily incorporate those changes into
your translated SMGL source without having to re-read or
If you are intending to incorporate this document into a published work, please make contact (via e-mail) so that you can be supplied with the most up to date information available. In the past, out of date versions of the Linux HowTo documents have been published, which caused the developers undue grief from being plagued with questions that were already answered in the up to date versions.
In the early days of linux, some ten(!) years ago, there were not a lot of drivers and not a lot of users. I had the time to follow individual driver developments, read about common problems in newsgroups, and answer posted and e-mailed questions. Things are a lot different now. There are a huge number of drivers, and a huge number of users too, and there is no way I can keep up with each new development! This is where I need your help. If you have found a new driver that isn't mentioned here, or any glaring typos, or outdated info in this document, please send an e-mail. It is big, and it is easy to overlook stuff. If you have e-mailed about a change, and it hasn't been included in the next version, please don't hesitate to send it again, as it might have got lost amongst the usual sea of SPAM and junk mail I get.
p_gortmaker @ yahoo.com