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9. Miscellaneous.

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.

9.1 Passing Ethernet Arguments to the Kernel

Here are two generic kernel commands that can be passed to the kernel at boot time (ether and reserve). 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

For more information on (and a complete list of) boot time arguments, please see the BootPrompt-HOWTO

The ether command

The 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. )

The reserve command

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.

The 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 reserve 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 keyword. Multiple reserve specifiers will work if you have an unusually complicated request.

9.2 Using the Ethernet Drivers as Modules

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 with the 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 modprobe.

You 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 the file /etc/conf.modules. The two main options of interest (for ethernet cards) that will be used in this file are alias and options. The modprobe command consults this file for module information.

The actual modules themselves are typically stored in a directory named /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 conf.modules file is something to tell modprobe what driver to use for the eth0 (and eth1 and...) network interface. You use the alias command for this. For example, if you have an ISA SMC EtherEZ card which uses the smc-ultra.o driver module, you need to alias this driver to eth0 by adding the line:

        alias eth0 smc-ultra

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 single 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 io=0x340 and 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).

The command lsmod will show you what modules are loaded, whether they are in use, and rmmod will remove them.

9.3 Related Documentation

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 of information. You can grab the newsgroup FAQ from RTFM (which holds all the newsgroup FAQs) at the following URL:

Usenet FAQs

You can also have a look at the `Ethernet-HomePage' so to speak, which is at the following URL:


9.4 Disclaimer and Copyright

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) 1993-1999 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 re-translate everything.

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.

9.5 Closing

If you have found 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.


Paul Gortmaker, p_gortmaker@yahoo.com

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