20080623

Old cards and the information gap

This time I'll explore some of the issues relating to hacking on older hardware. I'll talk about expanding the work I did for the Olicom OC-2220 to the combo OC-2232 and the problems encountered.

In a previous edition, I talked about the Olicom OC-2220 card and getting it working. It works great, and in fact, I'm using it right now to make this blog entry. However, the next card I tried didn't fare so well. This is the Olicom OC-2232, which added a 33.6k modem to the same basic design as the OC-2220. It exposes the ethernet and modem such that I had to augment the PC Card system to access. I had to be able to specify the config entry to use to configure the resources for the card. However, when I started, FreeBSD's PC Card system lacked this feature.

I was able to augment FreeBSD's PC Card system to have a feature that's been requested infrequently. The ability for the driver to select the config entry to use. Right now, all of the FreeBSD PC Card drivers have been able to use the config entry that the system guesses is the right one. However, there are some combo cards that pre-date the PCMCIA multifunction standard that need to select a config entry.

So, after adding this, it was a simple matter to get the ex driver selecting the appropriate alternate config entry for the Olicom OC-2232 that I have. This card has the Intel 82595 and a 16550 compatible 33.6k modem on it. By default, FreeBSD will happen to pick the entry that corresponds to the modem only. However, with my hacks I have been able to make it select either the ethernet side only or both. FreeBSD needs a few changes to allow it to support both of these devices at the same time, but I'll write more about that at another time.

So the card comes up, and I'm able to attach to the ex driver. But there's a problem. dhclient doesn't finish. For the OC-2220, this returns immediately, so I know that the dongle cable is good, as is the port on the hub. The OC-2232 uses the same cables, as far as I can tell, but when I try to push packets through, I never get any interrupts, so dhclient never finishes. I've not instrumented the driver to see if adding a watchdog timeout would help make this work in the absence of interrupts or not.

This leads me think about some of these old cards that I have. It is impossible to get information on them. The best I've been able to find is binary only Windows and DOS drivers for them. These drivers don't work with the current version of Windows that I have on my laptop. This makes it hard to know if the problem I'm encountering is a hardware problem or a software problem. There's no support for this card in Linux (the base kernel doesn't support and 82595 based PC Cards, and it is nearly impossible to find a driver for the few cards that used this chip that wasn't incorporated into the kernel).

So assuming the card is good, there's no source available for it. I knew there was a similar card made by Silicom called the EtherSerial card. It has a real serial port in addition to the 82595 ethernet controller on it. Searching for it was difficult. Most likely there's a trick to forcing google to tell me "Where do I find the file silpmcica-1.02b.tar.gz?" with all the variant spellings and encodings (.tgz, tar.bz2, .tbz, .tbz2, etc), but I didn't see it. Altavista used to have this feature, and I'm sure that some sharp reader will tell me how to make google do it.

I was able to find, using the internet archive, the driver for the Silicom card. Well, kinda. I was able to discover the name of the file, and also discover that the internet archive didn't cache the files that people put on their FTP sites, so when I clicked on the driver link there, it tried to grab it from Silicom's current FTP server, which isn't setup for anonymous operation.

I was able to find the datasheets for this old part, however. I was lucky this part was popular enough that the various datasheet web sites have it available. There were three variants of the part, and only the FX variant appears to have been used in the PC Card devices.

So the resort of looking for data for this card was somewhat less successful than looking for data for the Crystal Semi based card that I had. There I was able to find everything I needed, but my needs were more meager. Now, I'm left wondering: do I have bad hardware? Do I need to prod some hidden register to turn on interrupts? Do I need to disassemble the drivers that I found to make further progress? These are all good questions, and I don't have the answers to any of them. All the questions that lead me to make progress involve a lot of time doing unfun tasks that really gain me no pleasure or knowledge.

Anyway, my trip down memory lane must end soon. I have other commitments in FreeBSD that I need to return to soon. This was a fun diversion (and hardware that's easy to carry), but I'm afraid this unsatisfying dead-end will likely be where this problem sits for a while as I have some processor porting work to do for people that have donated hardware to me. I've put that off long enough based on the fun I had one night with one PC Card. I'm afraid I'm going to have to put them back on the back burner unless new information surfaces. The other hardware is more relevant, and while it is fun to misbehave sometimes with something that may not be relevant for the fun of it, there's a different kind of fun to be had when doing things with more relevant hardware, and I think it is time I got back to that kind of fun in my spare time.

1 comment:

IAnjo said...

I was able to find the Silicom ethernet driver for linux, if you're still curious:
http://knuxblog.blogspot.com/2009/06/silicom-ethermodem-pcmcia-card-sem-and.html