3Com 3C1 works

Years ago, I bought a 3Com 3C1 CF card. This card was an early attempt by 3Com to minimize the power usage of the traditional 3C589 line of cards. These cards were important for the early palm-sized PDAs that were on the market. Through a number of different connections, I was able to get documentation on the 3c1. At the time I got it, I barely understood network drivers or even how the hardware worked. The documentation I got from 3com had pages for the flow charts for transmit and ISR, but the flowcharts weren't actually included on those pages. My connections couldn't get a better copy of the documentation, always saying it was coming soon.... The descriptions of the commands had some vague hints, but I never could make them connect. This was around 1999 or so.

Over the years, I kept trying to make this card work on FreeBSD. I considered it unfinished business from my past and I kept trying to find time to work on it. I never could find the time, or if I had the time my brain was burned out from the deliverables I had to produce for work. Over the years I've acquired all the cards that I could find in the 3c5xx line and made them work, but never got the 3c1 working.

Recently I stumbled across the 3c1 documentation and had a few minutes to read it. It was a nice change of pace from all the other stuff I'd been working on lately. After reading through it, I realized that there were a few key items that I'd not properly implemented before. There was a cryptic new command to turn on and off the TX PLL. So I had 30 minutes the other night and started reading the document again.

In the interim between when I started looking at the 3c1 documentation and now I did a lot of work in the high precision time and frequency world. This world is all about PLLs and controlling the oscillators/clocks to an insanely high degree of precision. So this clicked in my brain "Hmm, TX PLL sounds like it controls the clock used to do the transmission." So everywhere we enabled TX in the driver, I added a call to turn on TX PLL. This got me started: dhclient worked! I was able to transmit packets. This was the first. However, it stopped working after a while. So I searched through the 3c1 docs. There was nothing about PLL enable and disable, except for the documentation of the command. It appears there's an automatic timeout in the hardware which was turning off the PLL. So, an additional enabling of the PLL in start did the trick. I only enabled the PLL when we're not actively transmitting (which means we were idle for some unknown period of time). I could refine it further if I knew what the timeout of the PLL (which isn't documented), but there appears to be no ill effects doing it all the time the TX unit has been idle.

Ah, one more piece of unfinished business from the past is now complete. I can move on to other more interesting things...

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