Drivers Itex Network & Wireless Cards

Web Supplement: Drivers for Broadband Modems
by Rod Smith,[email protected]


As noted in my book, Broadband InternetConnections, drivers for broadband modems aren't always easy tocome by, especially for Linux or less popular OSs. As a general rule,the safest course of action is to use an external Ethernet-interfacedmodem. These are the most common type of cable modem, although manycable modems introduced in 2001 include both Ethernet and USBinterfaces. (The USB interfaces are usually reputed to be moretrouble-prone than the Ethernet interfaces, even when used underWindows.) DSL modems more commonly come in internal or USB-interfacedform, and some DSL ISPs provide only one of these modem types.

Increasingly, you can find broadband modems (especially cablemodems) for sale at local retailers like CompUSA,Fry's Electronics, or Circuit City. Online retailers,such as TC Computers,Comp-U-Plus, and Outpost.com, also carry broadbandmodems. A few manufacturers, such as ZyXEL and Westell, sell their products directto consumers. You can also often find good deals on used equipment onauction sites like eBay. Wherever youbuy, make sure the device you purchase is compatible with yourprovider's equipment, as described in my book. In particular, check thata cable modem is DOCSIS compliant, or uses whatever protocol your cablecompany uses rather than DOCSIS; and check that a DSL modem is of thecorrect type (ADSL, SDSL, and so on) and sub-type (DMT or CAP ADSL, forinstance). If possible, buy a modem that's on your ISP's list ofsupported equipment, to avoid finger-pointing about the cause of anyproblems you might experience.

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Internal DSL Modems

Internal DSL modems are network cards that 'speak' the low-level DSLprotocols directly. This type of hardware, like any hardware, requiresdrivers in order to function. Unfortunately, at the moment, non-Windowsdrivers for internal DSL modems are virtually nonexistent. Therefore,if you're not using Windows, chances are you'll need to acquire anexternal DSL modem which connects to the computer via an Ethernetline.

Drivers

I have heard of several internal DSL modems with Linux drivers:

  • The Diamond 1MM internal. This board apparently uses an SMC chipset, and it works with a modified epic100.c driver. (The preceding URL seems to be broken, as of 8/3/2001; here's another one.) The comments in the source code indicate that you must compile the modified driver as a module and load it with the options=1 option. Note that I have not tried this procedure, because I don't own the requisite hardware. Therefore, the only advice I can offer is to read the comments at the start of the source code. Also, this driver is for a 2.2.9 kernel, and so may not work with more recent kernels.
  • The Sangoma S518 PCI card. Linux drivers are supposedly available, but I can't seem to find the card or driver on Sangoma's Web site, as of 6/24/02. David Mandelstam ([email protected]) at Sangoma tells me the driver is available, and the card should be out in August of 2002. The driver apparently includes some third-party non-GPL code, and so source code isn't available; but David claimed Sangoma can compile it for 'any kernel.'
  • The Dynalink AHL110 PCI board. The Web page includes a pre-patched 2.2.12 kernel and dirvers for 2.2.12 and 2.4.2 kernels, as of 6/24/02. I don't have one of these cards and so can't comment on how well the drivers work. Apparently this card is based on an Itex chipset, so it's conceivable the drivers will work with other boards.
  • The Xpeed X-200 and Xpeed X-300. Again, I don't have these boards and so can't comment on how well the drivers work. (In fact, as of 6/24/02, there appear to be DNS problems with the xpeed.com domain, so I can't even check that the drivers are really there.)

If you hear of any internal DSL modem that's supported by anynon-Windows OS, please drop mea line with the information, and I'll mention it here.

USB DSL Modems

Like internal DSL modems, USB DSL modems require special drivers tofunction. An OS's basic USB drivers are not sufficient; theseprovide only the ability to talk to USB devices generically, not tohandle specific devices such as USB modems. You will need a driver foryour specific model of modem.

As of June of 2002, I know of only three USB DSL modems for whichnon-Windows drivers exist:

  • The Thomson (formerly Alcatel) Speed Touch USB. You must obtain the drivers from Thomson/Alcatel, which provides support for Windows, MacOS Classic, MacOS X, and Linux. As with internal DSL modems, I have no experience with the Alcatel SpeedTouch USB, so I can't comment on the quality of these drivers from personal experience. I have heard, however, that the 1.3.4 drivers for Linux are configured to compile with 686 optimizations by default, and the only way to change this is to manually edit the configuration script. Even doing that won't fix the binary-only support programs, so these drivers won't really work in Linux on anything less than a Pentium Pro.
  • The Allied Telesyn AR-215 DMT ADSL modem and similar Allied Telesys AR-210 G.Lite modem. I don't have one of these modems, and so can't comment on the quality of the Linux drivers (also read the documentation, which is in Microsoft Word format, but loads reasonably well in OpenOffice.org). The drivers are supposed to work with Red Hat 7.2 and its 2.4.7-10 kernel. These modems are apparently based on an Analog Devices chipset. In fact, the drivers appear to originate with Analog Devices. Allied Telesyn doesn't yet officially support the drivers, although they did send them to me. Note: Allied Telesyn sent me updated drivers on 7/18/02. If you downloaded the driver file before then, you might want to try the new one.
  • The Aus.Linx AL-2006. This modem apparently uses a Conexant chipset. Once again, I don't have one of these modems and can't promise that the drivers work, but Linux drivers are available for the product.

If you have some other USB DSL modem, you can try asking themanufacturer for drivers, or check the Linux USB Web site for informationon Linux driver developments. If you have no luck, you may need to buyan Ethernet-interfaced DSL modem and sell the USB model to recover mostof the cost.

If you hear of any USB DSL modem that's supported by any non-WindowsOS, please drop me a linewith the information, and I'll mention it here.

Internal and USB Cable Modems

Internal cable modems are extremely rare, although there are a fewmodels available. I know of only one non-Windows driver for such adevice: The Linux kernel includes support for the General InstrumentsSurfboard 1000, an old one-way cable modem. Because this driver is partof the Linux kernel, you should check your kernel and moduleconfiguration to see if the driver is available on your system. If it'snot, you'll have to recompile your kernel, or at least that onemodule.

As noted earlier, many cable modems introduced in 2001 include bothEthernet and USB interfaces, but there are few USB-only devices. Evenin Windows, for which USB drivers for dual-interface devices are mostcommon, it's best to use the Ethernet interface, which tends to be lessfinicky than the USB interface.

If you hear of any internal or USB cable modem that's supported byany non-Windows OS, please dropme a line with the information, and I'll mention it here.

Copyright © 2001 by Roderick W. Smith, [email protected]

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