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Thread: Broadcom 440 NIC Support

  1. #1
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    Broadcom 440 NIC Support

    I think Knoppix uses the "b44" module to support my Broadcom 440 NIC. Anyway, Knoppix has no problems using the 440 for eth0. I am new to Linux, so I have tried several Live CD distros, Knoppix, Mepis, PCLinuxOS, Slax, Suse, Peanut, DamnSmall, Feather and Puppy. All support the Broadcom 440 with no problems. (I am not sure if all use the "b44" module.) I have installed all of these distros to my HD and I manage booting with the Lilo boot manager.

    I like Knoppix, so I thought it might be interesting to install a "real" distro such as Debian v3.0 r5. What a nightmare! USB mouse wouldn't work, no drivers for my Nvidia video adapter, X Window configuration, etc. Anyway, I finally got a working installation only to find no support for the Broadcom 440 NIC.

    I know this is a Knoppix forum, but I haven't found a good Debian forum, so here is the question. Is there some way to "transplant" the Knoppix "b44" module to Debian? Or does anyone have a suggestion for getting support for the Broadcom 440 NIC installed in my Debian system?

    Thanks, jimbo

  2. #2
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    is the broadcom 440 supported thru the ndis wrapper? I've never used that chip before, but that might be worth looking into for support of your nic.

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  4. #4
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    Debian 3.0r5 is about 3 years old & it is known as Woody and is considered Debian stable. This means that programs & packages only get updated with security fixes so all the packages work well but are quite old. Many of those distros you mentioned use the up to date 2.6.x branch of the Linux kernel as default. Debian 3.0r5 uses the 2.2.x branch as default and according to Debian package listsings, the latest 2.4 kernel is 2.4.18.

    Knoppix 3.7 provides kernels 2.4.27 and 2.6.9 and Knoppix 3.8.x uses 2.6.11.x. Both the 2.4.x & 2.6.x branches have a kernel module called b44. Support for b44 was added to kernel 2.4 series in 2.4.22 as seen via the changelog here on line 240. The 2.6 series kernels also support b44 as seen in the 2.6.9 Changelog at line 27077. According to the changelogs, the 2.4 is getting backported fixes for the b44 driver via the work being done on the 2.6 kernel, so the Knoppix 2.6.x kernel should be more reliable.

    In order to get support for your NIC you need to use the 2.4.22 or higher OR 2.6.0 or higher. In order to get the latest support for usb2/firewire/sata etc you should probably be aiming to use the 2.6.x kernel branch but that is not an option in Debian 3.0r5. The Debian group is working on a new release of Debian 3.1 called Sarge and it is expected in about a month. It will include the 2.6.8 kernel and it too has the b44 driver. If you do not wish to wait a month, then you can choose to manually compile & install a new kernel. You can find directions in the links that tdjokic provided.

    I hope this helps.
    James

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the great insight! Everything is in much better focus now.

    One last question/comment. Why does a major distribution such as Debian lag so far behind a distro such as Knoppix?

    Thanks again, jimbo

  6. #6
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    The Debian developers split the distro into categories based on stability: stable, testing, unstable and sometimes even experiemental. Debian stable is what it is: old working stable programs. Debian testing is the testing & proving grounds for the next stable release. Debian unstable is where new and untested packages get inserted into the distro. Experimental in mostly unoffical and usually not supported. So thats what the categories are.

    Why is Debian stable so out of date? Debian developers must coordinate a MEGA release for about tested 9000 packages across a wide variety of platforms: i386 (386,486,pentium,p2,p3,p4,celeron,xeon), ia64 (itanium), alpha (dec alpha), sparc (sun microsystems), arm (StrongARM), amiga, s390 (IBM Mainframe), x86_64 (amd & intel 64bit), hppa (HP PA RISC), m68k (Motorola 68000). This is a huge undertaking and they about a year late. Hopefully in a month Debian testing will become Debian stable and we (the community at large) will get a good known working Debian system.

    So how does Knoppix stay up to date? Knoppix pulls its packages from multiple categories (stable, testing, unstable) to make a working up to date system.

  7. #7
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    I just noticed that the Net Install iso I downloaded and burned is "Sarge" and has an option to install a 2.6 kernel. But when I started to do an install of the 2.6 kernel, there was a message that listed modules that were not included but were needed by my hardware. Yep, the Broadcom 440 NIC was in the list and the module that is not there is "b44". So, even Sarge doesn't have support for the 440 yet.

    I don't feel competent to compile a new kernel yet, so I guess I will just have to wait for the final release of Sarge.

    jimbo

  8. #8
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    OK, just an update. I went ahead with the Sarge rc3 net-install. There is an option to install kernel 2.6.8 which I took. Then a warning screen about maybe missing modules. But then later, there is a message about installing "b44" which is needed by my Broadcom 440 NIC. Anyway, the install program is now downloading packages required for X Window and KDE. It looks like about five hours of download and install time is required.

    I will let you know the results.

    Thanks, jimbo

  9. #9
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    OK, here is the rest of the story. Sarge rc3 from March 23, 2005 supports the Broadcom 440 NIC. After I installed rc3 base system and Mozilla Firefox, I had immediate Internet access!

    Thanks for all of the comments and help.

    jimbo

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