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2. Compilation and installation

2.1 Prerequisites and kernel setup

Before starting, you should think about whether you really need to compile the PCMCIA package yourself. All common Linux distributions come with pre-compiled driver packages. Generally, you only need to install the drivers from scratch if you need a new feature of the current drivers, or if you've updated and/or reconfigured your kernel in a way that is incompatible with the drivers included with your Linux distribution. While compiling the package is not technically difficult, it does require some general Linux familiarity.

The following things should be installed on your system before you begin:

You need to have a complete linux source tree for your kernel, not just an up-to-date kernel image. The driver modules contain some references to kernel source files. While you may want to build a new kernel to remove unnecessary drivers, installing PCMCIA does not require you to do so.

Current ``stable'' kernel sources and patches are available from Development kernels can be found in the corresponding v2.3 or v2.4 subdirectories. Current module utilities can be found in the same locations.

In the Linux kernel source tree, the Documentation/Changes file describes the versions of all sorts of other system components that are required for that kernel release. You may want to check through this and verify that your system is up to date, especially if you have updated your kernel. If you are using a development kernel, be sure that you are using the right combination of shared libraries and module tools.

When configuring your kernel, if you plan on using a PCMCIA ethernet card, you should turn on networking support but turn off the normal Linux network card drivers, including the ``pocket and portable adapters''. The PCMCIA network card drivers are all implemented as loadable modules. Any drivers compiled into your kernel will only waste space.

If you want to use SLIP, PPP, or PLIP, you do need to either configure your kernel with these enabled, or use the loadable module versions of these drivers. There is an unfortunate deficiency in the kernel config process in 1.2.X kernels, in that it is not possible to set configuration options (like SLIP compression) for a loadable module, so it is probably better to just link SLIP into the kernel if you need it.

In order to use a PCMCIA token ring adapter, your kernel should be configured with ``Token Ring driver support'' (CONFIG_TR) enabled, though you should leave CONFIG_IBMTR off.

If you want to use a PCMCIA IDE adapter, your kernel should be configured with CONFIG_BLK_DEV_IDE_PCMCIA enabled, for 2.0.* through 2.1.7 kernels. Older kernels do not support removeable IDE devices; newer kernels do not require a special configuration setting.

If you will be using a PCMCIA SCSI adapter, then enable CONFIG_SCSI when configuring your kernel. Also, enable any top level drivers (SCSI disk, tape, cdrom, generic) that you expect to use. All low-level drivers for particular host adapters should be disabled, as they will just take up space.

If you want to modularize a driver that is needed for a PCMCIA device, you must modify /etc/pcmcia/config to specify what modules need to be loaded for what card types. For example, if the serial driver is modularized, then the serial device definition should be:

device "serial_cs"
  class "serial" module "misc/serial", "serial_cs"

This package includes an X-based card status utility called cardinfo. This utility is based on a freely distributed user interface toolkit called the XForms Library. This library is available as a separate package with most Linux distributions. If you would like to build cardinfo, you should install XForms and all the normal X header files and libraries before configuring the PCMCIA package.

2.2 Installation

Here is a synopsis of the installation process:

If you plan to install any contributed client drivers not included in the core PCMCIA distribution, unpack each of them in the top-level directory of the PCMCIA source tree. Then follow the normal build instructions. The extra drivers will be compiled and installed automatically.

Running ``make config'' prompts for a few configuration options, and checks out your system to verify that it satisfies all prerequisites for installing PCMCIA support. In most cases, you'll be able to just accept all the default configuration options. Be sure to carefully check the output of this command in case there are problems. The following options are available:

Alternate target install directory?

If you are compiling the package for installation on another machine, specify an alternate target directory when prompted. This should be an absolute path. All files will be installed relative to this directory. You will then be able to tar this directory tree and copy to your target machine, and unpack relative to its root directory to install everything in the proper places. Newer PCMCIA releases do not ask for this; instead it can be set with the --target= command line option to the Configure script.

Build 'trusting' versions of card utilities?

Some of the support utilities (cardctl and cardinfo) can be compiled either in ``safe'' or ``trusting'' forms. The ``safe'' forms prevent non-root users from modifying card configurations. The ``trusting'' forms permit ordinary users to issue commands to suspend and resume cards, reset cards, and change the current configuration scheme. The default is to build the safe forms.

Include 32-bit (CardBus) card support?

This option must be selected if you wish to use 32-bit CardBus cards. It is not required for CardBus bridge support, if you only plan to use 16-bit PC Cards.

Include PnP BIOS resource checking?

This builds additional code into the PCMCIA core module to communicate with a system's PnP BIOS to obtain resource information for built-in ``motherboard'' devices (serial and parallel ports, sound, etc), to help avoid resource conflicts. If enabled, some extra resource files will be created under /proc/bus/pccard, and the lspnp and setpnp tools can be used to view and manipulate PnP BIOS devices. However, this setting causes problems on some laptops and is not turned on by default.

Module install directory?

The directory that new kernel modules will be installed into. Normally this should be the subdirectory of /lib/modules that matches your kernel version.

How to set kernel-specific options?

There are a few kernel configuration options that affect the PCMCIA tools. The configuration script can deduce these from the running kernel (the default and most common case). Alternatively, if you are compiling for installation on another machine, it can read the configuration from a kernel source tree, or each option can be set interactively.

The Configure script can also be executed non-interactively, for automatic builds or to quickly reconfigure after a kernel update. Some additional less-frequently-used options can be only be set from the command line. Running ``Configure --help'' lists all available options.

Running ``make all'' followed by ``make install'' will build and then install the kernel modules and utility programs. Kernel modules are installed under /lib/modules/<version>/pcmcia. The cardmgr and cardctl programs are installed in /sbin. If cardinfo is built, it is installed in /usr/bin/X11.

Configuration files will be installed in the /etc/pcmcia directory. If you are installing over an older version, your old config scripts will be backed up before being replaced. The saved scripts will be given an *.O extension.

If you don't know what kind of host controller your system uses, you can use the probe utility in the cardmgr/ subdirectory to determine this. There are two major types: the Databook TCIC-2 type and the Intel i82365SL-compatible type.

In a few cases, the probe command will be unable to determine your controller type automatically. If you have a Halikan NBD 486 system, it has a TCIC-2 controller at an unusual location: you'll need to edit rc.pcmcia to load the tcic module, and also set the PCIC_OPTS parameter to ``tcic_base=0x02c0''.

On some systems using Cirrus controllers, including the NEC Versa M, the BIOS puts the controller in a special suspended state at system startup time. On these systems, the probe command will fail to find any known host controller. If this happens, edit rc.pcmcia and set PCIC to i82365, and PCIC_OPTS to ``wakeup=1''.

2.3 Startup options

The PCMCIA startup script recognizes several groups of startup options, set via environment variables. Multiple options should be separated by spaces and enclosed in quotes. Placement of startup options depends on the Linux distribution used. They may be placed directly in the startup script, or they may be kept in a separate option file. See the Notes about specific Linux distributions for specifics. The following variables can be set:


This variable specifies whether PCMCIA support should be started up, or not. If it is set to anything other than ``yes'', then the startup script will be disabled.


This identifies the PC Card Interface Controller driver module. There are two options: ``tcic'' or ``i82365''. Virtually all current controllers are in the ``i82365'' group. This is the only mandatory option setting.


This specifies options for the PCIC module. Some host controllers have optional features that may or may not be implemented in a particular system. In some cases, it is impossible for the socket driver to detect if these features are implemented. See the corresponding man page for a complete description of the available options.


This specifies options for the pcmcia_core module, which implements the core PC Card driver services. See ``man pcmcia_core'' for more information.


This specifies options to be passed to the cardmgr daemon. See ``man cardmgr'' for more information.


If set, then the PC Card configuration scheme will be initialized to this at driver startup time. See the Overview of the PCMCIA configuration scripts for a discussion of schemes.

The low level socket drivers, tcic and i82365, have various bus timing parameters that may need to be adjusted for certain systems with unusual bus clocking. Symptoms of timing problems can include card recognition problems, lock-ups under heavy loads, high error rates, or poor device performance. Only certain host bridges have adjustable timing parameters: check the corresponding man page to see what options are available for your controller. Here is a brief summary:

Here are some timing settings for specific systems:

Card readers for desktop systems

While almost all PCMCIA card readers and card docks work fine under Linux, some require special startup options because they do not behave exactly like laptop PCMCIA bridges. PCI card readers, in particular, may handle interrupts differently.

2.4 System resource settings

Card Services should automatically avoid allocating IO ports and interrupts already in use by other standard devices. It will also attempt to detect conflicts with unknown devices, but this is not completely reliable. In some cases, you may need to explicitly exclude resources for a device in /etc/pcmcia/config.opts.

Here are some resource settings for specific laptop types. View this list with suspicion: it may give useful hints for solving problems, but it is inevitably out of date and certainly contains mistakes. Corrections and additions are welcome.

PowerBook specific settings

On PowerPC based PowerBook systems, the default system resources in /etc/pcmcia/config.opts file are no good at all. Replace all the IO port and window definitions with something like:

include port 0x100-0x4ff, port 0x1000-0x17ff
include memory 0x80000000-0x80ffffff

2.5 Notes about specific Linux distributions

This section is incomplete. Corrections and additions are welcome.


Debian uses a System V boot script arrangement. The PCMCIA startup script is installed as /etc/init.d/pcmcia. New packages use /etc/default/pcmcia for startup options; older versions used /etc/pcmcia.conf for this purpose. Debian's syslog configuration will place kernel messages in /var/log/messages and cardmgr messages in /var/log/daemon.log.

Debian distributes the PCMCIA system in two packages: the ``pcmcia-cs'' package contains cardmgr and other tools, man pages, and configuration scripts; and the ``pcmcia-modules'' package contains the kernel driver modules.

Starting with 3.1.25, a clean PCMCIA install will identify Debian systems and create a special network.opts file that, in the absence of other network configuration settings, uses Debian's ifup and ifdown commands to configure a network card based on settings in /etc/network/interfaces.

Red Hat, Caldera, Mandrake

These distributions use a System V boot script organization. The PCMCIA startup script is installed as /etc/rc.d/init.d/pcmcia, and boot options are kept in /etc/sysconfig/pcmcia. Beware that installing the Red Hat package may install a default boot option file that has PCMCIA disabled. To enable PCMCIA, the ``PCMCIA'' variable should be set to ``yes''. Red Hat's default syslogd configuration will record all interesting messages in /var/log/messages.

Red Hat's PCMCIA package contains a replacement for the network setup script, /etc/pcmcia/network, which meshes with the Red Hat linuxconf configuration system. This is convenient for the case where just one network adapter is used, with one set of network parameters, but does not have the full flexibility of the regular PCMCIA network script. Compiling and installing a clean PCMCIA source distribution will overwrite the network script, breaking the link to the Red Hat tools. If you prefer using the Red Hat tools, either use only Red Hat RPM's, or replace /etc/pcmcia/network.opts with the following:

if [ -f /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-$2 ] ; then
    start_fn () {
        . /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-$1
        if [ "$ONBOOT" = "yes" ] ; then /sbin/ifup $1 ; fi
    stop_fn () {
        /sbin/ifdown $1

Starting with the 3.1.22 release, the PCMCIA installation script will automatically append a variant of this to the default network.opts file, so this problem should no longer be an issue.

If you do use linuxconf (or netconf) to configure your network interface, leave the ``kernel module'', ``I/O port'', and ``irq'' parameters blank. Setting these parameters may interfere with proper operation of the PCMCIA subsystem.

At boot time, when the Red Hat network subsystem starts up, it may say ``Delaying eth0 initialization'' and ``[FAILED]''. This is actually not a failure: it means that this network interface will not be initialized until after the PCMCIA network device is configured.

Red Hat bundles their slightly modified PCMCIA source distribution with their kernel sources, rather than as a separate source package. When preparing to build a new set of PCMCIA drivers, you will generally want to install Red Hat's kernel-source RPM (kernel-source-*.i386.rpm), and not the kernel SRPM (kernel-*.src.rpm). The SRPM is tailored for building their kernel RPM files, which is not exactly what you want. With Red Hat 7.0, the kernel-source RPM also includes a mis-configured PCMCIA source tree; if you want to use it, delete their PCMCIA config.out file and re-do "make config".


Slackware uses a BSD boot script arrangement. The PCMCIA startup script is installed as /etc/rc.d/rc.pcmcia, and boot options are specified in rc.pcmcia itself. The PCMCIA startup script is invoked from /etc/rc.d/rc.S.


SuSE uses a System V init script arrangement, with init scripts stored under /sbin/init.d. The PCMCIA startup script is installed as /sbin/init.d/pcmcia, and startup options are kept in /etc/rc.config. In early SuSE releases (pre-5.3), the PCMCIA startup script was somewhat limited and did not allow PCMCIA startup variables to be overridden from the lilo boot prompt.

To look up current PCMCIA issues in SuSE's support database, go to

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