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Linux Kernel Modules Installation HOWTO

Revision History                                                             
Revision 1.0          Unknown date             Revised by: rhw               
Initial Release                                                              

Describes the installation of Linux kernel modules.

Table of Contents
1. Purpose of this Document
2. Pre-requisites
3. Compiler Speed-up
4. Recompiling the Kernel for Modules
    5.1. Configuring Debian or RedHat for Modules
    5.2. Configuring Slackware for Modules
    5.3. Configuring Other Distributions for Modules

1. Purpose of this Document

My experience with Linux and modules has been that the existing documents
fail to provide a satisfactory explanation as to how to successfully set up
Linux with modules configured and working. The procedure explained in this
document has been successfully used several times, both on my own system and
over the Internet to give directions to somebody trying to get some feature
to work which requires a driver supplied only in module form.

My own system runs from a RedHat 4.1 distribution of Linux, and it was on
this setup that I developed the procedure. I have since successfully
installed it on systems running from various Slackware distributions, and on
one system running from a Debian distribution, and the necessary procedure to
correctly configure modules under Linux in all three is documented herein.

Warning I have recently used the same procedure with RedHat 4.2, but with    
        inconsistent results on apparently identical systems. I have not yet 
        determined what the problem is, so can make no guarantees at this    
        stage as to whether or not it will work on your system.              

This document is distributed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation
License. You should have received a copy along with it. If not, it is
available from

2. Pre-requisites

��*�Before the steps in this document can be applied, the reader must have a
    working Linux installation in which one can get to the Linux prompt as
    user root since the majority of the steps involved can only be undertaken
    by the said user.
��*�The existing kernel may be compiled either to use modules or not to use
    modules, and can even display error messages during the boot-up procedure
    as a result of modules being configured which aren't available at the
    moment, providing the above condition is met.
��*�The source tree for the current kernel is assumed to be found rooted at /
    usr/src/linux and that is also assumed to be the current directory
    throughout this document at the start of any sequence of commands to be

3. Compiler Speed-up

If your machine has 16 or more Megabytes of RAM, there is a useful speed-up
that can be done, which is to permit the kernel to compile two or modules in
parallel. This will increase the load on the machine whilst the kernel is
being recompiled, but will reduce the time during which the compilation will
be taking place.

Before you can use this method, you need to check the amount of RAM present
in your machine, as if you set this too high, the compilation will actually
slow down. Experience has shown that the optimum value depends on the amount
of RAM in your system according to the following formula, at least for
systems with up to 32 Megabytes of RAM, although it may be a little
conservative for systems with larger amounts of RAM:

N = [RAM in Megabytes] / 8 + 1

For the benefit of those with a dislike of math, the values for the common
amounts of RAM are as follows:

Table 1. Sample Table
|RAM Size    |Value to Use |
|16 Megs     |3            |
|24 Megs     |4            |
|32 Megs     |5            |
|40 Megs     |6            |
|48 Megs     |7            |
|56 Megs     |8            |
|64 Megs     |9            |
|80 Megs     |11           |
|96 Megs     |13           |
|112 Megs    |15           |
|128 Megs    |17           |

When you have decided on the correct number, edit the file /usr/src/linux/
Makefile and find the line that currently reads:

Replace it with one reading:
MAKE=make -j N                                                               

where N is the number determined above.

4. Recompiling the Kernel for Modules

The kernel can be reconfigured to use modules for everything other than the
file system mounted as root (in most cases, this is the ext2 file system).

However, there are certain items that appear to be difficult to set up
properly as modules, so I would recommend the following be compiled into the

��*�Ethernet hardware drivers.
��*�SCSI CD-ROM drivers.

On the other hand, there are certain driver combinations that ONLY work as
modules, especially combinations of two or more of the following group:

��*�A Parallel Printer,
��*�A Parallel Port drive, such as the IOMEGA ZipDrive or JazzDrive, or the 
    BackPack CD-ROM drive, and
��*�The PLIP Daemon.

You will need to decide what you are compiling into the kernel, and what as
modules, but should take the above points into consideration. The actual
choices are made during the compilation, by the second of the following
sequence of instructions:
cd /usr/src/linux                                                            
make menuconfig                                                              
make dep clean modules modules_install zImage                                

Having done that, the module dependencies need to be mapped out. This is done
with the following command:
depmod -a                                                                    

The new kernel now needs to be inserted in the boot chain. I am assuming the
reader is using LILO for this purpose, since this is the only loader I have
any experience with.

I recommend that one does NOT automatically insert the newly compiled kernel
as the default Linux kernel since if it should fail, it is then extremely
difficult to recover one's Linux setup without doing a complete
reinstallation, which is not to be recommended. For this reason, I have the
following entry in my /etc/lilo.conf file:

This entry says that there is an OPTIONAL boot option (which will be ignored
if the image in question does not exist) which boots the file /boot/newlinux
if selected, and allows one to select the video mode it is to be booted in.

Assuming the existence of the above entry in /etc/lilo.conf the revised
kernel is already correctly located at the end of compilation, and it can be
installed via the following command:

Having done that, the reader needs to follow the further steps relevant to
their selected distribution, as follows:

5.1. Configuring Debian or RedHat for Modules

Prior to carrying out the steps listed here, the steps listed in "Recompiling
the Kernel for Modules" are assumed to have been carried out.

The Debian and RedHat distributions have identical boot procedures, so also
have identical procedures for configuring modules into them.

 1. Having logged in as root, use your favourite text editor to create a new
    file called /etc/rc.d/init.d/modules.init with the following contents
    # Modules initialisation.                                        
    # Start up the module auto-loading daemon.                       
    # Mount all currently unmounted auto-mounted partitions.         
    /sbin/mount -a                                                   
 2. Having created the above file, perform the following steps whilst logged
    on as root:
    cd /etc/rc.d                                                     
    chmod 755 init.d/*                                               
    cd rc3.d                                                         
    ln -s ../init.d/modules.init 05modules.init                      

The system can now be rebooted, and on doing so, it will be found that
modules are fully implemented

5.2. Configuring Slackware for Modules

Prior to carrying out the steps listed here, the steps listed in "Recompiling
the Kernel for Modules" are assumed to have been carried out.

The file /etc/rc.d/rc.M needs to be edited as follows:

 1. Around line 18, there is a section reading as follows:
    # Screen blanks after 15 minutes idle time.                      
    /bin/setterm -blank 15                                           
    Immediately after this, insert the following paragraph, with the usual
    blank lines either side of it:
    # Load the kernel module auto-loader.                            
 2. About 12 lines further down is the following:
    # if there is no /etc/HOSTNAME, fall back on this default:       
    Immediately prior to this, insert the following paragraph, again with the
    usual blank lines either side of it:
    # Mount remaining unmounted auto-mount drives.                   
    /sbin/mount -a                                                   

When those changes have been made, save the file.

No further modifications are required for Slackware.

5.3. Configuring Other Distributions for Modules

Prior to carrying out the steps listed here, the steps listed in "Recompiling
the Kernel for Modules" are assumed to have been carried out.

The precise procedure for other distributions has not been ascertained, but
is probably one of the above. To determine which one, display a directory of
the contents of the /etc/rc.d directory, as follows:
cd /etc/rc.d                                                                 
ls -l *.d rc.*                                                               

From this resulting display, you can select one of the following three

 1. If this list includes a directory named init.d and some directories with
    names matching rc?.d where the question mark is replaced by single
    digits, and does NOT include a file with the name rc.M, that distribution
    can be configured for modules by following the procedure listed under the
    title "Configuring Debian or RedHat for Modules".
 2. If this list does not include a directory named init.d but includes a
    file named rc.M then that distribution can be configured for modules by
    following the procedure listed under the title "Configuring Slackware for
 3. If this list matches neither of the above criteria, then the distribution
    has a boot script not covered by this HowTo. In that case, you are
    invited to contact the author of this document for advice.

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