Linux Kernel Configuration

As with many other hardware components, configuration of network cards begins with the kernel. There are three main kernel network configuration areas: Networking options, Network device support, and Ethernet (10 or 100Mbit). (Starting in the 2.3.x kernels, this final section has become a sub-section of the Network device support menu.) There are also a few menus relating to more obscure network devices, such as LocalTalk board drivers.

Networking Options

The Networking options menu, shown in Figure 17.11, provides options for a variety of general-purpose networking features. For instance, it is here that you enable support for TCP/IP networking or other network stacks, such as AppleTalk. These options don't relate to the low-level network hardware per se; instead, they cover the protocols that network utilities use.

Chapter 17

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Use the Networking options menu to set TCP/IP and other network stack options.

Figure 17.11

Use the Networking options menu to set TCP/IP and other network stack options.

The number of options in this menu is fairly substantial. Some of the more critical options include

• TCP/IP networking You normally want to enable this option. Note that you cannot enable TCP/IP networking as a module; you must compile it directly into the kernel.

• Firewall options Network firewalls and IP: firewalling must both be set to Y if you want to use the computer as a firewall.

• The IPv6 protocol The next great leap in Internet technology is IPv6, which will allow many more computers to be on the Internet than is possible today. IPv6 is still quite rare, but this feature will become important in the future.

• The IPX protocol IPX is the name of the networking stack used on Novell networks. Enable this option if you want your Linux computer to participate in such a network.

• AppleTalk DDP Enable this option if you want your Linux computer to use Netatalk to serve files and printers on a Macintosh network, or to print to Macintosh printers.

There are many details you can set, particularly for TCP/IP networking. Most basic networking books, including my own Linux: Networking for Your Office, cover these options in greater detail.

Part IV

Network Device Support

The Network device support kernel configuration menu lets you enable support for a variety of non-Ethernet devices. Some highlights from this menu include

• Network device support You must select Y to this option if you want to use network hardware. Note that this is true even if you want to use only Ethernet hardware, which you must then enable in a different menu.

• PPP (point-to-point) support Enable this option if you intend to use a modem to connect to the Internet. Most such connections use PPP, which this option implements.

• SLIP (serial line) support SLIP is a predecessor to PPP, and is still used by a few ISPs. It's also used by diald, which lets Linux automatically dial an ISP when it detects outgoing traffic.

This menu also contains options for a few exotic types of networking hardware, such as FDDI and HIPPI devices. In the 2.3.x and later kernels, you activate support for specific Ethernet devices from a sub-menu accessed from this menu.

Ethernet Devices

You can enable support for your specific Ethernet board from the Ethernet (10 or 100Mbit) menu, shown in Figure 17.12. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to locate specific devices on this menu because its organization reflects opportunistic growth over the years. Some boards are categorized in one way, whereas others are grouped in other ways. For instance, 3Com, Western Digital, and Racal-Interlan cards each have their own categories. Some ISA cards are grouped under Other ISA cards, and some EISA, VL-Bus, and PCI cards appear under the EISA, VLB, PCI and on board controllers option. Still other cards are uncategorized. As a result, you might need to hunt a bit to locate your Ethernet board's chipset.

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