Installing SuSE Linux on an
Uncooperative Dell Optiplex 745

James F. Carter, UCLA-Mathnet

At UCLA-Mathnet we've standardized on SuSE 10.1 and we expect to get at least a year out of it, if not 18 months, before we have to visit each of our 125 Linux boxes and upgrade it. Thus we're not keen on installing 10.2 right now. We've been doing very well installing SuSE 10.1 across the net from our enterprise mirror -- until we received a new Dell Optiplex 745. This machine has the latest Broadcom 5754 NetXtreme Gigabit Ethernet NIC (PCI Express) (PCI ID 14e4:167a). Other new Dells such as the Dimension E510 and E520 have either the same NIC or a similar one. It wants the tg3 driver, which SuSE 10.1 does have.

Plan A: follow our standard procedure. This failed because the driver on the installer disc does not recognize the PCI ID, and if it's hacked to fake the ID it fails to send packets (because the new NIC requires actual different driver code).

Plan B: Obtain the latest sources for the tg3 driver from Broadcom, and create a driver update disc. Per instructions, we need to compile the driver twice, once for the latest kernel and once for the kernel version that's on the installation disc and which will be installed in the first phase. This plan failed because we were not able to compile in the context of the back-version kernel sources.

Plan C: Obtain a NIC that is supported. Install Linux, install tg3.ko for the current kernel, then change to the onboard NIC. Easier said than done: supported USB NICs get discontinued as soon as they're listed, and the case takes only half-height PCI cards which are hard to find. However I did use plan C successfully on a Dell Dimension E520, which takes full-size PCI cards.

Plan D: Use the SuSE 10.2 install disc (which does know about the NIC) to install SuSE 10.1. Yeah, sure. Update the driver by running the rescue system before the first reboot. This plan was actually successful. Here is the procedure I followed: