FreeBSD boots too fast on Dell PE850

Alan Amesbury amesbury at
Fri Aug 18 01:49:09 UTC 2006

OK, booting *too* quickly is a somewhat unusual problem.....  I have
FreeBSD 6.1-RELEASE-p3 running on a Dell PowerEdge 850.  For some
reason, in the PowerEdge 850 Dell chose to replace the perfectly
adequate em(4) adapters found on the PE750 with bge(4) hardware.
FreeBSD identifies these adapters as BCM5750A1, but Dell says they're
actually Broadcom 5721J adapters instead.  See

for details.  The switch to which the host is connected is a Cisco
Catalyst 3750.  How this relates to FreeBSD, however.....

During the boot process and before /etc/rc.d/netif runs, the networking
hardware is *cold*, i.e., no link lights or anything.  During boot, when
FreeBSD brings the interface up, there is a period where the interface
appears to do autonegotiation with the switch to which it's connected,
regardless of whether the 'ifconfig_bge0=...' line in rc.conf includes
"media" and "mediaopt" options.  The console also displays various

	bge0: link state changed to DOWN
	bge0: link state changed to UP

messages, while the link lights flash on and off in various patterns.
Eventually the link stabilizes... but by this point FreeBSD has
completed booting and is in multiuser.  The result is that any services
that rely on network being present during boot (NTP, for example, as
well as numerous stuff installed from ports) fail in various ways.  As
hinted at above, locking the NIC and the associated switch ports to a
fixed speed and duplex (thus avoiding the whole autonegotiation mess)
does NOT help; FreeBSD still notes link state changes as described above
and things break in unpleasant ways.

My fix for this has been to apply this patch to /etc/rc.d/netif (also
attached in pristine form):

---------- Patch for netif ----------
--- netif.orig  Thu Jun 29 17:21:10 2006
+++ netif       Thu Aug 17 20:30:10 2006
@@ -71,6 +71,12 @@
                # Resync ipfilter
                /etc/rc.d/ipfilter resync
+       if [ ! -z "$sleep_postnetif" ]; then
+               echo -n "Sleeping for $sleep_postnetif seconds . . .  "
+               sleep $sleep_postnetif
+               echo "Done."
+       fi

-------- End patch for netif --------

Setting $sleep_postnetif to a value of about 7 then causes the boot
process to delay long enough that the network connection's stabilized
enough to be usable.  I chose that RC variable name as I suspected it
would have a low incidence of collision in rc.conf in the future, i.e.,
I'm hoping this patch is safe to include in -STABLE in the event this
sort of problem is widespread (and nobody comes up with a more elegant fix).

Anyway, since I suspect that I might not be the only one running FreeBSD
with Dell and/or Broadcom hardware, I figured it might be worth
mentioning this and providing what has been (for me, anyway) a workable
patch thus far.  I hesitated to open a bug report on this because--well,
it doesn't seem like the OS is really at fault here.  :-\

Recommendations for improvement are welcome, as well as any suggestions
for a less kludgy fix.  I *really* dislike the idea of slowing down the
boot process.  :-(

Alan Amesbury
University of Minnesota
-------------- next part --------------
--- netif.orig	Thu Jun 29 17:21:10 2006
+++ netif	Thu Aug 17 20:30:10 2006
@@ -71,6 +71,12 @@
 		# Resync ipfilter
 		/etc/rc.d/ipfilter resync
+	if [ ! -z "$sleep_postnetif" ]; then
+		echo -n "Sleeping for $sleep_postnetif seconds . . .  "
+		sleep $sleep_postnetif
+		echo "Done."
+	fi

More information about the freebsd-stable mailing list