RealTek 8139D chipset, the re(4) driver, and FreeBSD 4.9

Bill Paul wpaul at FreeBSD.ORG
Thu Jan 22 10:31:21 PST 2004

> This is going to be a bit convoluted.


This is _not_ going to be convoluted.

The man page for the re(4) driver says it supports the 8139C+ chip.
Not the 8139. Not the 8139A. Not the 8139B. Not the 8139C. And not
the 8139D either. You have come to the erroneous conclusion that
the 8139D has the same features as the 8139C+ just because it looks
like it's a newer chip rev. The manual page tells you _EXACTLY_ what
chips it supports:

- The 8139C+ 10/100 chip
- The 8169 10/100/1000 chip (MAC only, obsoleted by 8169S)
- The 8169S 10/100/1000 chip (MAC + PHY, single chip)
- The 8110S 10/100/1000 chip (MAC + PHY, single chip, Lan On Motherboard)

That's ALL. Do you see "8139D" anywhere in that list? No, you don't.
The 8139C+ is the _ONLY_ special RealTek 10/100 chip. The 8139D came
out later, but it's still yet another rehash of the older 8139 design.
I repeat: _ONLY_ the C+ revision is special. All the other 10/100 chips
in RealTek's product line are equally sucky. Got it now?

The 8139D card you bought is just as brain damaged as all its earlier
bretheren. It will work with the rl(4) driver in 4.9. (As a matter of
fact, the 8139C+ will work with the rl(4) driver too, since it's backward
compatible. But it will perform just like the older chips then.)

You are not going to find an 8139C+ NIC anywhere in the U.S. market,
except built into some higher end Compaq laptops. None of the ethernet
card makers bought the 8139C+ chip, because it costs about a dollar
more than all of the other 8139 parts. Why wouldn't they spend the
extra buck for all those added featuers and performance? Because they
know that cheap bastard consumers like you wouldn't buy it. Everyone
makes such grand claims about how they want to buy only quality hardware,
but then you go to the local computer store and what do you buy? The
cheapest thing you can find. The board makers know this, so they cater
to your idiotic whims by selling you the cheapest thing _they_ can find.
And RealTek decided to corner the market by making the cheapest chip
possible so they'd always be the board makers' first choice.

If the board makers had bought the 8139C+ chip and C+ NICs had turned
up on the shelves for $15 next to the other 8139-based boards selling
for $10, would you have bought the 8139C+ card? No. You would have looked
at the price tags first, and convinced yourself that since they both
say "8139" on them, it should be ok to buy the cheaper one, just like
you tried to convince yourself that the 8139D was as good as the 8139C+.

Because RealTek had already saturated the 10/100 market with the 8139,
they didn't bother to push the 8139C+ very hard when they noticed the
board makers weren't interested in it. Instead, they're going to try
to do to the 10/100/1000 market what they did to the 10/100 market,
by pushing the 8169S and 8110S gigE chips. These chips are vastly less
sucky than the older 8139 chips (they have one drawback: jumbo frame
support is very bad) so for once they may not be shafting consumers
quite so badly. I have not seem them turning up in too many places
yet though. There are some Asus motherboards that have the 8110S gigE
chip. RealTek stated to me that they wanted to see gigE cards on the
market selling for $15. I'm still waiting to see if this happens.


The reason the re(4) driver isn't in FreeBSD 4.9 is that I didn't
finish working on it until after 4.9 had gone into code freeze, and
unlike some developers, I believe in following the rule that says
that "code freeze" means "feature-complete". I did, however,
port the re(4) driver to 4-stable. You can get it here:

As for the manual page: the HISTORY section says the driver
first appeared in FreeBSD 5.x. It's telling you the truth. The fact
that the page was formatted on a 4.9 box before being displayed
to you is unfortunate, but all you had to do to figure out whether
the driver was in 4.9 or not was to read the release notes. If it
wasn't mentioned, it wasn't there.


-Bill Paul            (510) 749-2329 | Senior Engineer, Master of Unix-Fu
                 wpaul at | Wind River Systems
              <adamw> you're just BEGGING to face the moose

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