|This is the 6pack-mini-HOWTO, written by
|Andreas Könsgen DG3KQ
|Last update: April 7, 1998
|1. What is 6pack, and what are the advantages to KISS?
|6pack is a transmission protocol for data exchange between the PC and
|the TNC over a serial line. It can be used as an alternative to KISS.
|6pack has two major advantages:
|- The PC is given full control over the radio
| channel. Special control data is exchanged between the PC and the TNC so
| that the PC knows at any time if the TNC is receiving data, if a TNC
| buffer underrun or overrun has occurred, if the PTT is
| set and so on. This control data is processed at a higher priority than
| normal data, so a data stream can be interrupted at any time to issue an
| important event. This helps to improve the channel access and timing
| algorithms as everything is computed in the PC. It would even be possible
| to experiment with something completely different from the known CSMA and
| DAMA channel access methods.
| This kind of real-time control is especially important to supply several
| TNCs that are connected between each other and the PC by a daisy chain
| (however, this feature is not supported yet by the Linux 6pack driver).
|- Each packet transferred over the serial line is supplied with a checksum,
| so it is easy to detect errors due to problems on the serial line.
| Received packets that are corrupt are not passed on to the AX.25 layer.
| Damaged packets that the TNC has received from the PC are not transmitted.
|More details about 6pack are described in the file 6pack.ps that is located
|in the doc directory of the AX.25 utilities package.
|2. Who has developed the 6pack protocol?
|The 6pack protocol has been developed by Ekki Plicht DF4OR, Henning Rech
|DF9IC and Gunter Jost DK7WJ. A driver for 6pack, written by Gunter Jost and
|Matthias Welwarsky DG2FEF, comes along with the PC version of FlexNet.
|They have also written a firmware for TNCs to perform the 6pack
|protocol (see section 4 below).
|3. Where can I get the latest version of 6pack for LinuX?
|At the moment, the 6pack stuff can obtained via anonymous ftp from
|db0bm.automation.fh-aachen.de. In the directory /incoming/dg3kq,
|there is a file named 6pack.tgz.
|4. Preparing the TNC for 6pack operation
|To be able to use 6pack, a special firmware for the TNC is needed. The EPROM
|of a newly bought TNC does not contain 6pack, so you will have to
|program an EPROM yourself. The image file for 6pack EPROMs should be
|available on any packet radio box where PC/FlexNet can be found. The name of
|the file is 6pack.bin. This file is copyrighted and maintained by the FlexNet
|team. It can be used under the terms of the license that comes along
|with PC/FlexNet. Please do not ask me about the internals of this file as I
|don't know anything about it. I used a textual description of the 6pack
|protocol to program the Linux driver.
|TNCs contain a 64kByte EPROM, the lower half of which is used for
|the firmware/KISS. The upper half is either empty or is sometimes
|programmed with software called TAPR. In the latter case, the TNC
|is supplied with a DIP switch so you can easily change between the
|two systems. When programming a new EPROM, one of the systems is replaced
|by 6pack. It is useful to replace TAPR, as this software is rarely used
|nowadays. If your TNC is not equipped with the switch mentioned above, you
|can build in one yourself that switches over the highest address pin
|of the EPROM between HIGH and LOW level. After having inserted the new EPROM
|and switched to 6pack, apply power to the TNC for a first test. The connect
|and the status LED are lit for about a second if the firmware initialises
|the TNC correctly.
|5. Building and installing the 6pack driver
|The driver has been tested with kernel version 2.1.90. Use with older
|kernels may lead to a compilation error because the interface to a kernel
|function has been changed in the 2.1.8x kernels.
|How to turn on 6pack support:
|- In the linux kernel configuration program, select the code maturity level
| options menu and turn on the prompting for development drivers.
|- Select the amateur radio support menu and turn on the serial port 6pack
|- Compile and install the kernel and the modules.
|To use the driver, the kissattach program delivered with the AX.25 utilities
|has to be modified.
|- Do a cd to the directory that holds the kissattach sources. Edit the
| kissattach.c file. At the top, insert the following lines:
| #ifndef N_6PACK
| #define N_6PACK (N_AX25+1)
| Then find the line
| int disc = N_AX25;
| and replace N_AX25 by N_6PACK.
|- Recompile kissattach. Rename it to spattach to avoid confusions.
|Installing the driver:
|- Do an insmod 6pack. Look at your /var/log/messages file to check if the
| module has printed its initialization message.
|- Do a spattach as you would launch kissattach when starting a KISS port.
| Check if the kernel prints the message '6pack: TNC found'.
|- From here, everything should work as if you were setting up a KISS port.
| The only difference is that the network device that represents
| the 6pack port is called sp instead of sl or ax. So, sp0 would be the
| first 6pack port.
|Although the driver has been tested on various platforms, I still declare it
|ALPHA. BE CAREFUL! Sync your disks before insmoding the 6pack module
|and spattaching. Watch out if your computer behaves strangely. Read section
|6 of this file about known problems.
|Note that the connect and status LEDs of the TNC are controlled in a
|different way than they are when the TNC is used with PC/FlexNet. When using
|FlexNet, the connect LED is on if there is a connection; the status LED is
|on if there is data in the buffer of the PC's AX.25 engine that has to be
|transmitted. Under Linux, the 6pack layer is beyond the AX.25 layer,
|so the 6pack driver doesn't know anything about connects or data that
|has not yet been transmitted. Therefore the LEDs are controlled
|as they are in KISS mode: The connect LED is turned on if data is transferred
|from the PC to the TNC over the serial line, the status LED if data is
|sent to the PC.
|6. Known problems
|When testing the driver with 2.0.3x kernels and
|operating with data rates on the radio channel of 9600 Baud or higher,
|the driver may, on certain systems, sometimes print the message '6pack:
|bad checksum', which is due to data loss if the other station sends two
|or more subsequent packets. I have been told that this is due to a problem
|with the serial driver of 2.0.3x kernels. I don't know yet if the problem
|still exists with 2.1.x kernels, as I have heard that the serial driver
|code has been changed with 2.1.x.
|When shutting down the sp interface with ifconfig, the kernel crashes if
|there is still an AX.25 connection left over which an IP connection was
|running, even if that IP connection is already closed. The problem does not
|occur when there is a bare AX.25 connection still running. I don't know if
|this is a problem of the 6pack driver or something else in the kernel.
|The driver has been tested as a module, not yet as a kernel-builtin driver.
|The 6pack protocol supports daisy-chaining of TNCs in a token ring, which is
|connected to one serial port of the PC. This feature is not implemented
|and at least at the moment I won't be able to do it because I do not have
|the opportunity to build a TNC daisy-chain and test it.
|Some of the comments in the source code are inaccurate. They are left from
|the SLIP/KISS driver, from which the 6pack driver has been derived.
|I haven't modified or removed them yet -- sorry! The code itself needs
|some cleaning and optimizing. This will be done in a later release.
|If you encounter a bug or if you have a question or suggestion concerning the
|driver, feel free to mail me, using the addresses given at the beginning of