EciAdsl, story of a driver unlike any other

Written by FlashCode,

I. Introduction

At the beginning

The story begins in 1999. I buy a computer magazine which promotes the Linux operating system and gives a CD-ROM with Kheops Slackware distribution.
I heard a lot about free softwares and Linux, but I had never tried this system.
With this ready-to-install CD-ROM, I give a try. I programmed until this under MS-Dos, I never liked Windows, for various reasons: its lack of stability, opaque interface, general heaviness, and its price.
With Linux I feel like home, and thus I decide to use it as a secondary OS, with MS-Dos, which I keep to continue to develop and use programs I made and don't run with Linux.

During almost two years, I develop games and various applications under Linux, to learn the system.
At that time, I have an internet connection with a RTC 56k modem, and I connect only some days by week, mainly to read my e-mails.

First steps with ADSL

In March 2001, I made shopping in a supermarket close to my home, I see a Wanadoo stand where they do a demonstration of broadband Internet. I didn't now what was the "broadband" and how it worked.
After a quick demonstration, I fill a form to receive within two months a modem with a subscription at Wanadoo, the only provider in my region at that time.
The proposed modem was "Eci HiFocus", with Ethernet connection.

Two months later, as scheduled, the France Telecom agency calls me and asks me if I have a USB port on my PC. Slightly surprised, I answer yes and they give me an appointment in the agency some days later to get my modem.

I discover that I'll receive an "ECI HiFocus" USB modem, and not an Ethernet modem as they said two months ago. I'll discover later that this USB version has just been released and that I'm amongh the first users.
I fill in all the papers and I go back at home to try and surf the internet at high speed!

II. Birth of the EciAdsl project

The terrible report

Back at home with the brand new ECI HiFocus modem, I browse the CD-ROM with drivers and I notice there's no Linux driver.
I think then this modem should be supported by the Linux kernel. I browse all the kernel options to search a driver for this modem.
After reviewing all the kernel options, I conclude that this modem should be supported by an external driver.
I reboot my old Windows, which was starting to take the dust, and I go on the Internet to search for a driver.

And there, my disappointment grows… After long hours of research, with different search engines, on Linux sites, etc. no driver found for this modem!

Beginning of the EciAdsl driver

After a few days on Windows (to be able to enjoy the unlimited fast connection), I find the e-mail address of Benoît PAPILLAULT, who is developing a Linux / BSD driver for the Alcatel Speedtouch USB modem.
I decide to contact him, hoping that his driver can work with my Eci modem. Unfortunately, our modems are not compatible.

I still continue my research for a few weeks, before I get to the obvious: the manufacturer does not provide any driver for Linux, there is none available in the kernel or on any website, and nobody seems to work on such a driver…

I therefore have three solutions:

After thinking a few days, the first solution being dismissed automatically, I decided to launch myself in developing the driver.

So I'm starting to think about the skills I've learned under Linux and the ones I miss to reach my goal.
My conclusion is:

So my technical knowledge is not sufficient to develop this driver alone and I will need help.
Getting to know the Linux community and the spirit of help between users, I think that I should not be the only person with this modem and trying to use it under Linux, and that necessarily people would be willing to help me in this work (three years later, I confirm that I was right!).

Constitution of the team

I recontact Benoît PAPILLAULT in June 2001 to ask him if he can help me to develop this driver.
With his positive response, I start writing a Linua page on my website ( where I simply explain that I'm starting the development.

Many people contact me, most of them to encourage me in this work, and some to help me in the development.
Among them, Jean-Sébastien VALETTE who does not have the modem yet, but wish to take it because I started the project. So he offers me his help in development.

So I decide to start the driver with Jean-Sébastien and call Benoît if needed, who works on his driver Alcatel Speedtouch.

At the end of June 2001, we open the project on Sourceforge.

Start of development

At the beginning of the developments, I decide to read about USB, ADSL technology, and writing drivers under Linux.

In parallel, I write to Eci Telecom to know if they are planning to distribute a Linux driver for their hardware.
They tell me that it is planned, but the answer is not clear and they do not give me any date as to the release of this hypothetical driver.
So I e-mail them again to ask them for documentation on the modem, which would help me greatly to start writing the driver. And there they tell me to ask to Globespan, the modem chipset manufacturer (note: Globespan has now been acquired by Conexant).
But Globespan rarely responds to emails, or sends me to other people and in the end I don't receive any documentation…

Never mind, Jean-Sébastien and I are more than determined to make this driver in order to go back on Linux, and we try to understand the chipset behavior without any documentation.

At that moment, Benoît gives me tips and explains to me how he has developed its driver for the Alcatel Speedtouch.
He captured ("sniffed") all the data exchanged under Windows between the driver and the modem, which gives it files of "logs".
Then we have to analyze these logs to understand a minimum the operation and reproduce these data exchanges under Linux.

III. First version of the EciAdsl driver

Modem initialization

As simple as it sounds, turning on the modem is not so obvious. We need to understand a minimum how the Globespan chipset works.
With the help of modem users who took it apart, and with Internet searches, we discover that the chipset is a Globespan GS7070.

We then start two tasks in parallel:

We used the snooper USB "Snoopy" (written by Roland BOSA and Heiko RABE), modified by Benoît and Jean-Sébastien to work with our modem.
We manage to extract the "firmware" from the log files obtained (this is the program sent by the driver to the modem to initialize it).

We quickly reach the first visible result: end of June 2001, we managed to turn on the two LEDs of the modem: red (power) is fixed and the green (synchronization) flashes, which means that the modem is not synchronized with the ADSL line.
The firmware is sent successfully to the modem!
We used a small program that sends data to our Globespan chip ("ezusb" loader).

Two months later, in August 2001, Jean-Sébastien manages to synchronize the modem, the green LED becomes fixed and all hopes are allowed at the connection.
For this we extracted and made a binary file (which we will later name "synchronization .bin file") which is sent to modem by a program written by Jean-Sebastien.
Afterwards, we will build several different .bin files that we will distribute with the driver.
(Nowadays - October 2004 - we still do not know what is exactly in these sync .bin files).

Nevertheless, we suspect that the connection remains the most difficult and it will surely take time to understand all the mechanisms…

In addition, Laurent Wandrebeck (aka "low") and "wwp" join the development team.

"Networld Interop'" show

In parallel with the development, I tell myself that any documentation on the modem would be welcome.
I discover by chance that a show called "Networld Interop '" will take place in Paris in September 2001 with a stand held by… Eci Telecom!
So I have the idea to organize an online petition and to give it to Eci Telecom on the show, to show them our determination to obtain the documentation and be able to continue in the best conditions the development of our driver.
On 2001, September 10th I put the petition online and I invite all people interested in the project to sign it.
The show takes place on September 18th, only 8 days later, and the petition contains 1370 signatures!

I have an appointment with Marc-Aurèle DARCHE, member of the AFUL (French-speaking Association of Linux Users and Free Software), and two (future) users of the driver supporting me: Vincent Planchenault and Philip J.

I give as agreed the petition to Eci Telecom, strong of its 1370 signatures. Thierry Berton (Commercial Director Eci Telecom) assures us that he will do its best to get the documentation.

We leave with his e-mail address, and confident in the following our exchanges with Eci Telecom.

Unfortunately once again, these e-mail exchanges are not a success: still no documentation.

I decide to leave the petition online, in case we would need again, and we continue development without documentation.

Goal: connection

There things become complicated…
For a few months, we wade and stagnate…
The lack of documentation and knowledge about the behavior of the modem chipset is lacking…
It should be noted that at this time there is a strong craze for this project, and many people support us and encourage us to come to a version to connect. This helps us to stay motivated about our main goal: be able to connect to the internet with this modem under Linux.


At the beginning of December 2001, while everything had stagnated for several months, an event for the least unexpected will accelerate the development: Benoît PAPILLAULT moved and got an Eci HiFocus USB modem, at his request and despite France Telecom's warning that it was not working under Linux.
He suddenly finds himself obliged to use the Eci modem, that does not work on Linux yet.

He obviously joins the development team on a full-time basis and starts to study the Eci modem.
In a few days, he manages to unblock the situation and to connect briefly on the Internet.

On December 7, 2001, the entire team proudly announces first version 0.1 of the driver to connect to the Internet!

Our goal is REACHED!

I naively thought at that moment that the driver was finished and that I could move on now that my Internet connection worked perfectly under Linux.

In fact the development of the driver was just beginning…

IV. Driver development

The sequence of the first versions

The first versions generated a real enthusiasm on the part of many users.
This has two consequences:

In December 2001, we release three versions, until the version 0.3, made available on Christmas Eve.

Support becomes a preponderant part of the project and is now insured via a mailing list, IRC, and e-mail.

Antoine REVERSAT (aka "crevetor") joins the development team.

In February 2002, we release version 0.4 of the driver, then Antoine creates an EciAdsl forum, which immediately wins a great success from users.

Major evolutions

In April 2002, I develop with Antoine a graphical configuration tool for the driver. This tool allows you to completely configure the driver and then makes it accessible to Linux beginners.

In the following months, many foreign users (outside France) contact us. They own modems sold under other brands, but with the same Globespan chipset as us (the GS7070).
With the help of some foreign contributors ("flynux" and "oliver the red"), we modify the driver to support these modems as well as the encapsulation protocols that are used in these countries.
The driver is now used in many countries and more and more modems are supported.

The version 0.5 is released on May 2002, but does not allow yet to choose other modems than the Eci HiFocus.

In early September 2002, I set up a brand new site for the driver:

Version 0.6 will be the Christmas present since the release on December 25, 2002, just over a year after the very first stable release.
It brings an impressive number of new features, among which:

The following versions

The version 0.7 is released on March 2003. March. It fixes some bugs.

The version 0.8 is released on August 2003. Like the previous release, it has only some bug fixes.

On December 2003, Benoît releases a driver version which is working under BSD.

The version 0.9 is released on April 2004. This version works with Linux kernels 2.4 and 2.6.

New Globespan chipsets

On November 2003, "kolja" (Italian developer) joins the development team, with one goal: make changes in our driver to support his modem, a Nortek 2021, which has a Globespan GS7470 chipset.
He releases on February 2004 a modified version of the driver for his modem.
This new version is quickly used and then supports other compatible modems: BT100 and 105, Siemens Santis 10, Askey ALE130, etc.

Nowadays - october 2004 - this driver must be merged in the standard version.

V. Conclusion

The future of the driver

Many points for the future of the EciAdsl driver:


The EciAdsl development team:

I want to thank all the developers, the testers, the people who quickly reported problems, the foreign contributors which allowed us to adapt the driver for their country, and all driver users :)